Monday, October 10, 2011 11:35 am | By J. Michael Wahlen
The United States has a long history of working to protect species from extinction. In 1939, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) was created for this purpose, and in 1973 the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was passed to augment its power. Protecting species naturally puts the government at odds with landowners, however. The ESA effectively allows the government to determine how land can be used, even if it is on private land. As current estimates put the percentage of endangered species on private land at 90%, this conflict is somewhat inevitable. This became evident even as far back as 1978, when the American Farm Bureau voiced concerns that the ESA would give the federal government the ability to prefer the health of a species over the livelihood of a citizen.
One example of this occurred in 1990, when the spotted owl was listed as an endangered species. The government argued that the timber industry was killing its natural habitat, wiping out the species. After its listing, U.S. timber industry revenues decreased by nearly 90%, putting many out of business. Further researched revealed that the timber industry was not at fault; the real issue was the barred owl, who was eating all of the spotted owl’s natural food. Nonetheless, the damage to the timber industry remained.
Obama has recently paved the way for many similar abuses of the ESA by forcing the USFWS to list many new species under the ESA in the name of “clearing the backlog of cases.” Beginning in 2000, environmental groups began to flood the USFWS with requests for new additions to the ESA. Groups like the WildEarth Guardians have filed for over 1,230 plants and animals to be added to the list since 2007. Obama has agreed to analyze each and every request beginning in May of 2011.
IP, Jobs, and the Economy
Wednesday, September 28, 2011 9:37 am | By Kelsey Zahourek
Since its introduction in the Senate, the PROTECT IP Act has stirred passionate reactions from both sides of the debate, and as soon as the House version is introduced, no doubt those debates will be rehashed. No matter what you think of legislation to go after rogue websites, let’s not forget intellectual property is a vital part of the economy and benefits society as a whole.
The proliferation of rogue websites has affected nearly every sector of our economy, from pharmaceuticals to software to manufacturing. These industries employ millions of Americans and at a time of record unemployment, we can’t afford to be putting these jobs at risk. Additionally, intellectual property industries contribute more than a third of the growth achieved by U.S. private industry, and if protections are not upheld and respected, there is less incentive for technological exploration and no catalyst for economic growth.
Its been said often but the narrative holds true, its next to impossible to compete with free. Websites that ignore IP rights undermine incentives to create cutting edge innovations, the next life-saving drugs, or new business models that make it easier to access content online.
Industries have made great strides in coming together to fight against online theft. The creation of the Copyright Alert System and efforts by companies to go after illegal online pharmacies, I believe, will yield positive results and will minimize the need for government intervention.
Not surprisingly, the protection of IP has long been a bipartisan issue because lawmakers understand what’s at stake. The problem of rogue websites is not going away anytime soon and I look forward to the continued debate on what role the government should take to defend creators’ rights. In the end, intellectual property is a constitutional right and deserves to be respected and protected, no matter what your political affiliation may be.
Fraser Institute Report Confirms the U.S. has Strong but Slipping Property Rights.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011 9:43 am | By J. Michael Wahlen
The Fraser Institute , a free market think tank, has recently released its annual The Economic Freedom of the World Report. As the title suggests, this report measures the economic freedom of 141 countries using five categories: size of government, legal structure and security of property rights, access to sound money, freedom to trade internationally, and regulation of credit, labor and business. Hong Kong remained number one on the list, a position it has held for nearly 25 years, followed by Singapore and New Zealand.
The report shows a worrying trend for the United States. America’s economic freedom rank has fallen from 4th in the year 2000 to 10th in 2011. Even more concerning, the U.S. fell 3 spots in each of the last two years, implying that it is on a strongly negative path. The fall in rankings can be attributed primarily to three areas: security of property rights, access to sound money and freedom to trade internationally.
These results are broadly consistent with the International Property Rights Index (IPRI) produced here at the Property Rights Alliance. We too find that the United States is in a strong position in its protection of property rights, but not the strongest, ranking it 18th overall in 2011. The falling in property rights rankings in both indexes has been due to a deteriorating legal environment in the United States as property rights have not been consistently upheld by the court system. Abuses of eminent domain have been one of the largest problems in this category.
The Economic Freedom of the World report should serve as a reminder that we need to strengthen our property rights and increase our economic freedom. The report notes, as does the IPRI, that Nobel economists such as Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman and Gary Becker have consistently found that economic freedom produces economic prosperity and increases general wellbeing. On the other hand, citizens such as Susette Kelo can attest to the pain that is caused when these rights are forgotten.