Government Reform

The State of State Level Free-Market Think Tanks


The New York Times profiles the Mackinac Center, a free-market think tank in Michigan, and its efforts at franchising localized idea factories for small-government policy advocacy. The article by Jason DeParle gives a decent larger picture of what such state level think tanks can accomplish. An excerpt:

In Colorado, the Independence Institute has been a leading force behind a constitutional spending cap called the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. In Arizona, the Goldwater Institute has championed a school-choice law that sends 22,500 children a year to private schools. The Texas Public Policy Foundation helped pass a law to end what the group said were excessive lawsuits.

It also notes the sort of opposition they can attract:

"Their philosophy encourages selfishness and greed," said Iris J. Lav, who runs the State Fiscal Analysis Initiative, a network of 29 liberal state-level groups organized in part as a countervailing force. "If you have problems, they don't care — just too bad."

Greed is the rare accusation that rankles Mr. [Lawrence] Reed [head of Mackinac]. "They think if you're pushing free markets there must be something in it for you," he said. "It speaks to their ignorance."

Whole story here.

NEXT: They Never Accidentally Shoot People, Either

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  1. For liberals greed is the lust for profits.

    For libertarians greed is the lust for power.

  2. “Their philosophy encourages selfishness and greed.”

    While this is not true for all libertarians, philosophy DOES encourage selfishness and greed, just not at the expense of another’s right to selfishness and greed. The problem with liberals, I find, is that they too often interpret living for yourself as living against other people. I feel that it comes from a fundamental feeling on their part that whenever two humans interact economically, there is a loser and a winner, someone in there who got a worse deal than the other party. To ignore exchanges of mutual benefit is to ignore one of the best things about humanity.

  3. “Their philosophy encourages selfishness and greed.”

    The liberal’s philosophy encourages envy and submission.

  4. Actually, I think it is the people who claim the power to confiscate other people’s property who are the selfish and greedy ones.

    I think they level loud accusations of greed and selfisness at those who resist them as a sort of firebreak to prevent the accusation room sticking to them.

  5. But wait. Having lots of money confers lots of power, and having very little can render one powerless. Try suing a wealthy man. The rich can afford much better legal counsel when they’re accused of a crime. Mark Twain once said, “Never get into an argument with somebody who buys ink by the barrel.” He was talking about the power of the press, but that power, too, derives from the power of money.

  6. The world is full of losers. They eat all the wrong stuff, don’t make much money, and spend what they do make on crap. But libertarian losers are really admirable. They don’t whine about an unlevel playing field, raw deals, or shit jobs. Libertarian losers don’t envy the rich; they identify with them. That’s really remarkable.

  7. libertarians only care about our inalienable right to chose to be losers.

  8. Pardon the double post, but it just occurred to me.

    The term ‘losers’ seems to imply that there are such things as winners. In my limited knowledge of human history, I have yet to read about anyone who’s actually won.

  9. helped pass a law to end what the group said were excessive lawsuits.

    Have a problem? Go petition the government and get a law passed to protect your interests. Meet the new boss . . .

  10. Two words that make me tune someone out: “greed” and “sin”.

  11. Of course if you’re running a think tank there must be something in it for you. Libertarian’s reconize this about everyone else but they think they are different?

  12. Hooray for the Mackinac Center! As a former Mitten State resident. I can attest to the good work they do. Do check out their defense of free speech (with help from the Institute for Justice), by using this quote from the Michigan Education Association President in their fundraising literature: “quite frankly, I admire what they [the Mackinac Center] have done over the last couple of years entering into the field as they have and being pretty much the sole provider of research to the community, to the public, to our members, to legislators”.

    On the other hand, I have to say that they are susceptible to the charge. While they strike a libertarian stance on everything they act on, what they choose to act on is motivated by self-interest. The MC is a well-funded organization, and all that money isn’t being shoveled without expectations of ROI. Most of what the MC does is work to remove regulations on business it’s supporters are already engaged in, or would like to be. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, just sayin.

  13. Eric,

    Losers don’t choose to be losers, and if you can’t think of anyone who’s won, I’ve got an elixir to sell you. It’ll make you a winner. Promise.

