Think Tanks – Adam Smith Institute

February 23, 2009



“The Adam Smith Institute is a think tank based in the United Kingdom, named after the father of modern economics, Adam Smith. Although non-partisan, it espouses free market and classical liberal views, in particular by creating radical policy options in the light of public choice theory, which politicians can then develop. Its president, Madsen Pirie, has said “We propose things which people regard as being on the edge of lunacy. The next thing you know, they’re on the edge of policy”.

“, and brothers Eamonn & Stuart Butler were students together at the University of St Andrews, Scotland. In 1973, they left Scotland to work with Edwin Feulner, who became co-founder of the free-market think tank the Heritage Foundation, in 1973.

After their apprenticeship in the United States, Pirie and Eamonn Butler returned to Scotland in 1977 to found their own think tank, the Adam Smith Institute, set up with the help of Antony Fisher of the Institute of Economic Affairs. Stuart Butler is a conservative activist in Washington, D.C., remaining at the Heritage Foundation.

The ASI recruited Douglas Mason, another St Andrew’s alumnus, who did his most influential work for the Institute. Mason became one of its regular authors[2]. In 1982, he led the Adam Smith Institute’s “Omega Project” report on Local Government Policy. There he argued for the compulsory contracting-out of most local services such as refuse collection, proposed scrapping the existing local-government tax, in favour of a per-capita charge. Revising the Rating System (1985), a reform recommendation for the rating system, was wholeheartedly adopted by the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.

Other policy recommendations for which Mason was responsible included the privatisation of the Royal Mail (The Last Post -1991); the privatisation of free British reading (Ex Libris – 1986); the privatisation of the Forestry Commission[3]; the complete removal of arts subsidies (Expounding The Arts – 1987); and the abolition of restrictions on drinking (Time To Call Time – 1986).”


“The Institute was the first UK think-tank to recognize the power of the internet and develop its own website, of which it is justly proud. All new Adam Smith Institute reports are now available free online, which has brought a hundredfold increase in the number of people reading them.

The Institute’s weblog – a website on which it posts short factual or opinion articles, on which others can comment – attracts over 3,000 unique visitors a day, making it Europe’s favourite think-tank blog. Again, this helps it to spread ideas and discover new free-market writers and thinkers.”