Donn Zaretsky and Tyler Cowen both linked to a fascinating article last week by two economists who argue that long-term leasing of antiquities are a better alternative to export restrictions. Michael Kremer of Harvard, and Tom Wilkening (I think from MIT), argue that long-term leases would allow source nations to earn much-needed revenue from their antiquities, but would preserve their long-term ownership interests. Here is a link to their working paper.
It is a great idea I think, and one with a great deal of promise. It is a pragmatic solution, and one that has as good a chance as any at pleasing the disparate interest groups that shape cultural policy. A couple potential drawbacks are the risk of transportation, problems insuring against theft, and upsetting those who feel antiquities belong in their source nation. It’s an exciting idea though, and one that merits further study.