  14. Eric,

    I made under the poverty line for most of my life. I went back to school, it took me 6 years, by living very spartan and taking loans. My first 6 years as an adult I was in the military. After that I worked menial jobs to stay afloat. When I did go to college I was making so little I used to alternate which utility to shut off that month.
    Once the heating bill became so large I used my electric stove to heat just the kitchen and I slept there. Six years later I had a degree. But It was still hard to find a good paying job. So what did I do? I took lower paying Jobs in my field for experience. You know what happened. It paid off. Now I have a job that affords me 55,000 + a year in an area were that is a lot of money. And, Because I am used to living very spartan I have savings even after paying my loans. Now if you took a snapshot of my life 10 years ago. I would be a “Looser”. You take a snap shot today I guess,in your eyes, I am just greedy. Look at economic data and you will see people go from poverty, to wealth, back to poverty, and every place in-between all the time. If your not mentally ill or your IQ isn’t below 80 then there is no excuse if you don’t at least try to better yourself. I want government that is going to stand back and let me.

  15. My last comment was to Edward not Eric sorry Eric.

  16. Edward,

    You and I seem to be talking about different games. I’m referring to the game that all of us play. We can decide how to play and when to leave the table, but we have no choice about throwing in for the first hand.

    You sound like you’re talking about the kind of game where the one with the most chips wins. There are those among us who pass that table by, because we know that the chips always end up playing you.

    Either way, when you leave the table, you can’t take the chips with you. So no one ever really wins.

  17. Iris J. Lav:

    “Their philosophy encourages selfishness and greed,”

    A free, capitalistic society turns selfishness and greed into socially beneficent things cuz the only way to satisfy these desires is to provide for the desires of others.

    Also, allowing people to live their lives with a minimum of coercion, from either crooks or the government, is a good thing in itself.

    “If you have problems, they don’t care – just too bad.”

    No. The idea is that it’s not ok to force “solutions” to problems on other folks via the government. It’s a non sequitur to claim that there is a lack of caring on the part of those who eschew the use of government force.

  18. “We” might not be able to win, but our genes certainly can…

    …by that account, Genghis Khan was probably the biggest winner in history.

    So, in order to win:

    1. Conquer Asia.

    2. Have unprotected sex with several thousand women.

    Your descendants will thank you.

  19. For liberals greed is the lust for profits.

    For libertarians greed is the lust for power.

    Right, and…

    For religious fundamentalists greed is lust for “sins of the flesh”.

    But for libertines greed is…undefined!! Yeah baby! Yeah! (read in Austin Powers’ voice)

  20. Eric,

    You will never be a “looser.” You might feel looser, though.

  21. Let’s face it, an unrealitsic view of losers is the biggest source of the nanny state. Sensitive souls who think there shouldn’t be losers encourage the losers to consider their status as losers some sort of injustice. Then the losers start whining and do-gooders start instituting welfare and safety nets and such nonsense. If we could discover what makes certain losers embrace libertarianism, we could go a long way toward dismanteling the state. If losers stop whining, bleeding hearts will stop bleeding.

  22. Sam Franklin – You may have read this somewhere.
    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

    Emphasis is mine.

    Any questions?

  23. Eric,

    Sorry, I misunderstood you. We all die for sure, and in that sense, we are all losers. That raises an interesting possibility, though. Religion has been very useful in keeping losers in line. I wonder if the rise of the welfare state had something to do with the decline of religion. If losers believe that they’re going to have an eternal reward in the next life, they’re happier to be losers in this life. I’m pretty sure that the church pushed the idea that poverty and suffering are actually virtues. Is it an accident that evangelical Christians have embraced Republican tax cuts? Also, Christians who believe the world will end soon are less likely to be sucked in by alarmist environmentalists. I’m an atheist, of course, but I’m not so sure religion isn’t a good thing, especially for losers. It may even be that libertarianism is assimilated as a kind of religion by the losers who embrace it. Libertarian losers probably believe that a coercive state has made them losers. Once the state ends (soon they imagine), they’ll have their reward in this life.

  24. Sorry, it was Paul, not Eric, who thought that he might once have been considered a “looser.”

  25. but I’m not so sure religion isn’t a good thing, especially for losers.

    Yeah, delusional thinking can be a good thing.

    If, you can’t tell, I also am an athiest. Incidentally, becoming an athiest involves much self examination and heavy thinking. Not something you do in an afternoon.

  26. J sub D

    Good point. Since most can’t do “heavy thinking,” they substitute slogans. The trick is getting the losers to believe and repeat the right slogans. Unions, which are in serious decline, thank God (so to speak), socialists, left liberals, and other champions of the underclass have historically been very good at getting their slogans into the heads of losers. But look at the slogans posters here use. That’s the sort of slogan we need to get into the heads of losers. Either that, or religion. But religion can be a double-edged sword. Do-gooder priests are sometimes prone to view the state as a charitable institution.

