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The Other Path Paperback – Bargain Price, September 5, 2002
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If you've read de Soto's master work "The Mystery of Capitalism," then there is no new news here. In fact, "The Other Path" will look out-of-date with its yellowing statistics. So why the five stars? As a testament to de Soto's bravery. Think about the guts it took for him to research and publish this book in Peru during the tumultuous and frightening period there. What a statement.
The first part of the book is a detailed analysis of three sectors of the Peruvian economy: housing, transport, and trade (small manufacturing and retail primarily). In each of these, De Soto demonstrates how the barriers raised by regulation and legal process from both right and left wing governments in Peru have forced the majority of persons participating to do so in informal/illegal ways. The result is that formal activity bears the brunt of taxation and informals have little protection in terms of property rights, contractual instruments, and so on. The net result is that everyone is impoverished. This section of the book can be tough reading because of the amount of detail, but its necessary in order to understand the importance of the second half.
The second half suggests that the Peruvian situation is really the reemergence of mercantilism, not a market economy. De Soto then provides some suggestions to peacefully transitiont to a market economy, and convincing warnings that failure to do so will almost certainly result in a violent transition.
The points that De Soto makes are increasingly significant to non-Peruvians as societies like America have increasingly centralised economies. Ironically, the cover includes blurbs from both Presidents Bush and Clinton. One suspects that netiher of them actually read the book.