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by Neville Kennard, think tank veteran

The world is littered with Free Market Think Tanks, yet they seem to have little effect on government thinking and policy-making. The recent Global Financial Crisis could have been the trigger for reform along free market lines, but instead we have witnessed a return to interventionism and the discredited monetary policy ideas of stimulus of John Maynard Keynes and others.

So why is it, with the hundreds of millions of dollars spent by Think Tanks, the squiggabytes of information, zillions of words, the outstanding work by hundreds of brilliant people, the irrefutable logic and reason, the evidential research, that governments keep growing and spending and taxing? What is going on?

This essay attempts to offer a point of view that may explain the reason for the apparent failure of the Think Tanks to have significant influence.

My belief is that the Think Tanks are fundamentally “Statist” in their position and points of view. They essentially want to have the same as we now have, but just a bit less of it. They still want The State, but a smaller one. They want bureaucrats and politicians, together with the media and the education institutions to heed their words, when all these institutions are themselves part of The State. The Think Tanks cosy up to politicians and so themselves become part of the problem, part of The State.

The funding base of Think Tanks is mostly “conservative” business people and businesses who themselves are sometimes and to some degree part of The State. The Think Tanks’ (TTs) “customers” are their supporters. These are the people to whom the TTs must appeal for contributions and who they must not upset too much. The TT’s refrain from putting forward ideas that are too radical or controversial lest they lose their financial and moral support. The TT’s are timid. Either that or they themselves are unaware of the essence of the problem — The State and its very nature.

TTs do “Research” that analyses the adverse effects of this or that policy and they advocate change. Seldom if ever do they analyse the fundamental issue of the very nature of The State. Instead the TT’s tend to actually legitimise The State by pointing out its failings here and its misdirection there. The TT’s thus become part of the problem.

Were TTs to point out that it is The State itself that is the problem, that the only solution is for The State to be by-passed, ignored, de-legitimised, eliminated, then the need for the TTs would vanish too.

Can the TTs change their spots and start to challenge the legitimacy of The State? Can they orchestrate their own possible demise? Or are the TTs affected by the same imperative that affects The State itself — the imperative to survive and grow?

If the TTs can’t change their spots, if they can’t or won’t see that they are part of the problem, then some of their supporters who may now see the counter-productive work of the TT’s they have supported may withdraw their contributions and support. This money, I suggest, could perhaps more gainfully be deployed into constructing For Profit mechanisms and structures that allow people and their money to withdraw from The State. The more ways there are to Opt Out, the more competition The State will have for its “services” and the more accountable it will be.

So this is a call-to-arms to all liberty-minded and concerned libertarians to think seriously about their support of the well-meaning but ineffectual Think Tanks and whether their money and energy and entrepreneurial endeavours may be better channelled into alternative For Profit “businesses” that will serve the market and be paid accordingly.

New jurisdictions, hitherto undiscovered devices, cyber-countries, yet-to-be-created mechanisms, non-nation citizenships and more. Many things are waiting to be invented and marketed.

Recommended reading that explains the dysfunction and illegitimacy of The State and how to move beyond this outdated structure:

(in order of appearance on Economics.org.au)
  1. Welcome from Neville Kennard
  2. Think Tanks Don't Work
  3. "Market Failure": Just what the government ordered!
  4. The Tragedy of the Tax Pool Commons
  5. Corporate Welfare
  6. Citizenship for Sale?
  7. I Don't Vote
  8. Voting: Right or Privilege?
  9. Stockholm Syndrome and our Love-Hate Relationship with Government
  10. Civil Disobedience: The Rules of Engagement
  11. Should Respect for Law Extend to Bad Laws?
  12. Jaywalking as a Demonstration of Individuality
  13. Government Likes War
  14. Collusion is Our Right
  15. Why Not the Drug Olympics?
  16. Unconventional Wisdom
  17. Tiger Farming: An Alternative to Extinction
  18. Looking Backwards: Mont Pelerin Society Conference, Sydney, 2010
  19. Tax Avoidance is a Patriotic Duty
  20. Kennard Writes to IPA Review Editor
  21. Genocide by Welfare: A Tragedy from the Aboriginal Welfare Industry
  22. Separating Sport and State
  23. Your Home is Not an Investment
  24. Dick Smith, Celebrity Philanthropist
  25. A Libertarian's New Year's Resolution
  26. Extend Politicians' Holidays to Create Prosperity
  27. Entrepreneurs are Disruptive, and Bureaucrats Hate It
  28. What is a good Australian?
  29. Governments Like Employment But Hate Employers
  30. The Market Failure Industry
  31. Neville Kennard: The Tax Avoidance Imperative
  32. Wot if ...?
  33. The Tribal Chief and the Witch Doctor
  34. The Tannehills
  35. Democracy versus Property Rights and Prosperity
  36. Government Doesn't Work, and That's the Way They Like It
  37. Minarchy vs Anarchy
  38. Euthanasia and Self-Ownership
  39. The Right Policies to Fix a Depression
  40. Is Howard Our Best PM?
  41. Tax Producers vs Tax Consumers
  42. Where There's a Queue, There's a Business Opportunity
  43. Authoritarian Freedom
  44. Why Classical Liberals Should Debate Anarchocapitalists
  45. The Tyranny of the Majority
  46. If you could choose to whom you paid your tax
  47. Business Should Exploit Boat People
  48. The Immorality of Trade Unions
  49. "America" vs "The United States"
  50. Sweet Anarchy
  51. The Illusion of "Job Creation"
  52. Gold Is Money
  53. Guilty Capitalists
  54. Bureauphobia
  55. Prosperity vs Growth
  56. Capitalism vs Democracy
  57. More people = More fun
  58. Self-Ownership - the very idea!
  59. Government will murder Neville Kennard if he doesn't back away
  60. The Australian Dollar Has Been Cowardly and Criminally Devalued, Harming the Poor Particularly
  61. Is Taxation Theft and Government a Tax Cheat?
  62. My Journey to Anarchy:
    From political and economic agnostic to anarchocapitalist
  63. Government Needs Bad Guys –
    that's why they like wars
  64. What Is Obscene?
  65. Traffic Economics
  66. Wayne Swan stands on the shoulders of other intellectual pygmies
  67. Neville Kennard Obituary
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