  27. Good point Edward. However I think your analogies aren’t quite sychronous. Religions tend to encourage conformity as a sign of identity with the community. If you’ve ever attended a libertarian function, the assortment of freaks and mutants who you will meet will surely see the error of your comparison. The only common thread amongst them is the desire to have as few people as possible interefering with their freakish and deviant ways.

    The rise of the welfare state may indeed have something to do with the decline of religion as a major intellectual force, but not in the way you presented. It seems a more apt analogy might be constructed between religion and collective statism.

    In this religion ‘the People’ take the place of God in providing reasons for feeling and action. The State replaces the Church as the means by which these deities can be satisfied, by cheerful conformity from the faithful, and by force on the dissident, or losers.

    Either way, a better world (either in this life or the next) is the result, so long as everyone goes along with the program.

    But libertarians don’t guarantee a better world, which is why our political ideology is so dreadfully unpopular. All we seek is a world where people are responsible for themselves instead of being well-tended children, and where actions (both selfish and charitable) are chosen rather than coerced.

    The only losers I know are the losers who let other losers convince them of what losers they are, and how help, kindly imposed upon them from the winners (whether religion, financial, or political) on the top is the only way to free them of that role.

    Embracing the idea of being a loser is the only way to be a loser.

  28. Edward, your point of do-gooder priests is right on. Add to that that I’m pretty certain that the mad mullahs of Iran are very religious. They KNOW the truth and will kill those who dare disagree. That said, Allah is merciful and Islam is a religion of peace”.

  29. Eric

    That’s it! That’s the slogan! EMBRCAING THE IDEA OF BEING A LOSER IS THE OINLY WAY OF BEING A LOSER. It’s brilliant. Get losers to belive that if they just don’t think of themselves as losers, they’re not losers. A sort of positive thinking for losers. I wonder if that’s what happy losers are doing anyway.

  30. I wonder if that’s what happy losers are doing anyway.

    Uhhh, Dungeons and Dragons?

  31. “If you have problems, they don’t care – just too bad.”

    Gotta love it when people resort to cop outs as to why they don’t need to examine the problems at hand. It’s easier to take the black and white approach than to look deeper into it and weigh the variety of solutions and outcomes. For example, I voted against a minimum wage amanedment. Not because I feel people should make less money but, given the current paradigm of government involvement, felt the EITC is clearly the approach to the problem of poverty. It better targets and does a better job of addressing poverty itself. Raising the mininum wage directly affects all sorts of non-impovershed parties & does less to address poverty for those facing the core problem of poverty. So who is caring and who isn’t? If anything, Libertarians care MORE because they care about all groups affected. But it’s hard to come to that understanding when one’s level of discourse is simply to vilify those who don’t agree and move on.

  32. I was joking. There isn’t one slogan that will do it. But the general idea of convincing losers that they’re not really losers is the key.


    Welfare statists are masters at claiming anybody who doesn’t agree with their pro-loser agenda is uncaring. You no what? I don’t care.

  33. How embaracing. I meant to type “You know what?” I’m not a loser. Really. I just type too fast.

  34. How embarrassing, I meant

  35. The article was great but it did not mention Joe Overton who I believe came up with the idea for these training sessions and who played a major part in them until he died.

  36. J sub D

    You’re “pretty sure” that the mad mullahs are religious”? Been doing some heavy thinking?

  37. Edward – Nah. I’m still try to dope out quantum theory, I don’t have time for fanatics.

  38. You know, the ideology of loser victimology produces a lot more nasty shit than just a “Robin Hood” state that wants to steal money from winners for the benefit of losers. It also encourages losers to look for some explanation of their status, and the search inevitably ends in nut-bar conspiracy theories. Somebody–usually a winners of some sort–must be pulling the strings. Populist parties all over the world exploit this nonsense. Don’t think our own Democrats are above it. I always vote Libertarian even though I know my candidate won’t win because I can’t stand the pandering to losers that both major parites engage in. This pandering is very dangerous.

  39. Eric


  40. …and the search inevitably ends in nut-bar conspiracy theories.

    You didn’t hear from me but, the Freemasons, Jews and the Trilateral Commision are joining forces. We don’t stand a chance.

  41. The Texas Public Policy Foundation helped pass a law to end what the group said were excessive lawsuits.

    How is ending ‘frivolous’ or ‘excessive’ lawsuits a truly libertarian or free-market goal?

    Libertarians and free-market types can’t have it both ways. Regulation is regulation. And ‘excessive’ and ‘frivolous’ are only one side’s point of view in the debate.

    If you’re goal is to reduce government regulation (often put in place under the guise of protecting the public), what’s free market about removing the remaining avenue left to the public for them to protect themselves?

