The Independent Institute is an American think tank based in Oakland, California. Its stated mission is "to boldly advance peaceful, prosperous, and free societies, grounded in a commitment to human worth and dignity." Founded in 1986 by David J. Theroux, the Institute focuses on political, social, economic, legal, environmental and foreign policy issues. It has more than 140 research fellows. The Institute was originally established in San Francisco, was re-located in 1989 to Oakland, and since 2006, has had an office in Washington, D.C. The Institute is organized into seven centers addressing a range of issues. According to the 2014 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report (Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program, University of Pennsylvania), the Institute is ranked number 54 (of 60) in the "Top Think Tanks in the United States".
|Motto||The Power of Independent Thinking|
|Founder(s)||David J. Theroux|
|President & CEO||David J. Theroux|
(FYE June 2015)
|Address||100 Swan Way, Oakland, CA 94621-1428|
The results of the Institute's work are published as books and other publications and form the basis for conferences and media programs. Since 1996, the Institute has published the quarterly, scholarly journal, The Independent Review, whose Founding Editor and Editor at Large is the economist and historian Robert Higgs and Co-Editors are Christopher Coyne, Michael Munger, and Robert Whaples (Wake Forest University). The Independent Review is peer-reviewed and includes articles in economics, political science, law, history, philosophy and sociology.
Articles on the Institute's findings are published in newspapers, magazines and journals, and its fellows appear on various television and radio programs. In addition, the Institute conducts conference programs for scholars, business leaders, the media, policy makers and the general public. The Institute's Independent Policy Forum includes seminars by historians and economists including James M. Buchanan, legal scholars, foreign policy experts, criminologists, authors of such disparate personality and political temperament as Gore Vidal and P. J. O'Rourke, human rights leaders, scientists, jurists, journalists, and business leaders.
Its program in criminal justice sponsored a series of televised debates on PBS-TV, Stopping Violent Crime: New Directions for Reduction and Prevention, moderated by Harvard law professor Arthur R. Miller, and former U.S. Attorney General Richard Thornburgh, Federal Judge David Sentelle, civil libertarian writer Wendy Kaminer, and others.
In 2006 the Institute opened an office in Washington and expanded its media program, including a weekly column by Senior Fellow Álvaro Vargas Llosa in the Washington Post. In 2006 the Institute released an Open Letter on Immigration, signed by more than 500 economists, including five Nobel laureates, and received editorial endorsements in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.
The Institute operates programs for students including summer seminars for college students, student internships, and tuition assistance for disadvantaged families to send their children to private schools (Independent Scholarship Fund).
Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert Higgs has written extensively on the expansion of the size and scope of the U.S. government. Beginning with his 1987 book Crisis and Leviathan, he has argued that government expands during periods of perceived national emergency but doesn’t fully retract after the crisis subsides, due to crisis-precipitated shifts in the political, institutional, and ideological landscape. These changes leave the government with greater powers that enable it to grow faster after the crisis period than it grew during the pre-crisis era. The subsequent “ratchet effect” can occur whether the national emergency is real, such as World War II and the Great Depression, or non-existent, such as the missile gap during the cold war.
Independent maintains MyGovCost.org, which focuses on the critical analysis of fiscal policy and government waste. It also features a calculator described as enabling Americans to estimate their lifetime federal tax liability and the hypothetical alternative investment return.
The Independent Institute has advocated free-market reforms for American healthcare since at least the early 1990s. In 1994 it published an open letter to President Bill Clinton, urging him to reject national healthcare legislation that would have used price controls to contain costs. The letter was signed by 565 economists and 76 scholars of other disciplines.
Independent Institute scholars have criticized the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on economic, legal, ethical, and privacy grounds. Senior Fellow John C. Goodman has argued that the ACA’s architects could not have foreseen all of its negative consequences because healthcare is a complex system. For this reason he claimed the ACA exemplifies what Nobel laureate economist F. A. Hayek called “the fatal conceit.” Independent Institute scholars were critical of the pre-ACA system as well for problems they attributed to government policies that promoted third-party payment systems and removed market pricing from healthcare delivery. Goodman has proposed reforms replacing the ACA, most notably the adoption of a fixed-sum, refundable tax credit for the purchase of health insurance, a credit equal to the cost of new enrollees in Medicaid. Other major proposals include converting all medical savings accounts into Roth-style Health Savings Accounts that feature after-tax deposits and tax-free withdrawals; allowing anyone to buy into or exit from Medicaid; and denationalizing and deregulating health insurance exchanges but requiring exchanges to offer health-status insurance.
