How to Defeat Terrorism and Empower the Middle East

Date of event:

On Thursday, September 15, The Prague Centre for Transatlantic Relations of the CEVRO Institute (PCTR) realised a public lecture held by a Peruvian economist and the president of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy in Lima Hernando de Soto. The event entitled “How to Defeat Terrorism and Empower the Middle East” was opened by the President of the CEVRO Institute Josef Šíma and moderated by the PCTR Director Alexandr Vondra.

Hernando de Soto is well-known for his work on capitalist solutions for developing economies. This time he started his lecture by describing events from December 2010 when Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in protest against government in Tunisia, an event that commenced the so-called Arab Spring revolutions. Together with his colleagues, de Soto studied background of this act and other similar suicides and suicide attempts. They found out that it involved entrepreneurs who were for various reasons prohibited to do their business. For example, police took away all Mohamed Bouazizi’s documents and thus all his rights.

According to de Soto, Europeans tend to see everything through their Eurocentric approach, but most of the world is different. While in Europe majority of people lives on salaries, in the Middle East small businesses prevail though there are no business structures common in Europe. Moreover, international legal concepts are usually unavailable in lower layers of society. Property rights are crucial for entrepreneurship and it is usually paper that allows you to trade. When for example police in hostile district takes away your papers, your life has no sense anymore. The solution, according to de Soto, is in emerging technologies. If we can get legal concepts into two digits the spread of information would be much faster. Then, Mohamed Bouazizi would know that according to laws in his district he has nothing but according to his government he has everything.

During the following debate with audience, de Soto said that many terrorist organizations gain popularity by defending assets of the poor and therefore to defeat them we need to take over this role. In his answer to question regarding American involvement in Iraq, de Soto said: “To take down a dictator and institutionalize democracy is a good idea, but I am not sure you can do it from abroad.” He also added that there are obviously many causes of terrorism but the property rights issue is especially important because this factor is usually overlooked. De Soto then again stressed the importance of obtaining and sharing information, especially the need for global map of property rights in common language.

One of the questions was about the current situation in Europe. Why are propaganda leaders getting stronger in Europe when there are no issues with property rights? However, according to de Soto, Europe do have lot of property problems, just with regards to values rather than land. He gave an example of derivates market where the real ownership is not clear and in the beginning of the latest crisis we were not even able to identify the toxic assets. In response to the last questions about the environmental issue, Hernando de Soto said that property rights also document who is accountable for what. We have detailed world map but it does not reflect who owns what. The map of ownership could then, according to Hernando de Soto, help solve issues like environment protection, terrorism and many more.

We would like to thank our partners who supported this event: Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists, Civic Institute and Czech-Israeli Chamber of Commerce.

You can find media coverage from the event at the following links:

Respekt: https://www.respekt.cz/politika/de-soto-kdyz-sepiseme-co-kdo-vlastni-svet-bude-lepsi
Česká televize: http://www.ceskatelevize.cz/porady/1096898594-udalosti-komentare/216411000370915/
E15.cz: http://zpravy.e15.cz/zahranicni/ekonomika/technologie-bitcoinu-pomuze-proti-terorismu-i-chudobe-veri-ekonom-z-peru-1321595

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