Volume 6

The Missing Rung: Challenging Regulatory Barriers to Property Acquisition

Christopher Serkin

A reliable property system, accessible to all people, is a critical precondition to a well-functioning economy and even to democracy itself. The absence of such a system can force people into informal legal relationships, largely invisible to the State and economically
perilous for the participants. Hernando de Soto has explored in detail the regulatory and legal barriers in developing countries that prevent significant swaths of the population from participating in the formal property system. In de Soto’s telling, the problem is not
the absence of law, but instead its over proliferation. The result is that formal property is all but impossible to access, and those relegated to informal systems cannot climb the economic ladder. Formal property, in this view, is the missing rung in meaningful access to capital and to economic opportunity.

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