Category Archives: Education

Who Pays for Think Tanks?


Who Pays for Think Tanks?

Corporate and foundation money often comes with an agenda


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Think tanks are important institutions that provide information and analysis to both policy-makers and the public. But when they court donations, it can become unclear whether that analysis is tainted by donor agendas.

Read MORE:
Wealthy Donors and Corporations Set Think Tanks’ Agendas

Just what is a think tank?

Revealed: who pays for the corporate lobbyist Think Tanks?

Ken Silverstein in the Nation (5/21/13) recently exposed the extent to which positions at the center-left Center for American Progress (CAP) and other think tanks were shaped by the interests of donors. “Staffers were very clearly instructed to check with the think tank’s development team before writing anything that might upset contributors,” Silverstein reported.

The 25 institutions in FAIR’s study of think tank citations have gotten money from corporations, foundations, governments and individual donors. The law does not require public disclosure of who the donors are, though donations above $5,000 are reported to the IRS. Many think tanks thank their donors in their annual reports, while others list donors on their websites. Sometimes the trawling of tax documents is required to figure out who is giving—and what they’re getting in return.

The sobering news about atmospheric carbon dioxide passing 400 parts per million (Guardian, 5/10/13) is another reminder that the global community needs to quickly take serious steps to avert looming ecological catastrophe, but with world leaders relying on research funded by the energy industry, it is unlikely the drastic measures required will be considered.

Pete Peterson (cc photo: Lingjing Bao/Talk Radio News Service)

Billionaire Pete Peterson has ties to five top think tanks (cc photo: Lingjing Bao/Talk Radio News Service)

Almost two-thirds of the think tanks studied (16 out of 25) took money from at least one oil company. Thirteen—more than half—were funded by ExxonMobil, while more than a third, nine, were funded by Chevron; the Koch brothers contributed to seven. Shell gave to four think tanks, and Conoco-Phillips and BP each funded three.

Reflecting the clout that big donations bring, various think tanks have Big Energy sitting on their boards. The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has Rex W. Tillerson, chair and CEO of ExxonMobil, on its board of trustees, along with John Hess of Hess Oil. Duke Energy chief Jim Rogers sits on the boards of the Brookings Institution and the Aspen Institute. Aspen also has David Koch of Koch Industries, who’s on the board of the Cato Institute as well. The board of trustees of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) features the “Honorable Richard B. Cheney.”

Lockheed Martin's SR-71 Blackbird

War-related issues are also of vital public concern—and the companies that most profit from war are using their wealth to shape the discussion in ways that benefit them. Just under half (12 of 25) of the most-cited think tanks take money from weapons manufacturers; General Electric bankrolls 11 of them, while Boeing and Lockheed Martin each contributed to six. Four got donations from Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon financed three.

Ten of the 25 think tanks received donations from finance corporations. Five have finance executives on their boards; Brookings has three different Goldman Sachs–linked individuals, while Aspen has two. The board of the Institute for International Economics (IIE) has three members linked to Citigroup, and the Carnegie Endowment has one.

Thirteen of the think tanks had connections to the for-profit healthcare industry, either by donation or by board members. Nine received donations from pharmaceutical interests like Pfizer, Merck and the lobbying group PhRMA, while three have accepted money from health insurance companies like MetLife. AEI’s board has Wilson Taylor, chair emeritus of Cigna, while Brookings’ contains former Cigna chair Ralph Saul. IIE’s board holds Karen Katen, former vice chair of Pfizer, and Ronald Williams, retired chair and CEO of Aetna.

Think tanks are also funded by charitable foundations, often channeling the fortunes of wealthy families of individuals, many of which have an ideological agenda that can be seen clearly in their choice of beneficiaries. Foundations tied to Richard Mellon Scaife, the Mellon banking heir who has helped to “fund the creation of the modern conservative movement in America” (Washington Post, 5/2/99), have bank-rolled the Manhattan Institute, AEI, Heritage, Hoover, Cato and CSIS. Scaife sits on the boards of Heritage and the Hoover Institution.