    I don’t buy excuses for limiting lawsuits as pro-free-market. That’s brain-dead hogwash and it’s being intellectually dishonest. In the absence of government regulation, the courts are a perfectly rational free-market method for leveling the playing field.

  42. We’ll put the smackdown on the Freemasons and Trilateralists just as soon as we finish off the rest of y’all.

    Then it’s hamantaschen all around.

    maniacal laughter and chewing sounds

  43. These little franchised “think” tanks are patrolling the perimeter of the Temple of the Vestals to keep the Visigoths away so the likes of virgin moi can concentrate on preserving that flame in the hearth.
    We’re a team.
    Praise Vesta!
    hubba hubba
    boola boola

  44. Bush: Trades Jobs & Wages for Peace?

    (CNN) – President Bush stressed on Saturday the shared advantages of U.S.-Asia cooperation in trade and in fighting militant Islamic terrorism and a nuclear North Korea.

    “Asia is important to America because prosperity in our country depends on trade with Asia’s growing economies,” he said in his weekly radio address. The U.S. president is in Hanoi, Vietnam, attending the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum.

    “Today, America’s trade across the Pacific is greater than our trade across the Atlantic, and we need to continue opening up markets in this part of the world to American goods and services.”

    The issue of global free trade has been a contentious one in the United States, with critics saying Americans lose jobs because they are unable to compete with cheaper labor and business costs overseas.

    Last week Sectary Rice issues a warning that Red China is building up its military beyond regional needs. America has massive trade debt running out of control with China. Our Countries has sold 1 trillion dollars of debt to China. Also the majority of bulk Pseudoephedrine the ingredient that makes meth that is terrorizing our communities comes from Asia. And now President Bush wants to give away more industries and further destroy the Middle Class in the name of helping out with terrorism by letting Red China walk all over us.Does anyone agree with this policy?

  45. John Konop,
    Come into the shade of the Temple.
    You have begun to babble.

  46. I’m an atheist, of course, but I’m not so sure religion isn’t a good thing, especially for losers.

    So rationalism is good enough for you, but we need to have religion to keep the “losers” in line?

    My, how condescending of you.

  47. John Konop

    In the global economy of the winners will be Chinese and some will be Americans. If we start worrying about the losers, it will only diminish the winnings of the winners. Meth isn’t “terrorizing our country”; ridiculous drug laws are. The global economy is an opportunity. If you can’t see that, maybe you’re just not a winner. Try thinking of yourself as a winner, and stop whining. Try some meth.

  48. Akira

    All I’m saying is that if losers start to think they’ve got a raw deal, they start thinking about redistributing the wealth. Better they should look forward to their eternal reward. What’s wrong with that?

  49. Oh, I get it. Edward is trolling by posting as the “stereotypical libertarian,” or what he thinks libertarians sound like.

    How original.

  50. Akira

    No I’m not. I’ve never heard a libertarian propose such a thing. Most libertarians are secularlists who think religion is irrational. I’m just raising the question. Getting losers to embrace libertarianism would also work, but have you noticed how appealing libertarianism is to losers?

  51. Akira

    Libertarians typically think that rationalism is a good thing for everybody. I think that may be naive. As libertarians, we believe that limited or no government is the best way to promote freedom, but we–or at least I–have no illusions that maximal freedom is going to benefit everybody maximally. There will always be losers. The great illusion of leftist utopian schemes has been that by means of social engineering, we can eliminate losers (classes in Marxist terms). Unfortunately, such nonsense greatly appeals to losers. I am amzaed that some losers embrace our libertarian perspective, but I fear there will never be enough of them to make a difference. We constantly face a populist backlash against our attempts to limit government. Witness the last election. Raising the minimum wage is now almost a cetrainty. I could go on. Why is this not a legitimate topic for discussion?

  52. Most libertarians are secularlists who think religion is irrational.

    I don’t think that’s remotely accurate, Akira. I’m pretty sure you’ve very little evidence to back this one up.

  53. So, in order to win:
    1. Conquer Asia.
    2. Have unprotected sex with several thousand women.

    I would totally buy your self-help book. Is 19.99 sufficient?

  54. I don’t think that’s remotely accurate, Akira.


    Mad, I didn’t say that.

  55. Ooops! Sorry Akira. Edward…

    Your assertion that, “Most libertarians are secularlists who think religion is irrational” is baseless and – I’m pretty sure – wildly innacurate.

    Yes, there are some serious objectivist types and others out there who find religion silly. But I don’t think you’ve got any evidence that this is a trait of “most libertarians.”

    It’s both possible and likely that there are plenty of religious types out there posing as libertarians who simply want government to stay out of their faith and are content to keep their fath out of politics.

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