Why Do the Poor Stay Poor?

by John Stossel

Of the 6 billion people on Earth, 2 billion try to survive on a few dollars a day. They don’t build businesses, or if they do, they don’t expand them. Unlike people in the United States, Europe and Asian countries like Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, etc., they don’t lift themselves out of poverty. Why not? What’s the difference between them and us? Hernando de Soto taught me that the biggest difference may be property rights.

I first met de Soto maybe 15 years ago. It was at one of those lunches where people sit around wondering how to end poverty. I go to these things because it bugs me that much of the world hasn’t yet figured out what gave us Americans the power to prosper.

I go, but I’m skeptical. There sits de Soto, president of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy in Peru, and he starts pulling pictures out showing slum dwellings built on top of each other. I wondered what they meant.

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