The Koch brothers foundations support Cato (where David Koch is on the board), Heritage, AEI, Manhattan and the Woodrow Wilson Center. The DeVos family, whose fortune derives from Amway, fund through various foundations AEI, Heritage and Cato. The Gilder Foundation funds the Manhattan Institute (where its founder is chair emeritus), Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), Cato and Heritage. The Bradley Foundation donates to AEI, Heritage, Manhattan, Hoover and Cato.

The Walton Family Foundation, created by the family of billionaires who own Walmart, have given money to conservative groups like AEI, Heritage, Manhattan, Hoover and Cato. They’ve also given money to the centrist Brookings and the center-left CAP, which backs President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, a program that may drive up costs for Walmart’s small business competitors (Business Insider6/30/09).

Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson, who has relentlessly campaigned against retirement benefits through programs he helped launch like the Concord Coalition and the Fix the Debt campaign (Extra!3-4/976/10CounterSpin3/15/1311/16/12), is the former chair of the Council on Foreign Relations (and is still on CFR s board) and the founding chair of the IIE. His entities have bankrolled the Atlantic Council, Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and New America Foundation (NAF).

Billionaire financier George Soros is an outlier among wealthy givers, contributing through multiple foundations and corporations to a variety of institutions ranging from center-right to progressive: the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Woodrow Wilson Center, Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, Carnegie, Aspen, Brookings, Cato, CFR, EPI, NAF and CAP.

Think Tank Ties to Media


 

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Neoliberal Think Tanks and Free Market Environmentalism


Neoliberal Think Tanks and Free Market Environmentalism

Sharon Beder

Citation: Sharon Beder, ‘Neoliberal Think Tanks and Free Market Environmentalism’, Environmental Politics, 10(2) Summer 2001, pp. 128-133.

This is a final version submitted for publication.
Minor editorial changes may have subsequently been made. 

Sharon Beder’s Other Publications


Corporate-funded think tanks have played a central role in promoting free market environmentalism onto the policy agenda throughout the English speaking world. These think tanks have consistently opposed government regulation and advocated the virtues of a ‘free’ market unconstrained by a burden of red tape. The role of think tanks in the establishment of this ‘neoliberal’ agenda in the US and the UK in recent decades has been well documented. However their central role in a range of specific policy areas, such as environmental policy, has been neglected.

Conservative think tanks are generally set up as private, tax-exempt, research and advocacy institutes, and are largely funded by foundations and corporations. They have sought to insert neoliberal ideology into environmental policy. They advocate the use of the market to allocate scarce environmental resources such as wilderness and clean air and promote the replacement of legislation with voluntary industry agreements, reinforced or newly created property rights and economic instruments.

Presidents from Carter through to Clinton have made wide use of think tank personnel to fill high level government positions [Abelson:1995 108-09; Smith:1991 206-07]. Think tanks also employ ex-government officials giving them access to politicians and others in government. The interchange of personnel between think tanks and government officials observed in the US is now a feature of the Australian scene.

In Britain a few conservative think tanks have been extremely influential. These think tanks, particularly the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) and the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS), played a major role in setting the policy agenda of the Thatcher government, providing it with most of its policy initiatives, including trade union ‘reforms,’ privatisation of public authorities such as water and electricity, and welfare cuts. The influence of think tanks continues with the Blair government.

To be effective, think tanks insert themselves into the networks of people who are influential in particular areas of policy. They organise conferences, seminars and workshops, publish books, briefing papers, journals and media releases for policy-makers, journalists and people able to sway the policy makers. They liase with bureaucrats, consultants, interest groups, lobbyists and others. They seek to provide advice directly to government officials and to government agencies and committees, through consultancies or through testimony at hearings. Ultimately think tank employees become policy-makers themselves, having established their credentials as a vital part of the relevant policy/issue network.

