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Hernando de Soto in his book "The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else" describes a series of experiments in different countries, illustrating economic climate there, in particular, he writes the following:

To get an idea of just how difficult the migrant’s life was, my research team and I opened a small garment workshop on the outskirts of Lima, Peru. Our goal was to create a new and perfectly legal business. The team then began filling out the forms, standing in the lines, and making the bus trips into central Lima to get all the certifications required to operate, according to the letter of the law, a small business in Peru. They spent six hours a day at it and finally registered the business—289 days later. Although the garment workshop was geared to operating with only one worker, the cost of legal registration was $1,231—thirty-one times the monthly minimum wage. To obtain legal authorization to build a house on state-owned land took six years and eleven months, requiring 207 administrative steps in fifty-two government offices (see Figure 2.1). To obtain a legal title for that piece of land took 728 steps. We also found that a private bus, jitney, or taxi driver who wanted to obtain official recognition of his route faced twenty-six months of red tape.

My research team, with the help of local associates, has repeated similar experiments in other countries. The obstacles were no less formidable than in Peru; often they were even more daunting. In the Philippines, if a person has built a dwelling in a settlement on either state-owned or privately owned urban land, to purchase it legally he would have to form an association with his neighbors in order to qualify for a state housing finance program. The entire process could necessitate 168 steps, involving fifty-three public and private agencies and taking thirteen to twenty-five years (see Figure 2.2). And that assumes the state housing finance program has sufficient funds. If the dwelling happens to be in an area still considered “agricultural,” the settler will have to clear additional hurdles for converting that land to urban use—45 additional bureaucratic procedures before thirteen entities, adding another two years to his quest.

In Egypt, the person who wants to acquire and legally register a lot on state-owned desert land must wend his way through at least 77 bureaucratic procedures at thirty-one public and private agencies (see Figure 2.3). This can take anywhere from five to fourteen years. To build a legal dwelling on former agricultural land would require six to eleven years of bureaucratic wrangling, maybe longer. This explains why 4.7 million Egyptians have chosen to build their dwellings illegally. If after building his home, a settler decides he would now like to be a law-abiding citizen and purchase the rights to his dwelling, he risks having it demolished, paying a steep fine, and serving up to ten years in prison.

In Haiti, one way an ordinary citizen can settle legally on government land is first to lease it from the government for five years and then buy it. Working with associates in Haiti, our researchers found that to obtain such a lease took 65 bureaucratic steps—requiring, on average, a little more than two years—all for the privilege of merely leasing the land for five years. To buy the land required another 111 bureaucratic hurdles—and twelve more years (See Figure 2.4). Total time to gain lawful land in Haiti: nineteen years. Yet even this long ordeal will not ensure that the property remains legal.

In fact, in every country we investigated, we found that it is very nearly as difficult to stay legal as it is to become legal. Inevitably, migrants do not so much break the law as the law breaks them—and they opt out of the system. In 1976, two-thirds of those who worked in Venezuela were employed in legally established enterprises; today the proportion is less than half. Thirty years ago, more than two-thirds of the new housing erected in Brazil was intended for rent. Today, only about 3 percent of new construction is officially listed as rental housing. To where did that market vanish? To the extralegal areas of Brazilian cities called favelas, which operate outside the highly regulated formal economy and function according to supply and demand. There are no rent controls in the favelas; rents are paid in U.S. dollars, and renters who do not pay are rapidly evacuated.

Once these newcomers to the city quit the system, they become “extralegal.” Their only alternative is to live and work outside the official law, using their own informally binding arrangements to protect and mobilize their assets. These arrangements result from a combination of rules selectively borrowed from the official legal system, ad hoc improvisations, and customs brought from their places of origin or locally devised. They are held together by a social contract that is upheld by a community as a whole and enforced by authorities the community has selected. These extralegal social contracts have created a vibrant but undercapitalized sector, the center of the world of the poor.

De Soto calls this style of research "experiments". From people's reactions here, I deduce that this term is not widely used. I don't know what it must be called, perhaps it is better to say "gathering information on business climate" or like this, but in any way, I want to ask you

when did people start to conduct such research, and who was the first? Was that de Soto?

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    $\begingroup$ Also, paragraphs 3-6. seem superfluous to your question. $\endgroup$ – Giskard Jan 18 at 14:38
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    $\begingroup$ None of the things you quote are theoretical experiments. There is no underlying theory, the researchers find out how long it takes to do something. $\endgroup$ – Giskard Jan 18 at 15:43
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    $\begingroup$ This makes your question unclear. There are many researchers gathering all sorts of economic and social data. Please clarify what exactly you are asking about. $\endgroup$ – Giskard Jan 18 at 15:45
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    $\begingroup$ I will stop responding, because I find this interaction and also the interactions under your other questions to be fruitless. $\endgroup$ – Giskard Jan 18 at 15:56
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    $\begingroup$ de Soto's book seems to have been published in 2000. The World Bank's Ease of Doing Business project started in 2001 and is associated with thousands of academic papers; some of those might point to earlier work $\endgroup$ – Henry Jan 19 at 2:27

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