Re: BOOK: The Mystery of Capital

From: J. R. Molloy (
Date: Thu Oct 18 2001 - 20:41:33 MDT

From: "Amara Graps" <>
> I only point out that libertarians should be able to explain why some
> countries have struggled alot harder than other countries under almost
> identical conditions during and since communism fell, and I don't
> think that libertarians can explain it without the extra pieces of
> information that De Soto's book provides. (my opinion based on my
> conversation with Mark)

OK, de Soto sez:
<<The trouble is that the "mystery of capital," with its unique
capacity to regenerate societies by creating liberating wealth,
never has the chance to operate.
As de Soto points out, this is because, whether in Egypt or
Indonesia or for that matter in George Washington's era in U.S.
history, "They have houses but not titles, crops but not deeds,
businesses but not statutes of incorporation. And this is why many
countries seem to be modern, but aren't.">>

So they need deeds, titles, and corporate law, otherwise they're not playing
for keeps. Alright, that makes sense. It's not enough to use money, they also
need to use a whole new memeplex. Well, don't forget that the West had to go
through a bunch of revolutions (French, American, Renaisance, etc.) to get
where it is today. We should expect no less trauma in bringing the Balkans
into 21st century capitalism. China is still working on the remnants of its
"cultural revolution" and is predicted by some to become the next economic
super power, but other parts of the far East are capitalist tigers
already(Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, etc.), so if they can do it, then so can the
Balkans. Did de Soto forget that it's not just "the West" that is prospering
with capitalism? India's on the verge of taking the plunge too.

> Libertarians should also be able to answer to why, in general, many
> poorer countries that have the communism yoke lifted now aren't taking
> off.

How 'bout China? Not taking off? What do you want... everything at Wal Mart is
made in China.

> A glib answer 'that it took communism 70 years to mess up their
> country' is unsatisfactory. I'm presenting this, slightly playing
> devil's advocate, but more to show that this is a glaring deficiency
> for folks who wish to promote freedom in all its forms. From what I
> know about De Soto's book, we have a powerful new set of concepts now
> that we can use to answer the critics, and to change the situation in
> those countries too.

You've got me there, Amara. I do indeed love glib answers. That's because I've
noticed that most all questions are less serious than they pretend.

de Soto sez:
<<They have adopted superficial products of capitalist society, but
not the "representational forms" underlying capitalist societies
and freeing capital in a "vast hidden process that connects all the
assets to the rest of the economy" and gives them a "parallel life
in the creation of new assets.">>

... and that's Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else?

Yes, de Soto continuz:
<<the real problem is that such countries have yet to establish and normalize
the invisible network of laws that turns assets from "dead" into "liquid"
capital. In the West, standardized laws allow us to mortgage a house to raise
money for a new venture, permit the worth of a company to be broken up into so
many publicly tradable stocks, and make it possible to govern and appraise
property with agreed-upon rules that hold across neighborhoods, towns, or
regions. This invisible infrastructure of "asset management"--so taken for
granted in the West, even though it has only fully existed in the United
States for the past 100 years--is the missing ingredient to success with
capitalism, insists de Soto. But even though that link is primarily a legal
one, he argues that the process of making it a normalized component of a
society is more a political--or attitude-changing--challenge than anything

So, the answer is: Everyone needs to own their own home. Then they'll have a
stake in the welfare of their communities. Big deal... any Real Estate
Principles teacher could have told us that. Why do you think State governments
provide low interest loans (VA, graduated mortgage, Cal-Vet, FHA, RECD, etc.)
to potential home buyers? That's right, to encourage home ownership.

> [You can be sure that communist-advocates or those against libertarian
> ideas will point to Lithuania's situation and ask why this country
> which had so fewer communists is struggling the most out of the three
> Baltic countries?]
> You must look at the layers underneath, i.e. the old and new economic
> and political infrastructure during communism and after the Fall to
> understand the differences between the rate of economic advancement
> between the three countries. I'm sure that the book will be able to
> point out some good reasons, but since I didn't read the book yet, and
> have a still fuzzy unformed picture of the kinds of nodes and networks
> that are important, I'll stop here.

All we need to understand (and teach formerly communist countries) for
capitalist success is "asset management." It's something that way too few
Americans understand, which is why too many young Americans suffer the
consequences of enormous credit card debt. (The US economy isn't as healthy as
your stock broker would like you to believe either.)

--- --- --- --- ---

Useless hypotheses, etc.:
 consciousness, phlogiston, philosophy, vitalism, mind, free will, qualia,
analog computing, cultural relativism, GAC, Cyc, Eliza, cryonics, individual
uniqueness, ego, human values, scientific relinquishment

We move into a better future in proportion as science displaces superstition.

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