Independent Institute scholars have leveled several criticisms of Medicare. Senior Fellow John R. Graham has lamented the widespread indifference to the Medicare Trustees report’s warnings of Medicare’s mounting fiscal problems. He has, however, defended Medicare Advantage for giving seniors more choices than traditional Medicare. John C. Goodman has argued that healthcare inflation in the United States began with the creation of Medicare. To help curb Medicare spending, Graham has proposed incentivizing enrollees to seek less expensive medical treatment abroad. Craig Eyermann has also proposed giving Medicare enrollees a direct economic stake in lowering the costs. Goodman has called for the privatization of Medicare.
The Independent Institute has criticized the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, for what it sees as over-regulation as a result political and bureaucratic incentives. Independent’s website FDAReview.org cites numerous scholarly studies by academic economists that question the agency’s safety, effectiveness, and incentives. Senior Fellow Robert Higgs has argued that the FDA’s regulation of healthcare products is “hazardous to our health”. Senior Fellow Alexander Tabarrok has questioned the need for the FDA’s pre-approval requirements for pharmaceuticals on the grounds that doctors successfully prescribe many drugs for off-label usage. He has recommended that the FDA’s focus be changed to one of testing drugs already on the market and making comparisons so that consumers and doctors can make better-informed choices, similar to what Consumer Reports does for consumer products.
Independent Institute fellows have written on a variety of topics related to civil liberties and human rights. Historian Jonathan Bean anthologized and annotated numerous historical speeches, letters, and articles that show individualist perspectives that animated the American civil-rights era in his book Race and Liberty in America: The Essential Reader. Since 2012, Bean has served on the Illinois State Advisory Committee, a federally appointed panel that advises the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and his experience led him to claim that the mainstream civil rights community was out of touch with the public’s civil rights concerns.
Second Amendment legal scholar Stephen Halbrook, who has won three firearms cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, has argued in several Independent Institute books and articles that civil liberties are more secure when individuals have legal access to firearms. His 2003 book, The Founders’ Second Amendment, traced the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” back to the American colonists’ fears of British oppression. His 2013 book, Gun Control in the Third Reich, examined firearm registration and restrictions in pre-World War II Germany.
Economists Christopher Coyne and Abigail Hall have argued that interventionist militarism can lead to a “boomerang effect,” setting in motion political, institutional and ideological forces that contribute to the suppression of civil liberties in the aggressive country. Hall has also criticized asset forfeiture.
Independent has also criticized major aspects of the criminal justice system as antagonistic toward civil liberties. Senior Fellow Bruce L. Benson argued in The Enterprise of Law that before the British crown took over the courts, the legal system focused on restitution for victims, rather than punishment, corrections, and deterrence.
In The Power of Habeas Corpus in America, winner of a 2013 PROSE Award in the category of Law and Legal Studies, Research Fellow Anthony Gregory put forth a revisionist view of the writ of habeas corpus, arguing that rather than always promoting the cause of civil liberties, the legal idea has served “both as an engine and a curb on state power.”
The Independent Institute promotes a U.S. foreign policy of free trade and non-interventionism, and this perspective was apparent in a host of publications and events it sponsored during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001.
Even before the United States led the 2003 airstrikes on Iraq, the Independent Institute’s fellows and speakers voiced opposition to a U.S.-Iraq War. That opposition continued for the duration of the conflict. In a Reason magazine symposium marking the 10th anniversary of war’s inception, Research Fellow Anthony Gregory called the Iraq war “the worst U.S. government project in my lifetime,” and Senior Fellow Robert Higgs said the sizable political and material benefits that accrued to the war’s architects demonstrate that “Crime pays.”
