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The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 9. Juli 2003

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"People with nothing to lose are trapped in the grubby basement of the pre-capitalist world." This is the nub of The Mystery of Capital. Read just that one sentence and you catch a glimpse of the reason why, as the author puts it, four-fifths of humanity lack the ability to turn dead assets into live capital.

A great deal of the power of legal property comes from the accountability it creates, argues Hernando de Soto, from the constraints it imposes, the rules it spawns and the sanctions it can apply. The lack of legal property thus explains why citizens in developed and former communist nations cannot make profitable contracts with strangers, cannot obtain credit, insurance or utilities services. Because they have no property to lose, they are only taken seriously as contracting parties by their immediate family and neighbours. To put it another way, while most western homeowners dream about paying off their mortgage, their counterparts in the less developed countries could transform their existence if they could only access such sums.

It's rare to come across a book about such an arcane subject that is simultaneously interesting and illuminating, entertaining and thought-provoking. The Mystery of Capital is all these and more. De Soto paints a procession of vivid pictures, from Cairo to the Wild West, from the Andes to the Urals. "The cities of the Third World and the former communist countries are teeming with entrepreneurs," he says, dismissing the notion that entrepreneurialism is the exclusive preserve of the west. "You cannot walk through a Middle Eastern market, hike up to a Latin American village or climb into a taxi in Moscow without someone trying to make a deal with you. The inhabitants of these countries possess talent, enthusiasm and an astonishing ability to wring a profit out of practically nothing."

In The Mystery of Capital, de Soto believes he points to a way in which capitalism can be used to help developing nations. In his vision, the poor are not the problem. They are the solution. --Brian Bollen -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine vergriffene oder nicht verfügbare Ausgabe dieses Titels.


"'A hugely persuasive and important book, the more so because of the moving simplicity of its central idea'" (Daily Telegraph)

"'A crucial contribution. A new proposal for change that is valid for the whole world'" (Javier Perez de Cuellar, Ex Sect.General of the UN)

"'A very great book...powerful and completely convincing'" (Ronald Coase, Nobel Laureate in Economics)

"'One of the few new and genuinely promising approaches to overcoming poverty to come in a long time'" (Francis Fukuyama, author of The End of History)

"'A revolutionary book...if the criterion is a capacity not only to change permanently the way we look at the world, but also to change the world itself, then there are good grounds for thinking that this book is surely a contender...thrillingly subvesive'" (Donald McIntyre Independent) -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine andere Ausgabe: Taschenbuch.

