We’re Number 17! See the countries with better property protections than the U.S.

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Brendan Bordelon Contributor
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A new study on international property rights found that the United States ranks 17th among nations with robust private property protections, a score surpassed by Japan, Canada and socialist Scandinavia.

The D.C.-based Property Rights Alliance released the 2013 International Property Rights Index on Tuesday, a report that analyzes and ranks the political environment and the strength of physical and intellectual property laws for 131 different countries.

“The [report] highlights the key role played by property rights not only in keeping an economic system fair and transparent but also in representing the backbone of any free market economy,” said Lorenzo Montanari, the executive director of the Property Rights Alliance, in a press statement.

The study found a high correlation between strong property laws and economic success, with residents from the top quintile of countries earning $12,000 more per year than the next group. People from nations with the least protection earned just $5,000 per year — just above one-eighth that of the highest-ranked group.

The United States barely edged into the first quintile, immediately beneath Hong Kong, Japan and Germany, and just above Belgium. Most of that was due to America’s tough protections for intellectual property, second only to Finland’s.

The United States ranked 22nd on the strength of their physical property laws, while the stability of America’s legal and political environment was pegged at 23.

Finland had the most powerful private property protections, followed by New Zealand, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands. Northern European and English-speaking countries made up the majority of the top quintile.

The report examines a few specific cases, including Tunisia, where the “Arab Spring” began in late 2010. The study concludes that “the Arab Spring was, in fact, a massive economic revolution,” arguing that the frequent seizure of private property was the primary reason so many people worked to overthrow the Tunisian government.

Another study released on Tuesday, the United Nations’ World Happiness Report, also ranked the United States at 17. The happiness scorecard closely mirrors the property rights report, with many of the same Scandinavian and Commonwealth nations occupying top slots in both indexes.

The results suggest that happiness, along with economic development, may closely correlate to the ability of individuals to protect and preserve their private property.

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Brendan Bordelon