Second, as the ease and price of transactions drop,...

...the spread of ownership becomes fine-grained and ever wider. Smaller and smaller investments into more and more varieties of endeavors are possible. Several banks are following the lead of the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh and offering microloans. These loans amount to U.S. $100 or less, and are made to third-worlders who use the money to buy a cow, purchase some yarn, or begin some other microentrepreneurial dream. The payback rate is around 95%, making these almost as risk-free as bonds. As one banking report says, "Lending to poor people in the shanty towns of La Paz may be safer for banks than lending to the government of Bolivia itself." Large commercial banks have noticed the U.S. $7 billion already lent to 13 million people around the world, and are bringing "microfinance" into the mainstream of banking. The low cost of tracking large numbers of fast-circulating payments means that network technology can accelerate the velocity of money in such decentralized, microfinance programs. It is easy to imagine a high-yielding mutual fund based on hundreds of thousand of up-and-coming third world microentrepreneurs.



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This is a blog version of a book of mine first published in 1998. I am re-issuing it (two posts per week) unaltered on its 10th anniversary. Comments welcomed. More details here.
-- KK