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The Property and Environment Research Center, or PERC, is a free market environmentalist think tank based in Bozeman, Montana, United States. Established in 1982 as the Political Economy Research Center, PERC is dedicated to original research on market approaches to resolving environmental problems. PERC is primarily funded by foundations[1].

Principles

PERC's free market environmentalism is based on the following tenets[2]:

  • Private property rights encourage stewardship of resources.
  • Government subsidies often degrade the environment.
  • Market incentives spur individuals to conserve resources and protect environmental quality.
  • Polluters should be liable for the harm they cause others.

Outreach

PERC analysts have published numerous books and articles sharply critical of popular U.S. environmental laws such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. PERC claims that government policy is the root cause of much environmental degradation. The Dust Bowl Reconsidered, for instance, blames the federal Homestead Act for accelerating erosion problems by limiting claims of newly settled land to 160-320 acre (0.65 to 1.3 km²) parcels[3]. According to this article, fragmented land ownership reduced the incentives for implementing erosion countermeasures and made it difficult for farmers to negotiate contracts for voluntary soil conservation.

PERC also addresses the environmental problems of developing countries. For instance, a 2005 PERC Report noted that farmers were growing chili peppers along the boundaries of their fields to prevent elephants from damaging their crops, since elephants find spicy foods unpalatable. The chili peppers are cheaper than electric fences and can be sold as a cash crop.

Moreover, PERC addresses governance issues such as the ongoing controversy about the roles of Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency in setting environmental policies. PERC advocates greater Congressional involvement in creating environmental laws, since Congress is directly accountable to the voters, and its laws do not require elaborate rationalization to ensure survival of judicial review. Since the EPA only promulgates about five major rules annually, PERC believes that Congress has time to take on greater responsibility in environmental legislation.

PERC seeks to influence public policy by publishing guides for Congressional staff and organizing weeklong seminars for undergraduates. The organization's monthly publication, PERC Reports, regularly features articles questioning assumptions that form the basis of U.S. federal environmental law.

Unlike many other think tanks critical of environmental laws enacted by Democrats, PERC does not even indirectly support Republican candidates. In October 2004, shortly before the U.S. Presidential election, PERC released a report card giving President George W. Bush a "D-" in organic pollutant control and an "F" in air quality regulation[4].

Although PERC's free market environmentalist theories are similar to the Cato Institute's, PERC has not drawn the same amount of fire from liberal environmental groups. The reason may be that PERC has preferred to focus on education and analysis, rather than criticizing the Worldwatch Institute and similar environmental organizations[5].

References

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