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.

About Jonah

Jonah Keegan helps companies manage pay-per-click marketing on Google, Bing, and Facebook; produce web content; conduct market or competitor research; and setup analytical systems to measure marketing yields. You can learn more at http://www.clicktruemedia.com/

2 thoughts on “unlock $9.3 trillion in human initiative and save the world

  1. Jonah –

    Thanks for the heads up on the book and your insightful comments. Do you read Ode magazine? (http://www.odemagazine.com) – it bills itself as “for intelligent optimists”. They had an insightful article on microcredit awhile back – perhaps you could turn this blog entry into an article for them. But back to the content – we live in the midst of such unimaginable (to me, at least) change – it would seem to me that surely this is one of the great turning points in human history. Being in the midst of it, it’s hard to see where we’re going. If the quantum physicists & mystics are at all right (and I happen to think they are VERY right), our thoughts – individually and collectively – will guide us. That is, if we follow your advice above and move into action to help the poor, the outcome of where this world is going will look differently than if we lapse into materialism to ease our fears about “terrorists” (forgetting who the true terrorists are and that the true enemy is fear). When I was young there was a popular slogan “What if they gave a war and nobody came?”. I think it’s time to ponder “what if we turned our backs on lethargy, sloth & despair and instead turned to the power of small groups.”

    “Never underestimate the power of a few committed people to change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

    Thanks for some very thought-provoking material. I’m eager to explore ways in which I can re-activate my generation’s idealism and get us back into changing the world rather than overly-rapicly-consuming it.

  2. Great post, thank you! A company that I find interesting and inspiring related to this topic is Cemex in Mexico. Granted, Cemex is a huge corporation, cement company, and their incentives are to make money, not solely to improved the poor’s access to land and housing. However, they are using microfinance and it’s solidarity models in clever ways both make money and expand the poor’s access to affordable housing. A great book for more examples like Cemex is “Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid” by C.K. Prahalad. The case studies are a little too bogged down in details, but it’s great for getting examples of how some businesses are having positive social impact in a sustainable way.

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