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26 von 35 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich Von Hans Markus Herren am 2. Juni 2001
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Etwas stutzig wurde ich schon, als ich auf dem Einband las, dass die gute alte Maggie Thatcher das Buch gut fand. Trotzdem machte ich mich dahinter, und es hat sich gelohnt. Auch wer "El otro sendero" oder "Marktwirtschaft von unten" schon gelesen hat, kann sich diese Neuerscheinung mit Gewinn zu Gemüte führen. Der Autor braucht wunderbare Formulierungen und Vergleiche, um auch Nichtökonomen klar zu machen, was er meint.
Generalthema des weltbekannten Autors sind die Eigentumsrechte, die in vielen Entwicklungsländern nur ungenügend klar definiert sind. Wer nicht zur Elite gehört, hat vielerorts gar keinen Zugang zum Rechtssystem, was zahlreiche Nachteile mit sich bringt. Wer keine Besitztitel für sein Grundstück hält, hat auch keinen Zugang zum Kreditmarkt, der muss seinen Besitz ständig bewachen und kann nicht damit handeln. Sogar wenn diese Leute viel arbeiten und viel besitzen, können sie somit nicht das Optimum aus ihren Ressourcen herausholen. Das meint der Autor, wenn er vom "Toten Kapital" spricht. In seinem historischen Vergleich schildert er zudem, wie die USA im 18/19. Jahrhundert der Bevölkerungsmehrheit den Zugang zum Rechtssystem ebneten.
Sicher hat der de Soto recht, wenn er das Fernhalten der Armen vom Rechtssystem kritisiert. Die These ist gut formuliert und hat vor allem langfristig sicher ihre Berechtigung. Das Beseitigen von bürokratischen Hürden ist ohne Zweifel nützlich. Allerdings stellt der Autor das Verteilen von Eigentumsrechten etwas einseitig als alleinseligmachende Entwicklungsstrategie dar.
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Hernando de Soto provides a landmark theory of economic thought - the recognition of how extra-legal economies are amongst us and how they work. Unfortunately, his thesis fits on to about 5 pages, the rest is re-hashing and repetition of the same topic, extremely annoying. Inexplicably, the author only hints at his and his team's extensive multi-year field research. It is never outlined, explained, or otherwise used to lay the foundation of his message. Most annoying. This has got to be one of the worst "documentations" of some of the best and most important economic research for the immediate future! To the author: please re-write this book!
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119 von 122 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
This Ain't Your Father's Economics! 31. Januar 2004
Von A. Ross - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch
In the past five years I've read a shade under a thousand books, and this is easily the most important of them. In it, Peruvian economist de Soto sets out to do nothing less than explain why capitalism has worked in the West and been more or less a total disaster in the Third World and former Communist states. This has long been a pivotal question for anyone interested in the world beyond their own back yard, and there have been plenty of attempts to explain it before (often in terms of history, geography, culture, race, etc.). However, de Soto's is the most compelling and logically argued answer I've come across. But it's not just me. I don't generally quote other reviews, but my general reaction echoes the most respected policy journals, newspapers, and magazines, who tend to repeat the same words in their reviews:"revolutionary", "provocative", "extraordinary", "convincing", "stunning", "powerful", "thoughtful". Perhaps my favorite line comes from the Toronto Globe and Mail: "De Soto demolishes the entire edifice of postwar development economics, and replaces it with the answers bright young people everywhere have been demanding." Of course readers (especially those on the left) will have to swallow a few basic premises from the very beginning, such as "Capitalism stands alone as the only feasible way to rationally organize a modern economy" and "As all plausible alternatives to capitalism have now evaporated, we are finally in a position to study capital dispassionately and carefully." And most importantly, "Capital is the force that raises the productivity of labor and creates the wealth of nations.... it is the one thing that the poor countries of the world cannot seem to produce for themselves no matter how eagerly their people engage in all the other activities that characterize a capitalist economy." No matter how badly some of us may want to hold on to cherished ideals of collectivist economies, the reality is that at present these are only viable on a micro scale. For the moment, capitalism has won, and the only question is how to make it work to improve the lives of the bulk of the world. De Soto writes: "I do not view capitalism as a credo. Much more important to me are freedom, compassion for the poor, respect for the social contract, and equal opportunity. But for the moment, to achieve those goals, capitalism is the only game in town. It is the only system we know that provides us with the tools required to create massive surplus value."
According to De Soto, the problem outside the West is that while the poor have plenty of assets (land, homes, businesses), these assets lie overwhelmingly in the extralegal, informal realm. De Soto's on the ground research reveals that this is the result of an accelerated process of urbanization and population growth, coupled with the inability of legal systems to adapt to the reality of how people live. What has happened is that throughout the Third World, the costs of making assets legal (obtaining proper title to a house, registering a business, etc.), are so prohibitive both in terms of time and money, that the assets end up being what de Soto calls"dead capital." In the West, a web of financial and legal networks enable people to use their assets to create further wealth, through such tools as mortgages, publicly traded stocks, and the like. Outside the West, most people live and work outside the kind of invisible asset management infrastructure that we take for granted, and thus are unable to use their assets for the "representational purposes" we are able to. Thus the full set of capitalist tools are not available to them and it becomes incredibly hard to realize any kind of upward mobility.
One of the key sections of the book is "The Missing Lessons of U.S. History", in which de Soto demonstrates how the US faced the exact same challenge several hundred years ago. The difference is that the legal system was flexible enough over a century and a half to realign itself with the reality being created on the ground by an energetic citizenry. However, it occurred over the long-term and long ago, and has thus been forgotten by history. What de Soto says needs to be understood is that the less developed nations of today are trying to accomplish the same thing over a much shorter time and with much greater populations, and without a clear understanding of how the West managed to do it. The ultimate challenge is raising the social awareness and political backing necessary to implement major legal change in the face of resistance from an entrenched bureaucracy and elites who benefit from the status quo. This is a daunting and provocative challenge-but not impossible.
Of course, all of the above is greatly simplified, so anyone interested in the state of the world should read it for themselves. De Soto's writing is remarkably clear (especially for an economist), and no background in economics or law is needed to follow his argument. There is a little repetition here and there, but always in the service of making sure the reader doesn't miss the big picture. In the end, whether you agree with his thesis or not, I guarantee it'll challenge your preconceived notions about global capitalism.
99 von 102 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Trickle-Up Economics 13. Oktober 2000
