In This Review

The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Succeeds in the West and Fails Everywhere Else

The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Succeeds in the West and Fails Everywhere Else
By Hernando de Soto
245 pp, Basic Books, 2000
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Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress

Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress
Edited by Lawrence E. Harrison and Samuel P. Huntington
304 pp, Basic Books, 2000
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The triumphant religion of the twentieth century was not Christianity or Islam but economic growth. Over the decades, governments throughout the world jumped onto the growth bandwagon as a way to expand national power, relieve abject poverty, and create social justice. True, they argued and fought over the best way for societies to create and distribute wealth. Communism, capitalism, and socialism in their various forms all vied for supremacy. But now a consensus seems to have emerged. Free trade, free markets, and international investment are the intellectually anointed paths to prosperity. Communism and socialism are definitely out.

Yet the consensus is more fragile than it seems. Not only are there conspicuous dissenters, most visibly the street protesters in Seattle and Prague; there is also the inconvenient fact that today's global capitalism has yet to produce anything like universal prosperity. Much of humanity still lies in the grip of extreme poverty.

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  • Robert J. Samuelson writes a column for Newsweek and the Washington Post Writers Group. A collection of his pieces will be published in the forthcoming book Untruth: Why the Conventional Wisdom Is (Almost Always) Wrong.
  • More By Robert J. Samuelson