Lawyers are good! At least that's the inherent message behind a superb book by renowned economist Hernando DeSoto. The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Succeeds in the West and Fails Everywhere Else is essential reading for lay economists, amateur public policy wonks or lawyers down on their profession. The Mystery of Capital is also a must for anyone revisiting the American economic landscape and the very basic legal structures supporting capitalism and free trade.
Named one of the greatest Latin American thinkers by Time magazine, DeSoto has crafted a challenging and fresh thinking theory that flies in the face of traditional notions of Third World poverty. While traditionalists say poverty has roots in educational and capital voids, DeSoto expertly and cogently makes the case that the Third World is not financially bereft. Far from it, he says. The Third World poor do have things but lack legal process to protect property and create capital. The underpinning of wealth in the West rests on the carefully codified legal meaning of property that Westerners take for granted. Did you fall asleep on The Wealth of Nations in a college library way back when? If so, you'll appreciate the way DeSoto revisits Adam Smith and reacquaints us with the legal structures that most Third World countries lack. Despite its theoretical direction, The Mystery of Capital is refreshingly anecdotal and unstuffy as DeSoto explains how, for once, lawyers are the good guys.