It is time that we dispensed with the myth that the market is a force of nature that should not be meddled with. Markets are social creations that can be, and have been, modified for social purposes.
As someone from a developing country, I have a problem with rich countries thinking they can tell us anything, simply because they are giving money.
Free market economists frequently see minimum wage legislation as mere political intervention. However, there are decent economic theories which show that, under certain circumstances, minimum wages can be beneficial, as it makes workers more productive.
What free-market economists are not telling us is that the politics they want to get rid of are none other than those of democracy itself. When they say we need to insulate economic policies from politics, they are in effect advocating the castration of democracy.
Patent monopoly creates a lot of problems. It allows the patentee to charge the maximum to consumers. This may not be a problem if the patented product is a luxury item, like parts that go into a smartphone, but can violate basic human rights if it involves things such as life-saving drugs.
By liberating women from household work and helping to abolish professions such as domestic service, the washing machine and other household goods completely revolutionised the structure of society.
When I was growing up in South Korea in the '70s and early '80s, the country was too poor to buy original records. Everything was bootlegged.
I used to joke that I came to England – not to the U.S. where most Koreans go – because I like Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie.
People always think they're in the middle of a revolution while they tend not to realize the enormity of a change that has happened in the past. The telegraph was a revolution, but who looks at it that way these days? The telegraph sped up the transportation of messages over long distances by a huge factor.
It is one thing to tell the citizens of some faraway country to go to hell, but it is another to do the same to your own citizens, who are supposedly your ultimate sovereigns.
To put it bluntly, there isn't one economic theory that can single-handedly explain Singapore's success; its economy combines extreme features of capitalism and socialism. All theories are partial; reality is complex.
Every market has some rules and boundaries that restrict freedom of choice. A market looks free only because we so unconditionally accept its underlying restrictions that we fail to see them.
Overcoming the myth that there is such a thing as an objectively defined 'free market' is the first step towards understanding capitalism.
Democracy, despite its limitations, is in the end the only way to ensure that policies do not simply benefit the privileged few.
The invention of the printing press was one of the most important events in human history.
When we assess the impact of technological changes, we tend to downplay things that happened a while ago.
I don't drink at lunchtime because I'm very weak at alcohol like most Asians.
I think this notion that public enterprises do not work and therefore nationalization will be a disaster, I mean, it's not supported by evidence.
Contrary to what professional economists will typically tell you, economics is not a science. All economic theories have underlying political and ethical assumptions, which make it impossible to prove them right or wrong in the way we can with theories in physics or chemistry.
Very often, the judgments by ordinary citizens may be better than those by professional economists, being more rooted in reality and less narrowly focused.
As a consumer, I don't create art, but I think whatever the message is, art has to touch you.
A lot of things that we cannot buy and sell in markets used to be totally legal objects of market exchange – human beings when we had slavery, child labour, human organs, and so on. So there is no economic theory that actually says that you shouldn't have slavery or child labour because all these are political, ethical judgments.
The economy is much bigger than the market. We will not be able to build a good economy – nor a good society – unless we look at the vast expanse beyond the market.
Many financial and industrial companies have been bailed out with the public's money, but very few of those who had run those companies have been punished for their failures. Yes, the top managers of those companies have lost their jobs – but with a fat pension and mostly with a handsome severance payment.
Unfortunately, a lot of economists wanted to make their subject a science. So the more what you do resembles physics or chemistry, the more credible you become.
The truth is that the free movement of goods, people, and money that developed under British hegemony between 1870 and 1913 – the first episode of globalization – was made possible, in large part, by military might rather than market forces.
Why do tax havens exist? Because rich countries allow them to. If the U.S. came down on tax havens in the same way they come down on countries that trade with Iran and Cuba, we'd have no tax havens in the world.
Gone are the days when the upper classes were terrified of the angry mob wanting to smash their skulls and confiscate their properties. Now their biggest enemy is the army of lazy bums, whose lifestyle of indolence and hedonism, financed by crippling taxes on the rich, is sucking the lifeblood out of the economy.
It is impossible to objectively define how free a market is. This is a political definition. Government is always involved, and those free marketers are as politically motivated as anyone.
Economics should be defined in terms of what it is about. It should be about how people produce things, how people exchange them, how people earn income, how they pay taxes, how the government provides infrastructure with tax revenue, and how it conducts monetary policy. The subject has to be defined in terms of the object of inquiry.
I've read quite a few readers' reviews of my book on Amazon, saying, 'Ah, he criticises the free market, he advocates central planning.' I don't do that for a minute! But this is our black and white, dichotomous way of thinking – which has really been harmful.
Indeed, willingness to challenge professional economists and other experts is a foundation stone of democracy. If all we have to do is to listen to the experts, what is the point of having democracy?
Markets are, in the end, man-made devices for utilitarian purposes, not a force of nature that we should not try to resist. If they end up serving the interests of only a tiny minority, as is increasingly the case, we have the right – and indeed the duty – to regulate them in the interest of greater social good.
We need to accept that consumption is not the end goal of our life and stop measuring our well-being simply on the basis of earnings. We need to explicitly take the quality of our work-related life into account in judging our well-being.
I am one of the most successful economists, according to what markets tell us, though most of my professional colleagues, who are much keener to accept market outcomes than I am, would dismiss me as a crank or – the worst of all abuses among economists – a 'sociologist.'
Many people think that the U.S. is ahead in the frontier technology sectors as a result of private sector entrepreneurship. It's not. The U.S. federal government created all these sectors.
Basically, the myth is that America has been founded on the free market; the government has done very little; it has thrived under free trade. But actually, if you look at the history, this is actually the country that has succeeded most with protectionist policies.
If we are really serious about preventing another crisis like the 2008 meltdown, we should simply ban complex financial instruments unless they can be unambiguously shown to benefit society in the long run.
Instead of reading a paper, we now read the news online. Instead of buying books at a store, we buy them on-line. What's so revolutionary? The Internet has mainly affected our leisure life.
Imagine if all those kings and dukes hadn't commissioned those crazy cathedrals, paintings and music… we'd still be living in sticks and mud. Because none of those things made any economic sense. Human beings' capacity to 'waste time' is a miracle – but that's exactly what art is for.
Sometimes people with strong ideology, whether left-wing or right-wing, refuse to do something simply because they believe it is wrong, when doing it actually benefits them. For some people, it's not just about money and political power.
People tend to think that numbers are quite objective, but numbers in economics are not like this. Some economists say they're like sausages: you don't know what they really are until you cut into them.
Without there being some national strategy, it is difficult for educators to know what kinds of engineers or technicians to produce and for potential students to know what professions to study for.
Charities are now working to give people in poor countries access to the Internet. But shouldn't we spend that money on providing health clinics and safe water? Aren't these things more relevant? I have no intention of downplaying the importance of the Internet, but its impact has been exaggerated.
Few countries have become rich through free-trade, free-market policies, and few ever will.
The feeling of insecurity is inimical to our sense of wellbeing, as it causes anxiety and stress, which harms our physical and mental health. It is no surprise then that, according to some surveys, workers across the world value job security more highly than wages.