The world’s poor are the engine of growth

Client: Free to Choose Media for PBS

Category: Television, Video

The Power of the Poor is a story animated by ideas. It’s a compelling look at why some nations are poor and others rich. The answer, Hernando de Soto has found, at the surprising and vital role of inclusive laws and titled property in establishing peace and prosperity. It is also the story of real people with real struggles—all of whom share a commitment to entrepreneurship.

Filmed on multiple locations and hosted by renowned Peruvian economist and author, Hernando de Soto, this insightful program tells how corruption, bureaucracy and a lack of simple legal rules have locked two-thirds of the world’s population out of the global economy. Forced to operate outside the rule of law, they have created their own parallel, but limited, commercial systems. “It’s time to let them in,” says de Soto.

De Soto and his team have proven that, even hobbled by great obstacles, the world’s hard-working poor entrepreneurs have created far more wealth than anyone had ever imagined possible—even with the absence of the legal frameworks people in the rich north take for granted. Prosperity is possible, if only we simplify the rules of the game. That means giving the poor titled property and the legal business tools we in the West enjoy. Such will enable them to harness the power of their considerable assets, as these stories illustrate.

Peruvian history proves de Soto right. Facing the growing violence of the Sendero Luminoso, the “Shining Path,” de Soto and his team were able to pass numerous legal reforms that helped lead to the defeat of the Shining Path and set the stage for Peru’s economic resurgence.

Inside the World of the Poor

This segment gets to the core of de Soto’s research and ideas that the majority of the people on the planet are locked out of the system and that it is our great loss. His research explored the extralegal/informal world, the immense obstacles that they face and the ways they work around it.

In the extralegal world is the highest concentration of entrepreneurs. Moreover, de Soto’s research has documented that, in aggregate, they possess immense wealth—if they could only legally harness it.

This sample also shows the immense global reach and access of our project, with footage from many nations.

Why does one nation prosper while others don’t?

As a child, economist, Hernando de Soto frequently traveled between his home country of Switzerland and Peru, countries that once had the same GDP. Over the course of these trips, he began questioning why one country prospered while the other’s economy fell. This sparked his interest in global economics.

What makes nations prosperous is as invisible as the air we breathe to most of us in prosperous nations: effective, inclusive, streamlined civil and business law.