The Power of the Poor: Blog Contest

by on September 10, 2009 at 6:30 am in Economics, Education, Television | Permalink

On October 8, PBS will be showing, The Power of the Poor, a new documentary featuring the great Hernando de Soto and from the team that brought you Free to Choose.  You can see a preview below.  To increase awareness, Free to Choose Media is sponsoring a blog contest on the question:

What institutions can enable the world’s poor to realize their power
and achieve prosperity?

The best blog post–under 500 words–on this theme will receive $250 and a DVD of the show. See the rules for more information. Yours truly will be one of the judges.

A Student of Economic Geography September 10, 2009 at 8:56 am

What institutions can enable the world’s poor to realize their power and achieve prosperity?

Property rights.

libert September 10, 2009 at 9:49 am

From the contest rules: The film “explores the role property rights and legal institutions can play in economic development, as well as how global capitalism can help the world’s poor. The blog contest is designed to explore these ideas, as well.”

Not to diminish the importance of property rights, but from the sound of it, free thinking is not allowed in this contest.

Seward September 10, 2009 at 10:06 am

In other words, we’ve been “planning” (via central authority) the world’s poor out of poverty since about 1945. Maybe we should try something different. Maybe centralized planning just plain sucks.

Jason Kerwin September 10, 2009 at 11:10 am

I dislike the question because it seems to be asking for a “magic bullet” to help the poor and all the evidence indicates there are no such magic bullets. Yes, even property rights have been tried and found wanting. I also agree with the concern raised by libert about the underlying motives of the organizers. So I have two questions for you, Alex:

1) Will you consider multifaceted arguments that don’t make the case for a single institution on its own?

2) Will posts that argue for something other than property rights be considered?

Seward September 10, 2009 at 11:29 am

Jason Kerwin,

Yes, even property rights have been tried and found wanting.

Can you be more specific where this has happened in the planning associated with the developing world?

The underlying motives appear to be to help poor people.

pwyll September 10, 2009 at 1:06 pm

Colonialism, under the classical model.

Nastassja September 10, 2009 at 1:33 pm

Hmm, your post looks like an entry, although it doesn’t discuss the question in the original posting but through the comments section. Will, or better yet should, comment sections be incorporated in this type of contest? As the goal is to increase awareness, the number of comments a post generates could indicate the effectiveness of the blogger’s message. Just a thought.

Seward September 10, 2009 at 4:30 pm

Jason Kerwin,

Well, as De Soto has stated over and over again it isn’t simply about titling. He’s gone at some length about that to address his critics.

Anyway, like a lot of things, this is an issue of determining necessary and/or sufficient conditions. I would argue that at the very least property rights are a necessary condition for economic growth, and that in the development circles this insight has seen a lot of resistance.

Jason Kerwin September 10, 2009 at 8:42 pm

>in the development circles this insight has seen a lot of resistance.

I couldn’t disagree more. Property rights have been extremely popular in development circles for a long time. Perhaps there are organizations where people are inclined to resist the idea, but I can say I’ve never met any. It is accurate to say that some people are disillusioned with property rights as a panacea, and maybe they shouldn’t be if the concept hasn’t been given a fair trial.

batteries September 11, 2009 at 7:12 am

I also agree for “Property rights have been extremely popular in development circles for a long time”
Todays development process are totally depend on the property rights and other property assets.This might be included in the total power.The point is not that giving the poor rights to their property is not intended to help them.

sesli chat September 11, 2009 at 8:53 pm

Thanks for the great article..

Mike Huben September 12, 2009 at 9:33 am

It’s interesting that nobody here has mentioned de Soto’s bizarre examples of extralegal: the Boston Tea Party and Paul Revere’s Ride. Those were illegal, violent and revolutionary. As somebody pointed out, by his standards terrorism by Hamas is merely extralegal.

It’s hard to take de Soto seriously when he starts out with such a hideous mistake, but I suspect that he will perpetuate a common libertarian error of substituting means for objective. The objective should be to give the poor CAPABILITIES, and stable property and legal access should merely be some of the means. Public health, public education and iphone-type communications are also needed, else expanding property rights and legal systems to the poor will enable the wealthy to disenfranchise the poor by application of the legal system to that property.

Eugene Erwin December 10, 2010 at 2:50 am

The only true help for the poor is education. It is only through education that the poor will be able to even understand credit and property ownership.

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