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A country can be looted very easily. Only thing you need is credit and mortgages and you can extract much more rent than from resources ever. There are always willing oligarchs; real estate "developers," construction companies, local banks, local politicians to join the looting. When rents and prices bubble, media and economists celebrate huge "wealth creation."
by kjr63 on Fri May 6th, 2011 at 04:17:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This reminds me of Hernando De Soto's argument that one way to make poor countries "richer" is to give people legal rights to property so they can take mortgages on it.

See here:

CONSIDER THE TERM "the Third World." Most people probably would conjure up in their minds the image of tens of millions of poverty-stricken people living in Asia, Africa, and South America possessing no means for survival other than their unskilled and primitive labor. Property ownership, in this image, is limited to a select few extremely wealthy individuals and families, who exploit others in societies so they may live lives of comfort and luxury.

Hernando de Soto, Peru's leading free-market economist, says this image is both false and misleading. The ordinary peoples in the "undeveloped countries" of the world, in fact, have a vast amount of wealth. And this wealth enables a flourishing world of trade, commerce, industry, and employment.

Indeed, if one adds up the estimated value of real estate held by "the poor" in these countries, the total value comes to something in the neighborhood of $9.3 billion. The only problem is that most of this wealth is not in the form of legal titles to property; instead, these are "informal" ownerships not recognized or enforced by the political authorities in these parts of the world.

One could argue that Hernando de Soto is advocating policies that make the wealth of the "third world" "lootable". See also this thread on J. B. Clark
wealth is created "from the mere appropriation of limited natural gifts .."and that repelling intruders "is almost the only form of labor which exists in the most primitive social state" (p.10). The atmosphere as a whole, showers or breezes, "minister transiently to whomsoever they will, and, in the long run, with impartiality". Therefore they are not wealth. Those who appropriate them create wealth by so doing. The essential attribute of wealth is "appropriability," to create which "the rights of property must be recognized and enforced Whoever makes, interprets, or enforces law produces wealth".


Economics is politics by other means
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri May 6th, 2011 at 04:44:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, that's not complete bullshit.

The thing is, without a functioning credit system, your investments are limited by your savings (and your savings by available investments, but if you are willing to accept a low enough return simple hoarding of physical goods constitutes an investment, so in practise the constraint is one-sided). In the monetary economy, investments are no longer limited by savings, because you can borrow against future cash flows (thus essentially allowing investment to crowd out consumption). The flip side is that savings no longer automatically create investment, because you can hoard claims over value instead of hoarding value.

So having a financial system is very probably necessary for serious and sustained industrial development. But having a reasonably strong state (capable of intervening both in the financial system and as investor of last resort when desired savings exceed desired real investment) is a prerequisite for having a financial system that is a net gain rather than a net drain.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri May 6th, 2011 at 11:57:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Which, of course, is the reason for disabling the financial regulatory capabilities of the modern state. A net gain for society is a net loss for the looters.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat May 7th, 2011 at 09:50:28 AM EST
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