Found in 3 comments on Hacker News
It's not as productive as it could be if people were instead engaged in the commercial activities of investing in intellectual property.

Financial assets and intellectual property are not something I can teach you in a comment box. I recommend reading these two books and then we can start the conversation back up again.

Tyler Cowen and Hernando de Soto are two economists that are held in incredibly high regard and have done a wonderful job explaining the core concepts of both what constitutes finance and how it applies to intellectual creativity in a market economy.

Cue the knee-jerk rebuttal in 3... 2... 1...

"But the internet changed everything!"

Uh huh, ok, sure, whatever you say... yawn

specialist · 2016-02-24 · Original thread
Good link, thanks.

Hernando de Soto makes a similar case that societies need some cultural achievements unlocked before their market-based economies can work well. Stuff like property rights, fair and impartial courts, contract law, enforced regulatory authority, professional civil servants, etc.

The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else

Hernando de Soto (Author)

I have friends that work in development who criticize de Soto: a good start, but as one would expect, the story isn't that simple. Alas, I don't recall their upgrades to de Soto's insights.

btilly · 2014-03-03 · Original thread
The comment about people building houses half-way, moving in, and then finishing them rang a bell. The reason why people do this is not that they are poor, it is that you have a messed up property system.

I recently read which explains this. The problem arises when the formal property system fails to capture the actual contracts that actual people live by, and makes it unbelievably hard for someone outside of the legal system to get into it. Then you get a situation where people live in houses, but cannot prove their title, and this causes all sorts of complications such as the necessity of bribing government officials (because they are squatters) and the impossibility of getting loans.

By contrast if the formal property system is fixed, you get a situation where professionals can build a house, then sell it to a person who mortgages it, and then pays it off slowly. The overall cost of building the house is less, the quality of the house is better, it simply makes sense to do things right. But this is impossible without formal property because nobody can make money building houses that nobody else can afford, and banks can't lend people that much money without having a way to reclaim property if people fail to pay. So people are stuck building their houses slowly and expensively.

And this is one of a myriad of ways in which it is bad for a country to have the formal property system out of sync with the actual contracts by which people live by.

The theory sounded great, but does it work in practice? Well the country where the author got to try his ideas out was Peru. Looking at it seems that the lot of the average Peruvian has indeed continued improving since the book was written, so that's reasonable evidence that his theory works.

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