A sobering report on the state of property rights protections worldwide.
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The broad correlations are clear. Western industrialized states and newly industrializing Asian countries do the best. Developing nations and former communist states do the worst. Obviously, property rights protection is not a perfect indicator for economic growth, but most countries that have poor property rights records have had difficulty achieving self-sustained economic growth. The Index finds a strong correlation between IPRI scores and per capita GDP. The average per capita GDP per IPRI quintile goes from $39,991 at the top to $4,341 at the bottom.
Yet, while the practical benefits of a strong property rights regime are obvious, many countries have been retrogressing. Most of the top thirty, including America, improved their rating this past year, though a few of them, such as Germany, remain below their 2007 levels. But beyond the best performers retreats outnumber advances. Most of the bottom twenty got worse. Lowest-ranking Bangladesh improved in 2008 but has since fallen back below its level of 2007. And the news there keeps getting worse: a mutiny by units of the border guards has created renewed political instability.
Of course, as Bangladesh tragically demonstrates, the lack of property rights protections makes other liberties less secure. Many of the countries which fare badly on the IPRI also rank poorly when it comes to political and civil liberties. There’s Zimbabwe, a nation in almost total collapse. Venezuela, with Hugo Chavez attempting to create a legal dictatorship. Bosnia is a fake country that exists only in the eyes of European social engineers. Azerbaijan is one of the authoritarian remnants of the old Soviet Union. Nigeria is Africa’s oil-fueled kleptocracy. And so on.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton entered office promising even more foreign aid on top of the trillions of dollars wasted over the last half century. The International Property Rights Index demonstrates that we all would be better off if Americans concentrated on helping poor countries create the right legal and policy frameworks for economic growth. That includes protecting property rights, among the most fundamental of human rights. Taking more of Americans’ good money to toss after bad is no answer, especially in the midst of an economic crisis and massive deficits as far as the eye can see.
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