Commentary

China Enforces Property Rights…Sort Of

CBS recently reported (July 25, 2011) that the government of Kunming (urbanized area population of 3.2 million), the provincial capital of Yunnan Province in southwestern China, closed five fake Apple Stores. The stores were retailing actual Apple merchandise, but didn’t have a license from Apple. One might think this is a refreshing and encouraging sign that China is taking property rights enforcement seriously. But, here’s the unfortunate kicker according to CBS:

“Two fake Apple stores have been shut down in the remote city of Kunming, China. The Metropolitan Times reports the shops were targeted due to lack of business licenses, rather than intellectual property or copyright infringement.” (emphasis added)

In China, as in all too many U.S. cities, the rights of the government to pick and choose who should be open for business is more important than the rights of the property owner.

Kunming’s efforts are still encouraging since they clamped down on property rights infringementsmore broadly as a result:

“According to the Metropolitan Times, the Kunming Trade and Industry Bureau launched an investigation looking into more than 300 electronic stores in the city’s four major districts after the fake Apple stores were discovered.”

For those interesting in examining “local tyranny” in the U.S. more fully, I recommend Clint Bolick’s book Grassroots Tyranny: The Limits of Federalism as a primer.

Samuel R. Staley, Ph.D. is a senior research fellow at Reason Foundation and managing director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University in Tallahassee where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in urban planning, regulation, and urban economics. Prior to joining Florida State, Staley was director of urban growth and land-use policy for Reason Foundation where he helped establish its urban policy program in 1997.