Senior Fellow Ivan Eland, who directs Independent’s Center on Peace and Liberty, wrote extensively on the Iraq war and told an audience at the 2013 CPAC conference that the war helped illustrate why the America’s Founders warned against foreign entanglements and were suspicious of standing armies. He has also argued that conservatives who seek a more limited government should celebrate Calvin Coolidge instead of the more interventionist Ronald Reagan.
Eland has argued that the best strategy for minimizing sectarian strife in post-Saddam Iraq is for Iraqis to peacefully partition their country along ethnic and religious lines, a view once also supported by then-Senator Joe Biden and former Ambassador Peter Galbraith.
In the aftermath of September 11 attacks, the Independent Institute was an early advocate of using privateers, (rather than a military invasion of Afghanistan) to bring the co-conspirators of the terrorist attacks to justice under international law, as authorized in Article I, Section 8, clause 11 of the United States Constitution.
The Independent Institute has published works by S. Fred Singer, a research fellow of the Institute. The works include Hot Talk, Cold Science: Climate Change's Unfinished Debate, a 2009 attempt to rebut climate change policies. It was co-authored with Frederick Seitz, another research fellow of the Institute. The book included Singer's 2004 essay, "The Scientific Case against the Global Climate Treaty". The Institute also published a 2003 policy report, “New Perspectives in Climate Change: What the EPA Isn't Telling Us”, by Singer. That report criticized the EPA's 2001 Climate Action Report.
For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2014, the Institute had total revenue of $2,775,869. From 2007 to 2011 the Institute took in $12,249,065 from gifts, grants, contributions, and membership fees; and $536,747 in gross income from interest, dividends, payments received on securities loans, rents, royalties, and income from similar sources.
On June 2, 1999, the Institute sponsored a full-page advertisement titled Open Letter on Antitrust Protectionism in the Washington Post and the New York Times. The ads were signed by 240 economists and claimed "headline-grabbing cases against Microsoft, Intel, Cisco Systems, Visa and MasterCard, along with a flurry of merger investigations now under way, would appear to demonstrate the need for a vigorously enforced antitrust policy that will create checks and balances to eliminate consumer harm. However, consumers did not ask for these antitrust actions—rival business firms did."
In September 1999, a controversy arose when New York Times reporter Joel Brinkley stated that the advertisements had been paid for by Microsoft. Based on internal Independent Institute documents "provided to the New York Times by a Microsoft adversary associated with the computer industry who refused to be further identified", Brinkley wrote that Microsoft "has secretly served as the institute's largest outside financial benefactor in the last year." Independent Institute internal documents showed that Microsoft had contributed $203,217 in 1999, making it the single largest contributor. Brinkley calculated that Microsoft's contribution amounted to approximately 20% of the funds in 1999 from external sources, excluding $304,725 contributed by Theroux.
The day after Brinkley's article appeared, Theroux stated that "our final year-end records do not agree with the numbers he had been provided by his source" and claimed that at the media conference he had stated that the Microsoft funding amounted to 7%. "It now appears the final figure is about 8%, a statistically insignificant difference, and far less than the 20% figure Mr. Brinkley claimed in his article," said Theroux.
In June 2000, Wall Street Journal staff reporters Glenn Simpson and Ted Bridis revealed that Oracle had hired Investigative Group International, as well as Chlopak, Leonard, Schechter & Associates, a Washington, D.C., public-relations agency, to distribute damaging information about Microsoft's allies to media outlets. Oracle admitted that this was the "Microsoft adversary associated with the computer industry who refused to be further identified," which was the sole source for Brinkley's article.
Televised Debate on “Stopping Violent Crime: New Directions for Reduction and Prevention” sponsored by the Independent Institute, the Koch Crime Commission, and Washburn University (one of twelve invited participants).
...some 150 economists from the left and the right have electronically signed a letter to President Bush and Congress stating that immigration is a net gain for America and that only a small percentage of native-born Americans in low-skilled jobs may be harmed by it. The letter, bouncing around the Internet, was written by Alex Tabarrok, research director at The Independent Institute...
Together, these studies increasingly integrate the notion that climate change will be modest and easily adapted by free and vibrant economies.