In this, his classic book on the informal economy of Peru and the reasons why poverty can be a breeding ground for terrorists, Hernando De Soto describes the forces that keep people dependent on underground economies: the bureaucratic barriers to legal property ownership and the lack of legal structures that recognize and encourage ownership of assets. It is exactly these forces, de Soto argues, that prevent houses, land, and machines from functioning as capital does in the West — as assets that can be leveraged to create more capital. Under the Fujimori government, de Soto’s Institute for Liberty and Democracy wrote dozens of laws to promote property rights and bring people out of the informal economy and into the legitimate one. The result was not only an economic boon for Peru but also the defeat of the Shining Path, the terrorist movement and black-market force that was then threatening to take over the Peruvian government. In a new preface, de Soto relates his work to the present moment, making the connection between the Shining Path in the 1980’s and the Taliban today.
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