Nobel Prizes are awarded each year in the months of October and November. The selection of prizewinners starts in the early autumn of the preceding year, when the prize-awarding institutions invite more than 6,000 people throughout the world to nominate candidates for the prizes. Unfortunately this year I was not one of the select few. If I were, however, I have no doubt whom I would nominate: Hernando de Soto - the economist, not the explorer.
Of all the Nobel Prizes awarded each year, the most recognized is the peace prize, which is awarded to the individual(s) "who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind" in the area of promoting peace. The peace prize is usually given to prominent heads of state, former heads of state and peace activists. Past recipients include Jimmy Carter, Nelson Mandela and Mikhail Gorbachev. Rarely are economists even considered for the prize, but few have promoted peace through international development and prosperity more than de Soto.
De Soto has devoted his life to opposing the Shining Path revolutionary terrorists in his home country and showing the world through his best-selling book, "El Otro Sendero," the "other path" toward property rights and democratic capitalism. In Peru, de Soto was President Alberto Fujimori's personal representative and principal adviser until he resigned two months before the president's coup d'etat.
Between 1988 and 1995, he and the Instituto Libertad y Democracia were responsible for some 400 initiatives, laws and regulations that modernized Peru's economic system. In particular, they designed and ran Peru's property system, which has given titles to more than 1,200,000 families and brought into the law some 380,000 firms that previously operated in the black market, allowing Peru's poor to acquire more than $9 billion in net benefits. ILD also streamlined government procedures to open up the legal system to greater participation by the majority. In addition, they initiated the policies for the stabilization of Peru's economy, tamed inflation and allowed Peru to return to international financial markets.
This "boots on the ground" approach to economic development is well documented in his follow-up book to "The Other Path," "The Mystery of Capital." Today, de Soto, together with the ILD, is designing and implementing capital-formation programs to empower the poor in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.
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