In their efforts to influence and become part of the policy-making process think tanks have more in common with interest groups or pressure groups than academic institutions. Nevertheless employees of think tanks are treated by the media as independent experts and, as such, are often preferred to representatives from universities or interest groups as a source of expert opinion.

Some Key Think Tanks 

Think tanks put a great deal of effort and expense into ensuring the work of their ‘scholars’ is marketed and disseminated effectively. The Heritage Foundation in the US has often been credited with changing the face of think tanks with its aggressive marketing tactics. The greater proportion of its budget goes on marketing and fund raising, including 35-40 per cent of its budget on public relations. Many other think tanks have emulated Heritages’ marketing techniques.

The Heritage Foundation has a budget of over $25 million per year of which almost 90% comes from more than 6000 private donors. These donors include corporations such as automobile manufacturers, coal, oil, chemical, tobacco companies, foundations (about 25% of the foundation’s total income).

Heritage promotes deregulation of industry, an unrestrained free market and privatisation, including the sell off of public lands. In line with this ideology it advocates free market solutions to environmental problems or free market environmentalism [Anon:1992 49-53; Shanahan:1993]. It seeks to cast doubt on environmental problems such as global warming and to lobby against legislation or international agreements to prevent such problems.

The Institute of Economic Affairs, (IEA) in the UK which has promoted laissez-faire libertarianism or ‘economic liberalism’ for decades. It formed an Environmental Unit and launched Global Warming: Apocalypse or Hot Air in 1994. It promoted property rights as a way of protecting the environment and sought to apply free market solutions to all aspects of society including environmental problems and to reduce the role of government and regulation [Desai:1994 29]. For example, one of its publications stated: “There is a strong case for letting market forces work in energy… A policy for energy is not only unnecessary but undesirable. It hampers market adjustment and induces producers to spend time influencing government rather than improving efficiency.” [Weaver:1989 573]

In Australia a prominent conservative/neoliberal think tank, and the oldest, is the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA). Almost one third of IPA’s $1.5 million annual budget comes from mining and manufacturing companies. The IPA produces articles challenging the greenhouse consensus, attacking mandatory recycling, and promoting the use of pesticides. [Burton:1995 279], [IPA Report:1991 1-3].

Additionally a number of smaller specialist think tanks have been set up, particularly in the US, to promote free market environmentalism, including the Competitive Enterprise Institute, (CEI) the Political Economy Research Centre and the Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP).

These particular examples are merely illustrative of the much larger push that has been evident in the last decades. What they have in common is the desire to downplay the urgency of environmental problems, to reduce environmental regulations, and to apply neoliberal policies to environmental problems, as has occurred in other areas of policy. These ideologically motivated think tanks have sought to discredit environmental legislation, giving it the pejorative label ‘command and control’, highlighting its deficiencies and ineffectiveness (ineffectiveness that corporations and corporate-funded think tanks have done their best to ensure). In their place they have advocated market-based mechanisms including price-based and rights-based measures.

Free Market Environmentalism 

Think tanks have popularised and promoted the work of environmental economists who promote economic instruments and many of the leading scholars in this area are associated with think tanks. Such scholars include one of the foremost proponent’s of tradeable pollution rights, Robert Hahn, a resident scholar of the American Enterprise Institute, Terry Anderson, who has written for several think tanks in Australia and the US, Robert Stavins and Bradley Whitehead, authors of a Progressive Policy Institute study as well as Alan Moran, from the Tasman Institute.

Think tanks produce numerous books and papers promoting free-market environmentalism. Their books have included Free Market Environmentalism published by the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy in 1991; Reconciling Economics and the Environment published by the Australian Institute for Public Policy in 1991; and Markets, Resources and the Environment published by the Tasman Institute in 1991.

The market solutions being advocated by neoliberal think tanks provide corporations and private firms with an alternative to restrictive legislation and the rhetoric to make the argument against that legislation in terms that are not obviously self-interested. While legislation is aimed at directly changing the behaviour of polluters by outlawing or limiting certain practices, market-based policies let the polluters decide whether to pollute or not.

