A convincing case has been made in both academic studies and policy circles for clearly defined private property rights as a means to economic development. Perhaps best characterized by the recent work of Hernando De Soto, well-defined private property rights are thought to be critical not just for economic growth, but also as tool to alleviate poverty. The argument that the poor have capital that need only be put to efficient use through the creation of institutional structures that will allow them to access it is compelling. De Soto's work follows decades of policy advice provided by the international financial institutions - the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund - to developing countries regarding the privatization of property, both in agriculture and industry. The ideological agenda behind their reform advice has been neoliberalism. Reforms are designed to facilitate trade and integration into the world market. The focal point of De Soto's work, in contrast, is poverty alleviation. Both perspectives suggest policy emphasizing well-defined private property rights that can be both exchanged and enforced.

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Copyright © 2007 Journal of Comparative Politics. This article first appeared in Journal of Comparative Politics 39:4 (2007), 463-480.

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