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Kicking Away the Ladder

Development Strategy in Historical Perspective

By Ha-Joon Chang
13-minute read
Kicking Away the Ladder: Development Strategy in Historical Perspective by Ha-Joon Chang

Kicking Away The Ladder takes a historical look at how the Western powers have grown economically and politically. It shows that the principles and tactics that have made them rich and powerful are counter to those they propose developing countries should live by.

  • People working in international donor organizations, world trade or international politics
  • Students and anyone interested in development economics
  • Policymakers in developing countries

Ha-Joon Chang is a leading economist, ranked by Prospect Magazine as one of the top World Thinkers in 2013. He has worked as a consultant for the United Nations, the World Bank and several U.N. agencies.

He is the author of many books including the bestselling 23 Things they Don’t Tell You About Capitalism (also available in blinks).

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Kicking Away the Ladder

Development Strategy in Historical Perspective

By Ha-Joon Chang
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Contains 8 key ideas
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Kicking Away the Ladder: Development Strategy in Historical Perspective by Ha-Joon Chang
Synopsis

Kicking Away The Ladder takes a historical look at how the Western powers have grown economically and politically. It shows that the principles and tactics that have made them rich and powerful are counter to those they propose developing countries should live by.

Key idea 1 of 8

The USA achieved dominant economic standing by protecting its industries.

What does the flag of the United States stand for?

Along with liberty and democracy, one of the most common answers to this question is free trade and the free market. The United States often represents the image of free economic practices, unfettered by controlling government interference or high tariffs.

Yet, despite this motto of free trade, the early history of the US shows it was actually governmental regulations that led to its prosperity and power.

In the late eighteenth century, after a long struggle, the United States threw off British rule to become an independent nation. The new country faced many problems: its industry was undeveloped and weak in comparison to the European powers.

The newly independent United States turned to the opposite of free trade: protectionism. This meant that any foreign product entering the country would be subject to a five percent customs duty. The policy kept the price of US products comparably cheaper, harboring domestic economic growth.

Protectionism continued as domestic industry grew; in fact, the customs tariff climbed. In 1812, to pay for another war with Britain, it was increased to 25 percent. When the war ended a few years later, the tariff continued to climb – to a whopping 40 percent by 1820.

Incredibly, protectionism policy continued well into the twentieth century. Before the Second World War, the US was considered to have the most protected economy in the world, second only to Russia.

Although long-term protectionism may sound counter to modern economic ideals, it was undoubtedly successful. Protected behind the customs barriers, US industry grew to become the strongest in the world.

Only when the US achieved this position of dominance did it open its borders to free trade.

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