Some neoliberal think tank economists also argue that there is little incentive to protect environmental resources that are not privately owned. The solution put forward is to create property rights over parts of the environment that are currently free. Rights-based economic instruments such as tradeable pollution rights, for example, “create rights to use environmental resources, or to pollute the environment, up to a pre-determined limit” and allow these rights to be traded. [Cth Govt. of Australia:1990 14] Rights-based measures are also a way of providing a pricing mechanism for allocation of scarce environmental resources.

The influence of neoliberal think tanks on environmental policy has been pervasive. Yet their efforts to replace legislative solutions with free market programs have been accepted largely without scrutiny of the ideological agenda behind them. Many environmentalists have been persuaded by the rhetoric of free market environmentalism. For example the US Environmental Defense Fund has been at the forefront of the push for tradeable pollution rights and the Natural Resources Defense Council has also supported them.

The ideological and political shaping of these instruments has been hidden behind a mask of neutrality. Stavins and Whitehead exemplify this in arguing that “Market-based environmental policies that focus on the means of achieving policy goals are largely neutral with respect to the selected goals and provide cost-effective methods for reaching those goals.” [Stavins & Whitehead:1992 8] Far from being a neutral tool, the promotion of market-based instruments is viewed by many of its advocates as a way of resurrecting the role of the market. They serve a political purpose in that they reinforce the role of the ‘free market’ at a time when environmentalism most threatens it.

By accepting market instruments as a solution to environmental problems, environmentalists have accepted the conservative definition of the problem-that environmental degradation is caused by a failure to ‘value’ the environment and a lack of properly defined property rights and therefore environmental degradation results from a failure of the market to attach a price to environmental goods and services [Beder:1996]. By allowing this redefinition of the environmental problem, environmentalists and others not only forestall criticism of the market system but in fact implicitly agree that an extension of markets is the only way to solve the problem.

The root of the environmental problem, however, is the priority given to economic considerations over environmental considerations. Economic instruments, privatisation and environmental ‘valuation’ ensure that priority is still given to economic goals and they enable firms to make decisions that affect others on the basis of their own economic interests. Even if those economic interests have been slightly modified to give a small economic value to environmental impacts, the basic paradigm remains unchanged: whenever big profits can be made the environment will be destroyed.


Professor Sharon Beder is an honorary professorial fellow at the University of Wollongong.
Sharon Beder’s Publications can be found at http://www.uow.edu.au/~sharonb

Think Tanks Vs. Crony Capitalism


How Did He Get So Rich? Think Tanks Vs. Crony Capitalism


I still recall my long summer vacations in Argentina. That was before globalization and competitive pressures pushed most of the elite of developing countries to take shorter and shorter breaks. Europeans continue to buck the trend. They seem more attached to their long vacations than to the welfare statethat sometimes mandates those long relaxing weeks.

Volleyball was part of my South American beach life. It was easy to recover between endless games by taking a relaxing swim in deep sea water and then the mandatory, and now we know, dangerous sun-bathing. However, I am not writing here about life as a temporary beach-bum; I want to focus on how one of my most admired volleyball partners responded to economic incentives. Being a firm believer that all humans deserve a chance to rebuild their lives, I was hesitant to use his name, but as he wrote a book about this, mentioning him might help him increase his sales.

Enrique Piana was tall and handsome. His girlfriend and future wife, Solange, was also picture perfect. “Quique” as we called him, had a killer volleyball smash and killer looks. His family owned one of Argentina’s oldest and most respected trophy and medals companies. He seemed to have everything.

During part of the ’90s, the government of President Carlos Menem, and then-Minister Domingo Cavallo, had a policy for the importation of gold and exports of gold fabrications that amounted to a major subsidy for exporters. Attracted by the incentives, Quique, who had become CEO of his company, became a key player in a scheme whereby exporting overvalued gold-plated products netted them 30 million in subsidies for fake transactions. As it seems that none of the medals were sold at artificial value to true customers, the only victims here ended up being the Argentine tax-payers.

