Posts tagged with: property rights

“Globalization must do more than connect elites and big businesses that have the legal means to expand their markets, create capital, and increase their wealth.” –Hernando de Soto

6898950_7a0fd3b3d9_bWhen assessing the causes of the recent boom in global prosperity, economists and analysts will point much of their praise to the power of free trade and globalization, and rightly so.

But while these are important drivers, we mustn’t forget that many people remain disconnected from networks of productivity and “circles of exchange.” Despite wonderful expansions in international free trade, much of this has occurred between “outsiders,” with many partners still languishing due to a lack of internal free trade within their countries.

Much of this is due to an absence of basic property rights, as economist Hernando de Soto argues throughout his popular book, The Mystery of Capital. If the global poor don’t have the legal means or incentives to trade beyond families and small communities, so-called “globalization” will still leave plenty behind. (more…)

locust effectRule of law is not something we hear much about, nor do we really want to. It’s kind of … dull. Tedious. Yawn-inducing.

Unless, of course, you live somewhere where there is no rule of law.

Every year, 5 million people are chased from their homes. Some lose their homes due to violence; others lose their homes simply because they cannot prove they own it. Someone bigger, stronger, more powerful, more wealthy comes in and takes it. And the victims have no redress. (more…)

che quevara tWouldn’t it be nice if we could all just get along? We could share all our stuff. You know, you could borrow my cashmere sweater that I saved up for, and I could borrow your Che Guevara t-shirt you got at in the dollar bin at the local flea market. Isn’t that what Christians are supposed to do?

John Zmirak thinks otherwise. At The Stream, Zmirak takes on those Christians who have a warm, fuzzy spot in their misguided hearts for what he calls “friendly fascism.” He reflects on Elizabeth Stoker-Bruenig’s latest piece in the New Republic, in which she scolds conservatives for “fighting” Pope Francis’ attempts to open the Church up to new economic ways of thinking.

She credits her discovery of Catholicism to the influence of a priest who called himself a “Christian socialist.” You remember socialism — the ideology that was denounced by Pope Leo XIII and Pope Pius XI even before its most orthodox forms claimed the lives of some 94 million people. It’s the system which still governs North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela, and in more diluted versions is slowly poisoning Western Europe.


heart-exchangeThe subject of contracts is not particularly romantic, which is part of the reason I’d like to talk about contracts—and how we might reach beyond them.

In some ways, we’ve come to overly ignore, downplay, or disregard contracts. Across the world, we see grandmaster politicians and planners trying to impose various “solutions” with the flicks of their wands, paying little attention to core features like trust and respect for property rights. Here in America, our government is increasingly bent on diluting or subverting our most fundamental agreements, whether between husband and wife or foreclosed Billy and his bank.

In other ways, however, we are excessively contract-minded, particularly when it enables us to slack off or lead predictable, controllable lives. We want guarantees to ensure the maximum reward for the minimum amount of work. We want legislation that protects our jobs and locks in our wages and retirement. We want to put in our 40, return to our couches, grab one from the cooler, and say, “that’s that.” We want to give our effort insofar as we receive our due, insulating ourselves from risk, sacrifice, and discomfort wherever possible.  (more…)

I worked alongside several Acton Institute colleagues and Coldwater Media for years on the Poverty, Inc. full-length documentary film, which tackles the question: Fighting poverty is big business, but who profits the most? It was gratifying to watch it Monday at what I’m told was the only sold out showing of the 2014 Austin Film Festival.

It was at the first dine-in movie theatre I’ve visited, the Alamo Draft House, which meant we were watching a film about extreme global poverty while being plied with beer, cokes, popcorn and pizza. Since my feelings toward the film border on the maternal, and since I had some delicious Tex-Mex before arriving and was not the least bit hungry, I was tempted to stand and in the stentorian voice of The Simpsons’ Sideshow Bob exclaim, “Down with your greedy forks and steins! Silence!!! This … is … ART! There … on the screen … are the HUDDLED MASSES! Have you no SHAME!” (more…)

Blog author: jsunde
Monday, October 13, 2014

capterrorismThe Middle East is enduring yet another wave of terror and political change, spurring countless Western analysts and elites to offer their preferred strategies and solutions, most of which involve military force, foreign aid, or some mixture of the two.

In last weekend’s Wall Street Journal, Peruvian economist Hernando De Soto sets forth a less predictable path, arguing for “an aggressive agenda for economic empowerment,” similar to that which was promoted in Peru during the 1990s.

I know something about this. A generation ago, much of Latin America was in turmoil. By 1990, a Marxist-Leninist terrorist organization called Sendero Luminoso, or Shining Path, had seized control of most of my home country, Peru, where I served as the president’s principal adviser. Fashionable opinion held that the people rebelling were the impoverished or underemployed wage slaves of Latin America, that capitalism couldn’t work outside the West and that Latin cultures didn’t really understand market economics.

