U.S. Property Rights Protections Continue to Decline

This morning, I attended the Property Rights Alliance’s launch presentation of the 2011 International Property Rights Index. Overall, the United States declined to 18th place in the world (from 16th in 2010 and 14th in 2007, when the Index was originally created), losing out to top-ranked Finland.

The biggest contributor to the U.S.’s reduced standing was in the Physical Property Rights category (real property), which accounted for nearly half of the year-over-year decline in points. The variables for this category are protection of physical property rights, property registration, and access to loans. It is here where one might be surprised by some of the countries who rank ahead of the U.S. (ranked 25th) in terms of real property rights: Bahrain (5th), Saudi Arabia (8th), Oman (9th-tie), Botswana (21st-tie), and Tunisia (21st-tie).

The U.S. is still near the top when it comes to intellectual property protection (not that that’s necessarily good in my view), which in part saves the U.S. from even poorer rankings. But (real) property rights are what ground all of our rights — indeed, well-defined property rights are a prerequisite to any market-oriented liberal democracy. It is time for Americans to stop taking such a passive view when it comes to their fundamental individual right to hold and transfer private property as they see fit. To put this in the least hyperbolic way possible: the future of the country depends on it!