The scheme involved a “business” in the United States. As there is still substantial respect for rule of law in the United States, Quique was indicted, captured, and—after some months in a U.S. jail—extradited to Argentina. In his book, he lists the government officials who he claims knew about the scheme and who received bribes for his fraudulent activities. I will not mention them here. None of them were sentenced to jail.

If it would not be for the fraud in the value of the medals, the entire scheme would be just a case of crony capitalism. Receiving legal export subsidies (or export reimbursements as they are called in Argentina) is not a crime. No one would have ended up in jail. Quique was greedy. By overvaluing medals and overstating the gold content, he would help maximize his profits—but Quique lost his freedom for a while, and his century-old family company is gone forever.

Those of us who, like most writing for Forbes, believe in capitalism, defined as the private ownership of the means of production, are being faced with many similar cases. Increased publicity about economic transactions where profits are the result of being close to power, rather than serving the customer, have led to a surge in articles and complaints about crony capitalism. Making a moral case for capitalism obliges us to distinguish between “good and bad” capitalism.

Think tanks from all over the world that favor free-enterprise are trying to counter the flood of news about private players who use government and corruption to increase their profits. Through books, videos, and conferences, they are trying to portray the good side of capitalism. (I leave for another article a more complete list of groups engaged in this task.) In the United States, a short list of think tanks investing more of their budget on the moral defense of capitalism or free-enterprise should include the American Enterprise Institute and its Values and Capitalism program, the Acton InstituteThe Center for Vision and Values at Grove City College, the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and several organizations which are inspired by Ayn Rand’s writings. Talented entrepreneurs such as John Mackey, author of “Passion and Purpose: the Power of Conscious Capitalism” and Steve Forbes, in his “How Capitalism will Save Us” have also entered the debate. The Centre for Independent Studies in Australia, CEDICE in Venezuela, and PAFERE in Poland, are active in other parts of the world. The battle against this privileged form of capitalism is also taking place in social media, with AgainstCronyCapitalism.org and a special Crony CapitalismFacebook site gradually growing in presence.

As the true story I told about Quique shows, there is a fine line between corruption and crony capitalism. Several think tanks are active in exposing corruption, but they have learned that mentioning culprits can lead to more headaches or worse. The Adriatic Institute in Croatia, has been waging a David-versus-Goliath battle and has received multiple threats. Those who have exposed crony capitalism and corruption in Venezuela are currently being sued in the United States for defamation. The billions earned by cronies can buy lawyer power from the left, center, and worse, from leading rightwing legal counsel. Most free-market think tanks therefore prefer to speak about the generalities of corruption and crony capitalism rather than mention the guilty parties. This is seldom effective. I confess that in this column, I am guilty of the same prudence.

Considerable credit should be given to Transparency International for having created the most important effort to measure the perception of corruption, which has been a helpful tool to combat corruption. Having measurements to assess the magnitude of a problem, like monetary inflation, or huge deficits, helps think tanks confront the problem. To win the moral debate about free-enterprise, it would help to develop a comprehensive index of crony capitalism. There is a need to develop measurements about what percentage of profits in the United States and the world economy come from exchanges which result from favoritism, contracts between state-owned companies, corporate welfare (which the Cato Institute measures for the United States), corruption, and “sanitized corruption”—or getting legal favors, cheap loans, and foreign currency at preferential rates. This won’t be easy, but it’s not impossible.



Initiative Prospective Agrole et Rurale


RESEARCH
IPAR’s activities are centered around major themes of intervention at the heart of current agricultural issues: demographics, employment and migration, public policy, performance and productivity of family farms, land and the management of natural resources, support for producer organizations.

Initiative Prospective Agrole et Rurale

DEBATES

The Ipar organizes regular thematic debates and publishes policy briefs and summaries.

TRAINING

Training, conferences and refunds work permit to encourage exchanges between officials of producer organizations, policy makers, development partners, journalists and civil society.


