Economic Freedom Leads to Cleaner Air, Study Shows

By:  Alex Newman
Economic Freedom Leads to Cleaner Air, Study Shows

Claims are made continually by the self-styled “environmentalist” movement that to “protect” the environment and the air, bigger and more centralized government must continue to attack free markets and the productive sector of the economy.

Now, however, a new study by the Fraser Institute, a non-partisan Canadian think-tank, revealed that the opposite is actually true.

The findings, which confirm vast amounts of evidence showing that economic freedom is the best way to preserve and protect the environment, are bad news for the increasingly unfree United States. In recent years, much of the world has been steadily moving toward greater levels of economic liberty — strong private-property rights, free markets, transparency, small government, low taxes, freedom from corruption, and more. Under the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, however, the U.S. economy has been steadily falling behind, dropping like a rock in the rankings.  

The powerful new research, strategically released on “Earth Day,” shows that countries where governments allow greater levels of economic freedom also have lower concentrations of “fine particulate matter” (PM10) air pollution. The converse is also true: Nations with less economic freedom and more state control over the economy have more dangerous air pollution. The study, entitled “Economic Freedom and Air Quality,” examined the relationship in over 100 countries between pollution and levels of economic freedom as ranked by the Fraser Institute's respected Economic Freedom of the World Index.

Using data spanning over a decade, from 2000 to 2010, Fraser Institute researchers found that in the final year examined, the 20 freest nations economically had pollution levels that were almost 40 percent below the 20 most economically oppressed countries. Controlling for factors like national income, political institutions, and more, the study also found that an increase of just one point on the economic freedom index was associated with a more than a seven-percent average reduction in pollution concentrations.   

“The level of economic freedom in a country affects the ability of citizens to produce and sell in the marketplace, and own private property,” explained Joel Wood, associate director of the Centre for Environmental Studies at the Fraser Institute and a co-author of the new study. “It's a simple concept that drives prosperity and ultimately benefits the environment.” So, while virtually every economist acknowledges that freer economies produce widespread prosperity, it turns out that freedom also leads to a better environment.

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