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The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else

de Hernando de Soto

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1,2371015,977 (4.04)4
A renowned economist's classic book on capitalism in the developing world, showing how property rights are the key to overcoming poverty. "The hour of capitalism's greatest triumph," writes Hernando de Soto, "is, in the eyes of four-fifths of humanity, its hour of crisis." In The Mystery of Capital, the world-famous Peruvian economist takes up one of the most pressing questions the world faces today: Why do some countries succeed at capitalism while others fail? In strong opposition to the popular view that success is determined by cultural differences, de Soto finds that it actually has everything to do with the legal structure of property and property rights. Every developed nation in the world at one time went through the transformation from predominantly extralegal property arrangements, such as squatting on large estates, to a formal, unified legal property system. In the West we've forgotten that creating this system is what allowed people everywhere to leverage property into wealth. This persuasive book revolutionized our understanding of capital and points the way to a major transformation of the world economy.… (més)
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    The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some are So Rich and Some So Poor de David S. Landes (br77rino)
    br77rino: De Soto does a wonderful job of making plain the problems of Third World capitalism.
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The developing countries are not poor, they have a lot of wealth, they just cannot make their wealth part of the legal system denoted as property rights. As they do not have legal access to their assets, they cannot use these assets in a variety of ways such as mark them as collateral or transfer them easily. Capital is the ability to use asset for more than the physical purpose, and the poor do not have access to these uses. That is what makes the capitalism in the West work and fail everywhere is, that the West has given property legal status which allows the asset to be used in more ways than the physical properties.

Capital is defined by the potential use of an asset. This potential use can only be accessed via legal ways, while many in developing countries are in the extralegal situation. By providing property rights, usually starting with documenting the assets, the assets can be traded in more than just local circles. Documenting the assets is a way of representing its potential value, much like other forms of representations humans have created to express conceptual and non-physical properties. Documenting the assets make the invisible wealth, visible.

Operating in the extralegal has costs, which is why people who are given the opportunity to make their assets legal, do so gladly. Extralegality is seen as more of a norm, due to the high difficulty that many countries make it to become or stay legal. An integrated legal system facilitates accountability of the individual, reducing the need for trust developed locally. All extralegal arrangements have their enforcement mechanisms and close groups, while an integrated property system destroys the close groups it creates more networks.

Developing countries have entrepreneur ingenuity and gargantuan of wealth, what they do not have is ready access to the legal system. The problem becomes that the written law is not the peoples’ law. Governments fail to adapt the legal system for various groups. Rather than adapting to the extralegals, many governments have begun outlawing and prosecuting them. Many countries are in the same stage that the US was in history. Over time, the US integrated the extralegal code with the official one.

This book is a fantastic read about property rights. For countries to recognize and utilize their wealth, lawyers and leaders need to take charge of integrating the legal system. This is a difficult and turbulent process but is necessary to turn assets into capital.
( )
  Eugene_Kernes | Jun 4, 2024 |
I have had the privilege of meeting the Hernando de Soto back in 2006 while attending training at his Institute for Liberty and Democracy in Lima. I can count among those who have also implemented in practice the theories that de Soto puts forward in the book, through my involvement in a joint policy research program on property rights in Albania. It is enriching and fascinating book to read, as well as both well researched and written. I am also proud to have contributed to editing its translation into Albanian. ( )
  Indrit | Dec 12, 2019 |
Excellent overview of how we use property to create capital and how most of the world does not have a system for documenting ownership. Most people live in an extralegal system. Has recommendations for changing the systems so that real capitalism can work. ( )
  ShadowBarbara | Jan 27, 2017 |
Only read half of this ( we get the idea ) although it is very good ( I also kept flashin on ' Thieves World ', the Asprin books ... hm ... ) ( )
  BakuDreamer | Sep 7, 2013 |
This book not only highlights global legal property right deficiencies, but also guides readers to a first step in reducing global poverty. ( )
  sagacious33 | Aug 12, 2010 |
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A renowned economist's classic book on capitalism in the developing world, showing how property rights are the key to overcoming poverty. "The hour of capitalism's greatest triumph," writes Hernando de Soto, "is, in the eyes of four-fifths of humanity, its hour of crisis." In The Mystery of Capital, the world-famous Peruvian economist takes up one of the most pressing questions the world faces today: Why do some countries succeed at capitalism while others fail? In strong opposition to the popular view that success is determined by cultural differences, de Soto finds that it actually has everything to do with the legal structure of property and property rights. Every developed nation in the world at one time went through the transformation from predominantly extralegal property arrangements, such as squatting on large estates, to a formal, unified legal property system. In the West we've forgotten that creating this system is what allowed people everywhere to leverage property into wealth. This persuasive book revolutionized our understanding of capital and points the way to a major transformation of the world economy.

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