PERC's History

From left to right: John Baden, Terry Anderson, P.J. Hill, and Richard Stroup

1980: A handful of economists ask a question: "If markets can produce bread and cars, why can't they produce environmental quality?" And PERC begins with a simple idea: Economic freedom can improve environmental quality.

1980's: PERC scholars challenge the idea that environmental problems could only be solved by government.

1991: Terry Anderson and Donald Leal publish Free Market Environmentalism

2000: PERC launches its Enviropreneur Institute (originally the Kinship Conservation Institute) to help environmental entrepreneurs conserve water, restore forests and wetlands, grow wildlife populations, and decarbonize energy.

2004: PERC's Donald Leal joins forces with the Reason Policy Institute and the Environmental Defense Fund to build a coalition for tradeable fishing quoteas. There are now almost 300 catch share programs affecting 850 species in 40 countries. 

2015: Free Market Environmentalism for the Next Generation is published.


  • scholars visit PERC to refine the principles of free market environmentalism;
  • policy, business, and opinion leaders turn to PERC for environmental solutions; and
  • environmental entrepreneurs come to PERC to pair conservation and economic profit. 

Since its founding, PERC has moved from being a voice in the wilderness (both literally and figuratively) to holding a prominent place on the environmental policy stage. Thirty-five years later, PERC remains committed to improving environmental quality through property rights and markets. Mainstream thinking has come much closer to PERC's philosophy. "Free market environmentalists are pushing against an open door," says David Morris of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

Research and policy analysis remain a cornerstone of PERC's agenda. Current topics of research include public lands management, water marketing, fisheries preservation, and environmental entrepreneurship. With a growing network of scholars, we expect our flow of ideas to increase.

Furthermore, PERC continues to take its research beyond the bookshelves, through its education and outreach initiatives. We are currently engaged in cultivating a growing number of students, environmental leaders, journalists, teachers, and policy makers so they can put market forces to work in the environment.

We have an exciting agenda at PERC that builds on 35 years of experience—and over the next 35 years, we are confident that we'll continue to nurture a clearer understanding of free market environmentalism, with the growing support of others who are also looking to make a difference.

Help us identify, cultivate, and celebrate demonstrations of free market environmentalism. Join our supporters.