Debating Dead Capital


Over at Slate, John Gravois has a piece slamming Hernando de Soto's claim that conferring property rights are key to fighting poverty. Formal property titles, says Gravois, rarely translate to credit access and create incentives to kick the poor off their (newly valuable) land. Even if he has a point, as he may in the case of Cambodia, he completely misses key benefits of land titling. As economist Erica Field has pointed out frequently in her studies of Peru, formal land ownership frees up the urban poor to leave home and go to work rather than keep constant guard of their tenuously held homes. The most dramatic effects seem to be on household labor supply, not credit access, and taking down De Soto means tackling that observation.