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Book Colloquium

Fall 2019

The Mystery of Capital Book Cover

Each semester the Center for Public Choice and Market Process (CPM) sponsors the Economics Book Colloquium, in which students and faculty meet to discuss interesting contemporary writing in economics. In Fall 2019, the colloquium participants will read the book "The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else" by Hernando De Soto.


"The hour of capitalism’s greatest triumph,” writes Hernando de Soto, “is, in the eyes of four-fifths of humanity, its hour of crisis.” In The Mystery of Capital, the world-famous Peruvian economist takes up one of the most pressing questions the world faces today: Why do some countries succeed at capitalism while others fail?

In strong opposition to the popular view that success is determined by cultural differences, de Soto finds that it actually has everything to do with the legal structure of property and property rights. Every developed nation in the world at one time went through the transformation from predominantly extralegal property arrangements, such as squatting on large estates, to a formal, unified legal property system. In the West, we’ve forgotten that creating this system is what allowed people everywhere to leverage property into wealth. This persuasive book revolutionized our understanding of capital and points the way to a major transformation of the world economy.

About the Author:

Hernando de Soto is President of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy, headquartered in Lima, Peru. Named one of the leading innovators in the world by Time and Forbes magazines, he now carries out property reform programs for heads of state in some 20 countries worldwide. His work was called “the most promising anti-poverty initiative in the world” by former President Bill Clinton and “a clear and promising alternative to economic stagnation” by former President George H. W. Bush. He is also author of The Other Path.

Discussion Leeder:

The Discussion Leader this Fall will be Dr. Beatriz Maldondo, Research Director for the Center for Public Choice & Market Process and Associate Professor of Economics here at the College of Charleston. 


Colloquium information: 

  • The Colloquium is open to any interested College of Charleston students; it is not limited to economics majors.
  • The Colloquium meets every two weeks, for 1 hour and 15 minutes, on Wednesday at 3 p.m. in Beatty 301.
  • Participation in the colloquium is voluntary, and no course credit is given for participation. We request that you only sign up to participate if you expect to be able to attend all of the sessions in the schedule below.
  • All students should be prepared to discuss all of the scheduled chapters for each meeting. The format will be an open discussion but focused on the topics raised in the assigned readings. Importantly, this colloquium is not intended to be a lecture. Ideally, the professors will do little talking.
  • Participants receive their copy of the book free from the CPM.
  • Food and drinks will be provided at all the meetings.
  • This semester the Colloquium will be limited to 15 student participants. 


All meetings are 3:00pm - 4:15pm in Beatty 301.

September 4

  • Chapter 1: The Five Mysteries of Capital
  • Chapter 2: The Mystery of Missing Information

September 18

  • Chapter 3: The Mystery of Capital

October 2

  • Chapter 4: The Mystery of Political Awareness

October 23 

  • Chapter 5: The Missing Lessons of U.S. History

November 6

  • Chapter 6: The Mystery of Legal Failure

November 7

  • Chapter 7: By Way of Conclusion


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