Air pollution declines as economic freedom rises: Fraser Institute

Study of 100 countries contends property rights, government size make the difference.

VANCOUVER — Higher levels of economic freedom lead to cleaner air thanks to property rights, the rule of law and limiting the size of government, according to a study by the Fraser Institute.

The study by the Canadian public policy think-tank examines the relationship between economic freedom and concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM10) air pollution in more than 100 countries (from 2000 to 2010) using the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of the World Index, which measures economic freedom worldwide.

In 2010, for example, the 20 highest ranked countries (including Canada) have PM10 levels almost 40% lower than the 20 lowest ranked countries.

For a one-point increase in the economic freedom index (when controlling for other factors such as national income, political institutions, and other country-specific characteristics), the study finds an average 7.15% reduction in PM10 concentrations.

The Fraser Institute contends better air quality is the result of ensuring private property rights, rule of law, and limiting the size of government. It claims property rights incentivize people to protect their investments from polluters, but warns overly large government may spawn bureaucratic inefficiency, heavy influence from special interest groups, and a prevalence of state-owned enterprises that are immune to citizen action.

It also suggests free trade allows new cleaner technologies to cross borders.

Download a copy of Economic Freedom and Air Quality here.


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