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Review of De Soto

March 28, 2006

I just posted a review of the De Soto book here:

This is a book for the ambitious layman. It explains how banking practices play into economic fluctuations, and vice-versa, virtually from the invention of banking to modern times. At over 800 pages, it is capable of handling its imposing brief very thoroughly, and it does — not one page is wasted.

The included history of banking practices is, if not world-wide, at least Europe-wide, going back to Roman times and the very roots of the legal principles underlying banking. This history exposes the Anglo-Saxon, common-law-based banking system of most of the world as a carefully orchestrated fraud. The fragility of the banking system is disclosed and explained, and from this, one may gain a better understanding of just what mayhem may be in store when and as this edifice finally crumbles.

Huerta reaches back into history not only for corruptions and failures in past banking systems, but for examples of sound banking practices in the fleeting times and few places where they emerged for long enough to discern. Between these brief patches of light and a rigorous scrutiny of the legal (and moral and religious) underpinnings of early banking, Huerta hints at what might constitute a sound footing on which to proceed forward. He even devotes a chapter at the end of the book to the challenges of transitioning from the present precarious, corrupt system to the sound one with a minimum of disruption and risk.

As one might hope from a work of this magnitude, the technicalities are investigated, analyzed, and presented in full detail. Readers of less mechanical bent might be tempted to skip the one long chapter in which most of this material is concentrated, but doing so would deprive one of many essentials underlying the book's key conclusions. Virtually all the book's equations are in this chapter, but no one with a fear of calculus need be put off: the mathematics involved is strictly discrete, and entirely within the grasp of anyone who mastered high-school math.

As translated books go, this one is a monument to the translator's art. While the author's original rigor and clarity are fully preserved, the English version still makes full use of all the proper English lexicon for the subject. Experts in the field of banking and credit will find no off-putting artifacts of translation, while lovers of well-crafted English exposition will likewise be gratified.

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