The Mystery of Capital
Trickle-Up Economics

By Hernando DeSoto

The Mystery of Capital, by Hernando DeSoto, could be among the most important books on economics of any century. DeSoto notes that more than a decade after the fall of Marxism, the expected capitalist revolution has not occurred. Capitalism has been successful only in the developed nations and has made little progress in the third world or in the former communist states.

He and his team are convinced that the problem is the lack of well defined property rights. He notes that the poor in under-developed countries have assets, but that their real property is often owned informally, and thus cannot be used to generate capital. As a result, the crucial role of real property is simply absent in under-developed countries.

He proposes the obvious solution --- formalization of informal property rights and notes that acquisition of property through informal means (squatting) has a storied history in the United States and other developed nations. DeSoto understands that formalization will be politically difficult, but points out that both rich and poor will benefit economically. One might call it "trickle up economics."

Finally, formal property rights are under attack in developed nations, through overly intrusive land use and environmental regulations. It is well to reflect upon the potential for slipping toward a system that allows virtual squatters to seize or nullify property rights through regulation, threatening a principal source of national income.

(c) 2000 --- Wendell Cox Consultancy --- Permission granted to use with attribution.
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