Economics for People

Economics has long been the domain of the ivory tower, where specialized language and opaque theorems make it inaccessible to most people. That’s a problem.

From the collection: s Education, Learn Economics at Home


From the collections Education, Learn Economics at Home

It is extremely important for our democracy to function that ordinary citizens understand the key issues and basic theories of economics.

Ha-Joon Chang

In the new series “Economics For People” from the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET), University of Cambridge economist and bestselling author Ha-Joon Chang explains key concepts in economics, empowering anyone to hold their government, society, and economy accountable.

Lecture 1.1: The Nature of Economics

Economists like to claim that they can explain everything. But does that really hold up?

Lecture 1.2: Five Reasons Why Economics Is Political

Is economics a science, or is it politics? The answer’s not so simple.

Lecture 2: What Is Wrong With Globalization?

Across the world we’re seeing governments and popular movements come to power that are opposed to globalization. Why?

Lecture 3: Conceptualizing the Individual

Mainstream economics is rooted in the idea that individual self-interest drives society. Ha-Joon Chang explores other, more complicated theories of the individual in the economy.

Lecture 4: Can Economics Help Us Save the Planet? Part 1

Climate change poses an existential threat to humanity. Can mainstream economics save the planet, or do we need a new paradigm altogether?

Lecture 5: Why Are Some Countries Rich and Others Poor?

Gaps between countries have always existed, but as late as 1700, per capita income in the wealthiest part of the world (Western Europe) was only 2.5x that of the poorest reason at the time (Africa).

Lecture 6: Will Robots Take Your Job?

Automation is as old as capitalism itself. But new technology raises the question of whether robots will replace most—if not all—of our jobs. Ha-Joon Chang examines the history of automation, and whether current fears are well-founded.

Lecture 7: Inequality: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?

The fight for greater equality has been behind some of the most momentous moments in human history. But since the advent of neoliberalism in the 1980’s, there’s been a view by many economists that inequality is inevitable and any interventions against it are unadvisable. Ha-Joon Chang explains what inequality is, how we measure it, and why understanding it matters.

Lecture 8: Production

So much of mainstream economics today is focused on market exchange that it’s easy to neglect production itself. Ha-Joon Chang explains the nature of production and its evolution.

Lecture 9: The Role of the State

Much of economics, even if it is not explicitly about studying government, has implications for policy. Ha-Joon Chang explains the role of the state in economic theory and practice.

Lecture 10: Finance & Financial Crises

The 2008 financial crisis sent a shock across the world economy, slashing growth, raising unemployment, and forcing mass foreclosures on homes. As a result, many governments slashed spending, further plunging people into an economic abyss. Ha-Joon Chang explains finance and financial crises.

Lecture 11: Can Economics Help Us Save the Planet? Part 2

What are the market-based mechanisms we can use to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? Will they work? Ha-Joon Chang looks at ways economics can fight climate change.

Lecture 12: Industrial Policy

Free-market economists like to pretend that economic planning has no role in a successful economy. But many economists now recognize the important role of industrial policy.

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After Class

The HET Website has created a supporting page of resources for those who wish to dig deeper into the references Professor Chang makes in the lectures. From economist profiles, to schools of thought, and even complete written works, there’s something for everyone!

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Student Discussions

Join the students as they discuss and debate key topics from the series.

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Special Thanks

INET sincerely thanks the Julis-Rabinowitz Family for their generous support, who named this series to honor the spirit of a great educator and economic thinker, Uwe Reinhardt.

For nearly 50 years, the late Uwe Reinhardt was a beloved economist and professor at Princeton University. Known best for helping to shape critical discourse around healthcare markets, his biting wit and intellect challenged students, colleagues, and policymakers alike to follow the data and to check all assumptions at the door.

INET also thanks Rethinking Economics for their voices and contributions, and Econ Films for production.

Professor Chang

Ha-Joon Chang, a Korean national, has taught at the Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge, since 1990.

In addition to numerous articles in journals and edited volumes, Ha-Joon Chang has published 13 authored books (four of them co-authored) and 9 edited books (six of them co-edited). His main books include The Political Economy of Industrial Policy (1994), Kicking Away the Ladder – Development Strategy in Historical Perspective (2002), and Bad Samaritans – Rich Nations, Poor Policies, and the Threat to the Developing World (2007), and 23 Things That They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism (Penguin, 2010, and Bloomsbury USA, 2011). By 2011, his writings will have been translated into 21 languages.

Apart from his academic activities, Ha-Joon Chang has worked as a consultant for numerous international organisations, including various UN agencies (UNCTAD, WIDER, UNDP, UNIDO, UNRISD, INTECH, FAO, and ILO), the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank. He has also worked as a consultant for a number of governments (such as Canada, Japan, South Africa, the UK, and Venezuela) and various NGOs (such as ActionAid, CAFOD, Christian Aid, Oxfam)

Ha-Joon Chang is the winner of the 2003 Myrdal Prize, awarded to his book, Kicking Away the Ladder, by the European Association for Evolutionary Political Economy (EAEPE). He is also the winner (jointly with Richard Nelson) of the 2005 Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought awarded by Tufts University. Previous winners of the Prize include the Nobel Laureates Amartya Sen and Daniel Kahnemann as well as John Kenneth Galbraith.

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