Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto, president of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy (ILD), headquartered in Lima, Peru, will receive the 2016 Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Prize during the 13th annual conference sponsored by the William & Mary Property Rights Project on October 19-21 in The Hague.
Thomas Jefferson founded William & Mary Law School, which is the oldest law school in the United States. The school is presenting the conference in cooperation with the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies of Leiden Law School. Past recipients of the prize have included former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who served on the court from 1981 to 2006; Richard E. Pipes, Baird Professor of History, Emeritus, at Harvard University, and former member of President Ronald Reagan's National Security Council; Frank I. Michelman, Walmsley University Professor, Emeritus, at Harvard University; and Richard A. Epstein, Tisch Professor at New York University Law School.
De Soto is the author of The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else (Basic Books, 2000), The Other Path: The Economic Answer to Terrorism (Basic Books, 2002), which includes a new updated preface, "The Other Path after Ten Years," and Swiss Human Rights Book Volume 1: Realizing Property Rights (2006), co-authored with Francis Cheneval. The prize is named in honor of Toby Prince Brigham and Gideon Kanner for their lifelong contributions to protecting private property rights and is presented annually at the Brigham-Kanner Conference to a scholar, practitioner or jurist whose work affirms the fundamental importance of property rights to individual liberty.
"Hernando de Soto is known the world over for his tireless advocacy of property rights reform as a tool to alleviate global poverty," said William & Mary President Taylor Reveley. "His work challenges us to think deeply about the relationship of property rights to the human condition and he joins a roster of luminaries, including Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, recognized by the William & Mary Property Rights Project."
De Soto's work in developing national economies and establishing private property rights has earned him praise around the world. Time magazine named him one of the five leading Latin American innovators of the century in 1999, and included him among its list of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2004. Forbes Magazine in 2002 listed de Soto as one of the 15 people "who will reinvent your future." Former U.S. President Bill Clinton called him "probably the world's most important living economist," and described the ILD's work as the "most promising anti-poverty initiative in the world."
William & Mary Law School Dean Davison M. Douglas said that the 2016 event promises to be truly special. "We are thrilled to have the opportunity to honor Hernando De Soto with the Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Prize. We are especially pleased to be able to present him with the prize in The Hague. This is our second international property rights conference, having previously convened in Beijing in 2011. Property rights are a global issue, and our 2016 gathering will call attention to the importance of these rights around the world."
About Hernando de Soto
De Soto began advocating for property rights in his home country of Peru in the 1980s. He asserts that no nation can develop a strong market economy without first establishing firm property rights for all its people. In looking to the native Peruvians and other indigent citizens, de Soto saw the root of their economic struggles and, as he wrote in his book, The Mystery of Capital: "They have houses but not titles; crops but not deeds; businesses but not statutes of incorporation."1 He worked closely with Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori to help his impoverished fellow citizens unlock their economic potential through the establishment of a land title program.
After de Soto's success in Peru, other developing nations reached out for his assistance. He has worked closely with the heads of state from Haiti, Mexico, Egypt, the Philippines, and many other nations. Throughout his long career, he has asserted in his writings and advocacy efforts that poor citizens in developing nations lack formal legal title to their property and are thus working with "dead capital." Due to their lack of title, they cannot obtain bank loans to further their businesses, nor can they effectively sell their products in the national economy. He and his colleagues at the ILD estimated that the amount of dead capital in untitled assets held by the poor around the world totals "at least 9.3 trillion"—a sum of money that could provide an incredible boost to the world economy, if unlocked.
Today de Soto continues to fight poverty and to push for the development of economies through property rights. In 2014, he responded to French economist Thomas Piketty's analysis and critique of modern forms of capital that contribute to inequalities in wealth distribution by arguing that the importance of capital should not be diminished but rather legally recognized even among the poor in developing nations. In 2015, de Soto served as a moderator at Richard Branson's Block Chain Summit to discuss how the world could benefit from the technology behind Bitcoin digital currency.
De Soto has received numerous international recognitions and honors, including, for example, the Adam Smith Award (Association of Private Enterprise Education), BearingPoint, Inc.-Forbes Magazine Compass Award for Strategic Direction, the CARE Canada Award for Outstanding Development Thinking, The Economist magazine's Innovation Award, the Freedom Prize (Max Schmidheiny Foundation), and the Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty (Cato Institute).
About the Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Prize
The Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Prize, which has been awarded annually since 2004, honors the lifetime work of Toby Prince Brigham, founding partner of Brigham Moore, LLP, and Gideon Kanner, Professor of Law, Emeritus, at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. Previous recipients include Professor Frank I. Michelman of Harvard University (2004), Professor Richard A. Epstein of the New York University School of Law (2005), Professor James W. Ely, Jr., of Vanderbilt University (2006), Professor Margaret Jane Radin of the University of Michigan Law School (2007), Professor Robert C. Ellickson of Yale Law School (2008), Professor Richard E. Pipes of Harvard University (2009), Professor Carol Rose of the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law (2010), former Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Sandra Day O'Connor (2011), Professor James E. Krier of the University of Michigan Law School (2012), Professor Thomas W. Merrill of Columbia Law School (2013), Michael M. Berger of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips (2014), and Professor Joseph William Singer of Harvard Law School (2015).
Thomas Jefferson founded William & Mary Law School in 1779 to train leaders for the new nation. Now in its third century, America's oldest law school continues its historic mission of educating citizen lawyers who are prepared both to lead and to serve.
1 Note: This quote comes from Chapter 1 of The Mystery of Capital.