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19th September 2017
Title: The Mystery of Capital : Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else
Author: de Soto, Hernando
Price: £15.00
Publisher: Bantam
Date Published: 2000
Specifications: HC., 243pp., 5.5" x 8.5", 400g.
ISBN: 0593046641
Condition: Very good in dust jacket.
Copies in stock: 1
Category: General Business More books in this category
Book type: General Business
Hindsight ID: 1936
The Mystery of Capital : Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else

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Notes: It is deeply ironic that those who profess the greatest concern for improving the lot of the third-world poor invariably denigrate, and often seek to overturn, the very system that has spectacularly succeeded in improving the wellbeing of others – Capitalism. It is rather more obvious that they should instead attempt to entrench that very system in the less developed parts of the world where products and services are in short supply.

De Soto’s book is very important. It clearly identifies the massive potential latent in the poorer countries, and how the development of business, and the hard work of people there, is continually frustrated by undeveloped legal concepts and bureaucratic hurdles. Most strikingly it shows it is almost impossible to obtain legal title to a property of one’s own, and it is the lack of this most elementary form of capital that prevents the economic take-off. It would also seem to deny the most basic freedom on which all others are built – the right to a private life free from interference and censorship – and must lead to perpetual insecurity.

This fits well with an observation of my own, that the architecture and layout of towns in poorer countries often features high walls and thick doors, with life turned inward and away from the streets. It seems people then are taking refuge behind protective barriers and shabby exteriors rather than in the law, and that bodes ill for commercial life.

The ideas in this book were not dreamt out in some ivory tower, de Soto and his students have documented around the world the practical difficulty in obtaining legal titles by trying so to do. The results are amazing and reveal a process that takes years and even decades in some cases and involves hundreds of form-filling exercises and visits to offices – troublesome enough were it to happen in the West, but a crushing experience in countries with poor communications and lethargic bureaucracy. The outcome is that the norm is life in an extra-legal world with all the problems and inefficiencies that go with it, be they in Peru, Russia or Egypt.

Keys: Capitalism, Wealth, Growth, Development


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