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Tuesday, April 3, 2012 8:30 pm. by Joseph Quesnel, Frontier Centre for Public Policy
The Frontier Centre for Public Policy is an independent, Western Canada-based think tank. Our mission is to develop and popularize policy choices that will help Canada's prairie region live up to its vast but unrealized economic potential. Part of that mission is the protection of an enforceable and predictable property rights regime. For the last few years, the Frontier Centre has partnered with the Washington, D.C.-based Property Rights Alliance in its release of the International Property Rights Index (IPRI). In 2010 the Frontier Centre contributed a study about how expropriation powers in the Canadian province of Manitoba were being abused. In one rural community, a local municipality was attempting to expropriate large tracts of ranch land to develop a historic site. Expropriation in several Canadian provinces is allowed for vaguely defined reasons of economic development. The following year the Frontier Centre contributed a case study on the Nisga’a Nation, an indigenous community in the province of British Columbia where the government was attempting to create the first system of fee simple property ownership on an indigenous community in Canada.
For the 2011 IPRI release, the Frontier Centre unveiled the Canadian rankings in Lethbridge, Alberta. Joseph Quesnel, the Frontier Centre’s lead researcher on property rights, noticed that local media were very interested in how the rankings were broken down provincially and territorially. Unable to provide an adequate answer at the present time, the idea for a Canadian-style Property Rights Index was born. At the time, the province of Alberta was engaged in an important debate about property rights when a series of bills in the Alberta Legislature -- known collectively as the “Land bills” – were being generating controversy. Many believed the bills adversely affected rights to compensation, unduly centralized land use planning in the provincial Cabinet, and limited access to courts. These interpretations of the bills are contested, but it was noted that Alberta was interested in property rights. Before these debates, a politician in Canada’s federal House of Commons and another in Ontario’s provincial legislature unveiled private members’ bills to amend Canada’s Constitution to include a right to compensation. Canada at present does not have constitutional protection for property rights, and constitutional scholars tell us that was the original intention. In Canada, property rights are very much part of the unwritten tradition and common law, although they do not flow from written documents.
Thus, the idea of a property rights index for Canada took shape. After receiving funding from donors, research for the project pressed forward. This will be the first comprehensive measure of property rights protection in Canada.
In Canada, provinces and territories have constitutional authority over property rights. So, it was decided that the Index would focus on property rights regimes across provinces and territories. Although the Canadian index takes inspiration from the IPRI, it was decided to exclude intellectual property. Intellectual property in Canada is a federal concern. Also, many within Canada who advocate for property rights are divided on how to place intellectual property rights, with some even asserting they do not exist. This project, however, does not take that position, but avoids wading into it altogether.
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Wednesday, March 28, 2012 8:48 pm. by Hernando de Soto
The Western media has described the revolutions underway across the Middle East and North Africa as a youth rebellion, fueled by Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Not enough credit has been given to the unifying force that triggered what has become known as “The Arab Spring” – an emerging class of entrepreneurs who will no longer accept being deprived of their property and business rights.
According to the research that my organization, the Institute of Liberty and Democracy ((ILD), has done, market economies have been growing in the region for decades, albeit in the shadows of the law; some 180 million peo- ple work in and around these extralegal markets. This excluded majority is now raising their voices to heaven in what I believe is an Arab economic revolution – a revolution that those of us committed to emancipating the poor by awarding them property rights must help succeed.
Karl Marx long ago warned that a powerless underclass can turn revolutionary when united by common suffering – especially when a martyr embodies that suffering. The Arab economic revolution found its martyr in Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year old Tunisian fruit vendor who immolated himself in Sidi Bouzid in December 2010, after police confiscated his merchandise. Last year, I led a team of ILD researchers to find out more about this young man whose suicide literally sparked a revolution. We talked to his fellow vendors, members of his family and local activists and extralegal entrepreneurs in Sidi Bouzid and elsewhere in Tunisia.
I have reported our findings elsewhere. Here I want to emphasize why Bouazizi is so important to those of us who believe that property rights are essential to economic development.
Thursday, January 1, 1970 12:00 am. by Gaurav Tiwari
Access to capital is a crucial element to any country’s path to economic development. Hernando de Soto’s findings in his landmark books, The Other Path: The Invisible Revolution in the Third World and The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else, make this point – a functioning law system which brings the benefits of granted property rights and enforcement of contracts and extra-contractual liabilities is the factor that best explains differences between developed and developing economies. De Soto also points to the “cost of legality” –those operating in the shadow economy incur costs in order to avoid the risk of being penalized for being outside the legal system. Such issues are at the core of economic problems facing the developing world. As a greater share of the world’s population lives and works in the developing world, the importance of secure property rights will become paramount for economic growth.
Wednesday, March 28, 2012 8:42 pm. by Gaurav Tiwari
Over the last twelve months, the world has seen the most dramatic turn of events in the political, economic and social life of the common man in the Middle East. It is a story of enterprise – one that is lost in regulatory red-tapism and overshadowed by government control and corruption. One can trace the beginning of such events to December 17, 2010, when Mohamed Bouazizi, a street vendor in Tunisia, immolated himself. Bouazizi’s attempted suicide (he later died in early 2011) is indicative of the repression that millions of entrepreneurs face in shadow economies across the world. Largely illegal, the shadow economy operates outside the purview of the legal system. Corruption and lack of property rights make it harder for entrepreneurs like Bouazizi to move into the formalized economic framework. To that end, recent events reflect the rebirth of Hernando de Soto’s pioneering work and original ideas that stress the need for legal empowerment of the poor to achieve economic success.
According to recent research by Hernando de Soto and his team of scholars at the Institute for Liberty and Democracy (ILD), Bouazizi would have found it to be a herculean task to become part of the formal economy. In the Financial Times, a U.K. based newspaper, De Soto writes about Bouazizi’s plight:
To create a legal enterprise he would have had to establish a small sole proprietorship. This would require taking 55 administrative steps during 142 days and spending some $3,233 (12 times Bouazizi’s monthly net income, not including maintenance and exit costs). Even if he had found the money and the time to create a sole proprietorship firm the law did not enable him to pool resources by bringing in new partners, limit liability to protect his family’s assets, and eventually, issue shares and stocks to capture new investment.