 

Economic Policy Research Centre


 The Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) is Uganda’s leading think tank in economics and development policy oriented research and policy analysis.

The Economic Policy Research Centre was established in 1993 as an autonomous not-for-profit organization limited by guarantee to fill fundamental voids in economics research, policy analysis, and capacity building for effective in-country contributions to Uganda’s policy processes.

Today EPRC is a reputable, credible and independent policy think tank in Uganda renowned for providing research based evidence and policy analysis to support the formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of government policies.

Economic Policy Research Centre

Our Mission
To foster sustainable growth and development of the Ugandan economy by advancing the role of research in policy processes. We do this through provision of high quality applied research, practical policy analysis and advice, and policy focused dissemination and discourse. We also undertake capacity building activities through intellectual and scholar exchange, networking with accredited national and international institutions and scholars and hands on skills sharpening for young professionals, technocrats and policy makers.

Our Vision
The EPRC envisions itself as a centre of excellence providing national leadership in intellectual economic policy discourse, through timely research-based contribution to policy processes.

Core Values

Everyone Matters

Professional excellence through quality assurance

Integrity, accountability and transparency

Independence and confidentiality in conduct of research

Efficiency everywhere

Constructive engagement


 

‘White Philosophers to be Dropped from Curriculum’


News | UK | Home News

SOAS students call for ‘white philosophers to be dropped from curriculum’

Lucy Pasha-Robinson | @lucypasha | 9th January 2017

Students at University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) are calling for white philosophers to be largely removed from the curriculum to better represent the university’s focus on Asia and Africa.

As part of the student union’s “educational priorities” for 2017, students outlined ways to “address the structural and epistemological legacy of colonialism within our university” as part of an initiative that aims to “decolonise” SOAS.

One suggestion was to ensure the majority of philosophers taught on university courses come from the Global South or its diaspora.

The students also said if white philosophers were required, their work should be taught from a “critical standpoint”, to acknowledge the colonial context in which many of their works were written.

Dr Deborah Gabriel, founder of Black British Academics, said the students were clearly seeking to engage in a more culturally diverse discussion that was reflective of the university’s focus, and interrogate the links to colonisation held by the institution.

“A culturally democratic curriculum is something that all scholars, regardless of their ethnic background, should be teaching, given global and national priorities in the 21st century,” she told The Independent.

“Teaching is often based on very narrow criteria and often tends to be eurocentric. These students are calling on scholars to meet the criteria of their role to teach from different cultural contexts, it’s something we all should be doing more of.”

University of Liverpool Law professor explains why Leave campaign lied ‘on an industrial scale’

However, she also said decolonising doesn’t necessarily equate to removing the problematic.

“I don’t believe that necessitates removing white scholars because not all white scholars espouse ideas that are narrow in context, a lot of them do engage in anti-racist teaching. Academia often draws on series that are decades old, which is what people often find problematic,” she said.

“If you remove that kind of content from the curriculum, how are you going to critique it? That is what changes attitudes and thinking by looking at past theories and how they have evolved, and looking at what is considered progressive and acceptable now.”

The SOAS “educational priorities” came amid growing calls from students across the UK to rid British universities of associations with colonialism.

Last year, Oxford University refused to remove a statue of Cecil Rhodes from Oriel College over his links with Britain’s colonial past, despite a high-profile student-led campaign.

Cambridge University’s Jesus College took down a bronze cockerel statue, which had been looted during a British colonial expedition to Nigeria in the 19th century, after students asked for it to be repatriated.

SOAS is the largest European centre for the study of Asia, Africa and the Near and Middle East.

SOAS spokesperson Dr Deborah Johnston, pro-director learning and teaching told The Independent: “One of the great strengths of SOAS is that we have always looked at world issues from the perspective of the regions we study – Asia, Africa & Middle East. Informed and critical debate and discussion about the curriculum we teach is a healthy and proper part of the academic enterprise.”


The Independent has approached SOAS’s student union for comment.