Canada Ranked Ahead of the United States in Protection for Property Rights:

Various libertarian and libertarian-leaning bloggers are disappointed that Canada (7th) ranks ahead of the United States (8th) in the latest Cato/Fraser Institute economic freedom rankings. In reality, the difference between Canada's score (8.05 on a 10 point scale) and ours (8.04) is statistically insignificant. However, it probably is the case that Canada - as well as several other nations that rank ahead of us in the Cato/Fraser study - really has equalled or surpassed the United States in economic freedom, thanks to the massive expansion of government in the Bush era of "big government conservatism." As the individual country data sets in the Cato/Fraser study reveal (the US data is on pg. 177), the United States ranked 2nd in 2000 and 4th in 1995, the last two pre-Bush era rankings.

Also interesting are America's scores in specific categories of economic freedom that the Cato/Fraser study aggregates into the overall ranking. One important category where the United States (7.58) trails Canada (8.47) by a large margin is "protection of property rights." I haven't closely analyzed the methodology Cato and Fraser used to compile these numbers; so it is possible that they are the result of some sort of methodological error. However, I suspect that the two rankings are roughly accurate. Compared to the United States, Canadian authorities pay higher compensation to property owners whose land has been taken by eminent domain. In theory, the United States Constitution provides more extensive protection for property rights than Canada's does; in practice, however, property rights continue to the be the "poor relation" of constitutional law and rarely get more than a bare minimum of protection from the Supreme Court. Finally, I suspect that Canadian provincial and local governments don't condemn property for "economic development" and "blight" alleviation as often as their American equivalents. Certainly, there are few if any Canadian takings comparable in scope to cases like Poletown.

I have not studied Canadian property rights law and policy in detail, so these tentative conclusions are based on limited knowledge. I welcome correction from Canadian property scholars and others with relevant expertise. Also, it's worth noting that there is wide variation between American states in the degree to which they protect property owners; the best American states are probably well ahead of the Canadian average. Subject to these important caveats, however, I fear that our oft-maligned neighbor to the North really does do a better job of protecting property rights than we in the US of A. The True North isn't always "strong and free." But its property owners may enjoy stronger legal protection and greater freedom than ours do.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST WATCH: I suppose I should mention that I am a Cato Institute adjunct scholar (an unpaid, purely honorary, position). I didn't have any role in writing Economic Freedom in the World.