The Adam Smith Institute is one of the world's leading think tanks, recognised as the best domestic and international economic policy think-tank in the UK and ranked 2nd in the world among Independent Think Tanks by the University of Pennsylvania.
Independent, non-profit and non-partisan, we work to promote free market, neoliberal ideas through research, publishing, media outreach, and education. The Institute is today at the forefront of making the case for free markets and a free society in the United Kingdom.
The Institute was founded in the 1970s, as post-war socialism reached its high-watermark. Then, as now, its purpose was to educate the public about free markets and economic policy, and to inject sound ideas into the public debate.
It has always been a practical think tank rather than an academic organization, and despite its strict political independence, it has endeavored to work with policymakers to deliver real change, and to make free market ideas reality. In its early days, the Institute was known for its pioneering work on privatization, deregulation, and tax reform, and for its advocacy of internal markets in healthcare and education. Today, it is known as one of Britain's leading think tanks, and for its emphasis on using free markets to end poverty.
We have a two-pronged strategy for changing the world:
Long-term, we change the landscape of opinion. Much of our work – events, books and media outreach – is dedicated to educating students and the wider public about why free markets work for everyone, particularly the poorest, so that in the long-run, the intellectual climate is more conducive to the cause of classical liberalism. For lasting reform, we need to create an environment in which even the most self-interested politician benefits by championing free markets and free people.
Short-term, we change policy. The Adam Smith Institute was one of the key drivers behind the privatization revolutions in the 1980s and 1990s, and has always been renowned for its innovative policy ideas. Our mantra is to come up with policy ideas that are both radical and reasonable – to act at the margin of reform, but nonetheless offer solutions that a bold politician can implement.
This strategy has already been enormously successful since our founding in 1977. But there is a lot more to do.
Our mantra: “Radical and reasonable”
We believe that free markets have already been proven to be the best way of reducing poverty and giving people the freedom to live the lives they want. Our work is heavily empirical, grounded in practice and evidence from around the world. Though we favour bold, radical policy solutions to society's problems, we base the case for this in cold, hard facts, not dogma.
Low, simple, flat taxes that encourage investment and innovation, and hence economic growth.
A voucher-based education system that gives parents and schools complete freedom over how and where children are educated.
A privately-provided, publicly-funded healthcare system where patient outcomes, not NHS wages, are the focus.
Freedom of trade with the world, and a liberal immigration system that is designed to work for migrants and natives alike.
A liberalised planning system that lets many more houses be built, so everyone can afford to own their own home.
A simple welfare system based around a Negative Income Tax or Basic Income that tops up the wages of the poor and guarantees that work always pays.
Free market money and an end to bailouts of private banks, in all their forms.
As well as engaging in traditional think tank activities – like conducting research, publishing reports, and holding seminars and conferences – the Institute has also, throughout its history, paid a great deal of attention to developing the next generation of policymakers and opinion formers, with its well known and highly regarded youth programmes forming a major part of its activities. The Adam Smith Institute also prides itself on being forward-looking and media-savvy, and being quick to embrace new technology and new opportunities to promote its ideas.
Fighting Big Government
Today the Adam Smith Institute faces new challenges. The industrial landscape has changed beyond recognition since the 1970s. Communism has fallen. And most politicians at least pay lip service to the free market ideas of choice, competition and enterprise. And yet in many ways government is bigger and more intrusive than ever, whether it is regulating businesses, interfering with lifestyle choices, or undermining historic civil liberties. Meanwhile public spending has grown out of control, and Britain faces a fiscal crisis unprecedented in peacetime. In short, there are many battles still to be won.
A Call to Action
Ronald Reagan once said, "Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom and lost it, have never known it again." Those words encapsulate the role of the Adam Smith Institute: it exists to fight for freedom, to defend it where necessary, and to extend it where possible. It is a task the Institute takes very seriously.