The conventional wisdom proved to be wrong, however. Reforms in Peru gave indigenous entrepreneurs and farmers control over their assets and a new, more accessible legal framework in which to run businesses, make contracts and borrow—spurring an unprecedented rise in living standards… Over the next two decades, Peru’s gross national product per capita grew twice as fast as the average in the rest of Latin America, with its middle class growing four times faster.


Blog author: jsunde
Friday, October 10, 2014

The oyster population in the Chesapeake Bay has severely dwindled, amounting to less than 1% of historic levels, according to the NOAA. In turn, from a consumer’s perspective, Virginia oysters have been increasingly replaced by other varieties from around the globe.

Yet if Rappahannock Oyster Co. has anything to say about it, the Bay oyster will once again reign supreme. Their mission? “To put the Chesapeake Bay oyster back on the map” and give consumers a chance to once again enjoy “what is arguably the greatest tasting oyster in the world.”

Their story is an inspiring one, to be sure. But as filmmaker Nathan Clarke portrays in a marvelous short film on the subject, the routine work of oyster farming has a beauty and grandeur all of its own.

The film moves slowly and steadily, accompanied by no narration other than the raw rumble of boats and machinery and the quiet clatter of oysters jostling in cages and nets. Clarke lets the work sing for itself, and my, how the song sticks. Man cultivates nature, and nature responds by cultivating man.  (more…)

[Part 1 is here.]

Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning, details how the growth of government-corporate cronyism during the past 120 or so years has been largely a phenomenon of the socialist left. Wendell Berry misses this crucial historical insight in his running critique of capitalism, and his missing it draws him into flatly inaccurate claims, as when he asserts that “the United States government’s agricultural policy, or non-policy, since 1952 has merely consented to the farmer’s predicament of high costs and low prices; it has never envisioned or advocated in particular the prosperity of farmers or of farmland …”

This makes it sounds as if the government is largely uninvolved in agricultural markets, letting the winds of the free market blow wherever they wish. It’s true that the U.S. government has moved away from buying and destroying food as it did under FDR in the Great Depression, a statist attempt to prop up commodity prices while countless Americans went hungry. But even since 1952, and in a dizzying number of ways, the American government has been busy erecting all manner of protections for American agriculture, from fat subsidies on rice and other grains to import quotas on sugar, price supports on milk, and a long-running policy of paying farmers and ranchers to idle parts of their land. (more…)

Part 1 is here.]

An economically free society doesn’t have to be hyper-utilitarian, materialistic and banal; and yet, here we are, living in a capitalist age marked by these very features. Some social conservatives who see capitalism as one of the main culprits argue that we should turn away from both socialism and greedy capitalism, toward a more humanitarian and community-based approach, toward a small-is-beautiful aesthetic of farmer’s markets, widespread property ownership, social responsibility and local, collective enterprise, a political and economic strategy that would allow us to move beyond the noisy, vapid, bustling tackiness that has come to characterize so much of modern life.

The poet farmer and essayist Wendell Berry, and journalist and Crunchy Cons author Rod Dreher are among the more prominent contemporary defenders of this view. They build on the earlier work of writers such as E.F. Schumacher, Malcolm Muggeridge, G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc.

Belloc, in particular, often regarded as the father of Distributism, advocated government policies that would divide productive property more equally and spur the economy toward more buy-local patterns and greater individual contact with the land. His Distributist vision called for an active, top-down approach to the reallocation process. Here’s how Belloc put it in his 1936 work “An Essay on the Restoration of Property”:

We must seek political and economic reforms which shall tend to distribute property more and more widely until the owners of sufficient Means of Production (land or capital or both) are numerous enough to determine the character of society…. the effort at restoring property will certainly fail if it is hampered by a superstition against the use of force as the handmaid of Justice.

There are some problems with this vision of cultural renewal. (more…)

pilgrim, property rightsEach Thanksgiving brings with it another opportunity to pause, meditate, and express our gratitude for the great blessings in life. As one who recently welcomed a new baby boy to my family, it seems particularly evident this season that the greatest blessings are not, after all, material.

Yet material need is a persistent obstacle, the dynamics of which wield significant influence over the entirety of our lives, from the formative effects of our daily work to the time, energy, and resources we pour out out in the service of others. Thus, it should be no surprise that Thanksgiving is often accompanied with reflections on the material: how we’ve been blessed with food in our bellies, shelter from the cold, a means to provide, and so on.

In the spirit of such reflections, released a nice, albeit excessively cheeky, video aimed at prodding our gratitude beyond the bread on the table and toward one of the systemic features that helps bring it from the field to the baker to the boca: property rights. (more…)