Monthly Archives: March 2006

unlock $9.3 trillion in human initiative and save the world

Wow, read The Mystery of Capital for a thought-provoking look at the real forces behind global poverty, a compelling humanist counterpoint to the Guns, Germs and Steel thesis of the large role played by natural forces (the malaria belt, poverty concentrated in the tropics), emphasizing the absence of effective property rights as a principal hindrance to economic development. Chicken and egg perhaps, as the exterior factors could be pointed out as contributing to the ineffective/corrupt systems of government retarding land rights, but an argument that places its faith in the ingenuity of man and the power of the profit motive, pretty safe bets given the world it’s created for us here in the First World. Makes me wonder if a “micro-rights” campaign similar to the microcredit programs that have proved so successful couldn’t be launched and propagated for a very low non-profit investment relative to its potential social ROI. From the book:

…By our calculations, the total value of the real estate held but not legally owned by the poor of the Third World and former communist nations is at least $9.3 trillion.

Seems to me this is a great business plan for one of these “social-venture” funds. Build (in the First World) a central repository of land-use rights and a “map to property ownership” for each of the countries in the Third World, detailing step-by-step how to secure property rights for the poor. Attach a legal office to an existing network of clinics in the poorest villages around the world, use distributed learning to educate the one-man staff of each office on how to begin assisting/advocating for the villagers’ land rights claims using your country-specific materials, and off you go. Also from the book:

…It is very nearly as much as the total value of all the companies listed on the main stock exchanges of the world’s twenty most developed countries: New York, Tokyo, London, Frankfort, Toronto, Paris, Milan, the NASDAQ, and a dozen others. It is more than twenty times the total direct foreign investment into all Third World and former communist countries in the ten years after 1989, forty-six times as much as all the World Bank loans of the past three decades, and ninety-three times as much as all the development assistance from all advanced countries to the Third World in the same period.

From a social venture perspective, the opportunity to unlock wealth valued at more than twenty times the total direct foreign investment into all Third World and former communist countries in the ten years after 1989 makes this an extremely attractive ROI I would think, as I would think the total development and implementation costs would be in the millions or tens of millions at most.