Von Wendell Cox - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
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.
Wendell Cox
286 von 309 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Two Cheers for de Soto 26. November 2000
Von Adam Wasserman - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Attempts to explain why the 3rd world (and the 2nd world, now that communism has largely collapsed) is different from the developed world tend to fall between two poles. At one end are those who seek an Archimedean point--a single underlying cause which, once grasped, will allow us to quickly move developing countries up the socio-economic ladder. Such explanations have the virtue of being useful to people who actually work in 'development', because they convince us that we know how to produce fundamental change. But they run the risk of oversimplifying and, if taken as a guide to policy, of raising expectations only to see them dashed by the complexities and historical quirkiness of the real world.
At the other pole are holistic, multifaceted explanations, taking into account history, culture, economics, religion--the whole nine yards. Such accounts may be more intellectually satisfying, but often lead to frustration by convincing us that the problems are too complicated, too resistant to quick fixes, for practical solutions.
The Mystery of Capital falls for the most part in the first camp. It's author, Hernando de Soto, is one of the 3rd World's most dedicated and intelligent reformers. He wants desperately to do something to help the poor, and has been heroically influential--and successful--in arguing against the failed statist solutions long in vogue in Latin America. Now he wants to move beyond criticism to a positive agenda for change. De Soto's impeccably pro-capitalist credentials make his initial criticism especially convincing: actual capitalism in most of the world is restricted to a small elite, while most remain on the outside looking in.
The question is whether de Soto's solution is equally convincing. He does not believe poverty is due to the evil intentions of capitalists or capitalist countries (though he acknowledges that powerful interests in developing countries do not want to make the system more inclusive--a subject which could use more discussion). Nor is it because of culture or any inherent faults in the poor, or in poor countries. No, the real problem lies in a kind of intellectual or historical blindness, which has kept everyone from seeing what the real source of wealth is: real property, or more exactly well-defined and socially accepted property rights. Once a society has this, it has the secret of capital, since these assets can then be used to generate loans, credit, insurance, liabilities and the whole apparatus of capitalism.
It is hard to argue, looking at the real experience of the undeveloped or maldeveloped world, that the lack of property rights is not a huge impediment to economic growth. De Soto and his team have done tremendous work in documenting exactly how this holds back and frustrates the poor and disenfranchised.
But it is equally hard to believe that this is the key or only reason. More accurately, it seems--from de Soto's own account of what is required--that having property rights is a sort of 'meta-cause'. It depends on such a host of other developments in the economy, in society, in the political system (where access historically often depended on property, limited to a few), in the legal system, in the informal norms and mores, that it is hardly practical to point to it as 'the solution' to 3rd world poverty. For this reason, it seems unlikely that simply pointing out that developed countries have complex systems of property rights, though useful, will be enough to allow for the development of similar systems in the developing world.
If de Soto is right, why is China developing so fast, without anything like the formal, all-encompassing property system he thinks is essential? Why did European economic development begin to outpace the rest of the world centuries before the property systems which, he points out, in most Western countries were only arrived at within the last 100 years?
As a recipe for action, The Mystery of Capital is excellent in pointing to a dimension of development that has been neglected, and for its path-breaking research on the ground, discovering what it takes to bring the newly urbanized poor into the modern economy. But as a satisfying account of what ultimately causes poverty and why some countries are rich and others are not, it falls short. For this, one should go to books like David Landes' The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, or Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel.
48 von 50 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
A book by an economist 26. Mai 2001
Von econdude - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
The Mystery of Capital is recommended, among others, by no less than Milton Friedman, Ronald Coase, Margaret Thatcher, and William F. Buckley Jr. That's not why you should read the book. De Soto examines a necessary and misunderstood topic: why are poor countries poor? His arguments and insights make the book a necessary read for the economist, or other educated person.
The main point of The Mystery of Capital is that the seemingly intractable and hopeless situations in Third World countries is due in large part to one common problem: the issue of property rights. Macroeconomic policies make piecemeal improvements (or may improve nothing at all). Money is not the source of the wealth in a nation. Capital is the source of the wealth of nations! Facilitating the proper legal environment is an integral part of the creation and growth of capital, something First World nations had to develop, and something de Soto argues that Third World nations can develop.
The book gets a bit dry in the latter half, but is definitely worth the read. De Soto covers legal ramifications and reforms that will help build a bridge for "dead capital" to be converted to "live capital". The Mystery of Capital will be a surprise for some, because of de Soto's synopses here and there about what life is like for those who live in Third World countries, and the enormous amount of (untapped) wealth the people of Third World Nations possess.
De Soto is a decent economist, in part because he draws from so many disciplines and sources. He also did a prodigious amount of observation and collection of data (hardly an ivory tower academic). If you have an interest in developmental economics, law and economics, entrepreneurship, History of Thought, Economic History (especially that of the U.S.), or political science, among other areas, The Mystery of Capital is especially for you. I recommend the book to any social scientist - the book is so well done and relevant that you may find yourself developing an interest in any of the above!
99 von 111 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Brilliant 15. September 2000
Von D. C. Carrad - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
I spent 5 years in Cambodia doing development/legal reform work and never could figure out why it was so often frustrating and kept running into dead ends. I only wish I had had this book at the beginning of my time there. It reveals what needs to be done to bring the third world out of poverty. Full of simple but powerful ideas. I only hope the development bureaucracy will adopt it. Sound property laws enable land and other assets currently not marketable, saleable or mortgageable to be used as collateral for enterprises (as in the West), and there is more of such property out there in the world than all the Western aid since the beginning of time to all other countries! The author has done his homework on the ground and has compelling and important ideas. An interesting read even if you are not involved in this area.
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