Realizing Property Rights is a collection of papers put together by the esteemed Economist Hernando de Soto and Francis Cheneval.
Hernando de Soto has probably done more good work for property rights and poverty than anyone alive today. The qualifier good in the previous sentence, I refer to study and action that will lead to positive change and improvement for millions of people.
Unfortunately, land reform and property rights is associated the dreadful failures of communism and other forms of forced state collectivism. This is sad as co-erced collectivism has probably led to more death and unhappiness than almost any other concept. The purges of Stalin and Mao alone led to 10's of millions of deaths and generations of poverty. Smaller, but no less tragic incidents have occurred in many part other countries and parts of the world.
Property rights, namely private, individual property rights are one of the fundamental bedrocks of the development of the modern world, Western, Eastern, Northern and southern.
The book Realizing Property Rights isn't as effective as Hernando De Soto's earlier and more important work, The Mystery of Capitalism, Why capitalism Triumphs in the West and fails everywhere else.
Realizing Property Rights unfortunately fails the test of being a good book in this area. As a book it is a disappointment in an important subject. The book has too many weak submissions. The collection of submitters is a list of the great and good in this area, but unfortunately a good activist, policy wonk or field researcher doesn't implicitly make one a good author. This is sad, the stories and opinions of these people count and the lack of editorial or ghost writing gets in the way of these people getting their messages across.
There are some solid gems here that make the purchase worthwhile for a few nuggets, should the reader be so inclined. the Chapter on women and property rights by Robin Nielsen is especially informative on the weakness of Women in developing countries. The inability of women to secure, hold or transfer property in many countries is a disaster. In many rural areas, women's property is held by the head of the household almost without exception her husband. In the event of death or divorce the woman's property is gone. This means a home, land, small business or children can be whisked away based on familial or village decision. Culture and tradition is a deep and difficult to understand problem in this area and deserves more field work and attention.
In my own academic study and personal research over the years, I came to the conclusion, however crude it may be that investing resources in women had the highest payoff in terms of development Goals. Women invested more in family, education and collective well being. Women perform most of the labor in the developing world and reap few rewards. According to Nielsen's research Women produce 60-80% of the developing world's food resource.
Invest in women! I say this not as a gender issue, but as a hard nosed investor. Women yield the higher development ROI (return on investment).
Fortunately a UN general assembly passed a CEDAW (convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women) in 1979. 2 and half decades later 180 nations have ratified CEDAW. Legal ratification and change on the ground can be different things, but this a step in the right direction. This isn't just a poor world issue after all Switzerland only granted women the right to vote in 1971
I won't go into the issue here, but female property rights and culture is a fascinating topic, everything from dowry, to collective ownership makes for fascinating reading about the human condition and the evolution of cultural norms.