Alexis de Tocqueville Institution

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Logo of the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution.

The Alexis de Tocqueville Institution (AdTI) is a Washington, D.C.–based American conservative think tank that produced reports and policy research.

It was named after the French historian Alexis de Tocqueville. AdTI's reports are intended primarily to influence public policy debate. Founded in 1988, its president is Ken Brown and its chairman is Gregory Fossedal. It had 14 staff researchers at its peak. It largely ceased operations in 2006. It issued its last press release in 2007 announcing that its former Chairman was running for President of the United States.

Funding sources[edit]

AdTI does not publicize its backers and donors.

As reported by MediaTransparency, the AdTI's backers from 1988 to 2002 include:

Projects funded include:

  • numerous grants from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation "to support education-reform research and activities";
  • a number of grants to support the Teacher Choice Project;
  • $50,000 in 2000 to "support research on teacher unions and education reform" from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation;
  • in 1998, $168,750 from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and the John M. Olin Foundation "to support research and writing on new tactics of U.S. progressive movement in the Post-Cold War era";
  • A total of $30,000 in 1995 and 1996 from the John M. Olin Foundation for "the Action Plan for Defense Privatization, conducted by the Committee for the Common Defense";
  • In 1998 $5,000 from the John M. Olin Foundation to "support promotion for The Democratic Century, a book by Gregory Fossedal."

The Capital Research Center reports funding by the Fannie Mae Foundation, the AT&T Foundation, and the Amoco Foundation.


Microsoft and Linux[edit]

The AdTI published a controversial book, Samizdat, which argued against aspects of open source software. While the book called for increased investment in open source development, it criticized what it called "hybrid" source models, in which true open source code is mixed with proprietary code, with the result that intellectual property rights (and thus value) are nullified.[1]

To illustrate potential problems with this approach, the book cited the case of Linus Torvalds, creator of Linux. It claimed Torvalds had plagiarized Linux source code from both Unix and MINIX, the latter a Unix-derived operating system written by Professor Andrew Tanenbaum. It cited a number of arguments for the claim, including an email from Tanenbaum saying MINIX "was the base" Torvalds used to create Linux. Tanenbaum later published a refutation of the book's interpretation, saying he believed Torvalds wrote Linux single-handedly.[2]

Microsoft had been one of the Institution's backers for five years, although a Microsoft spokesman said they had not funded any specific research.[3] Microsoft funds several think tanks, including the American Enterprise Institute, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute.[4][5]

Open source and Linux[edit]

The AdTI is known for publishing a series of studies beginning in 2002 on the theme of intellectual property in the software industry. The Institution authored Opening the Open Source Debate (June 2002), a report critical of Microsoft's open-source rivals. This report claimed that open source software was inherently less secure than proprietary software and hence a particular target for terrorists.

These studies culminated in Samizdat: And Other Issues Regarding the 'Source' of Open Source Code (prereleased May 2004, but unreleased as of March 2008), questioning the generally accepted provenance of Linux and other open source projects, and recommending that government-funded programming should never be licensed under the GNU General Public License but under the BSD license or similar licenses.

The book claims that Linus Torvalds used source code taken from Minix, a small Unix-like operating system used in teaching computer science, to create Linux 0.01, on the theory that no mere student could write an entire Unix-like kernel single-handedly — although writing a kernel of similar size and capabilities is a standard part of many computer science degrees. These claims have been seriously questioned, including by many of those quoted in support, such as Andrew S. Tanenbaum, author of Minix; Dennis Ritchie, one of the creators of Unix; and Richard Stallman, leader of the GNU project. Others have said that quotes attributed as being from an "interview with AdTI" were in fact from prerelease papers (Ilkka Tuomi) or from message board posts (Charles Mills, Henry Jones). Alexey Toptygin said he had been commissioned by Brown to find similarities between Minix and Linux 0.01 source code, and found no support for the theory that Minix source code had been used to create Linux; this study is not mentioned in the book.

A Microsoft spokesman called the furor over the book "an unhelpful distraction from what matters most—providing the best technology for our customers." (WSJ, 14 June 2004)

The AdTI was preparing a new study in November 2004, tentatively titled Intellectual Property Left, to argue that "the IT industry sector's reluctance to pursue rampant IP infringement against public domain software developers and users is going to precipitate billions of dollars in balance sheet downgrades by Wall Street."[6] The later papers stand in contrast to the Institution's 2000 paper, The Market Place Should Rule on Technology, which discusses Linux as a direct competitor to Microsoft Windows.

Tobacco industry work[edit]

As part of the 1998 Tobacco Settlement Agreement, the Philip Morris corporation released millions of pages of documents concerning their operations. These detail how, after the Environmental Protection Agency moved in 1993 to have second-hand tobacco smoke declared a carcinogen, Philip Morris hired the AdTI to campaign against the move. This resulted in the 1994 paper Science, Economics, and Environmental Policy: A Critical Examination.

In 1994, part of the Clinton administration's health plan proposed an increase in cigarette sales tax from 24¢ a packet to 99¢ a packet. Merrick Carey, then president of the AdTI, put a plan to Philip Morris whereby, for $30,000 a month, the Institution would conduct a campaign for them. The AdTI then presented itself as a "bipartisan" economic think tank presenting an analysis of the Clinton plan, nowhere mentioning they were directly hired by Philip Morris to oppose the tax increase. contains a number of searchable documents produced as court discovery linking AdTI to Lorillard and Phillip Morris corporations. AdTI is linked to Dr. Fred Singer in the tobacco documents,[7] the Cooler Heads Coalition,[8] Consumer Alert,[9] Heartland Institute,[10] and the Competitive Enterprise Institute.[11][12][13]


The AdTI produced a considerable number of papers on education policy. It ran a program called the Teacher Choice Project, advocating vouchers for education and marking unions as bad for teachers. Most of these were produced during 2000 and 2001.


When the B-2 bomber program was threatened in 1995, the AdTI organised a letter to President Bill Clinton signed by seven former Pentagon chiefs: Dick Cheney, Caspar Weinberger, Frank Carlucci, Harold Brown, James Schlesinger, Donald Rumsfeld and Melvin Laird.[14]


The AdTI published Newt Gingrich's 2003 book, Saving Lives & Saving Money: Transforming Health and Healthcare.[15]

Global warming[edit]

AdTI was a member organization of the Cooler Heads Coalition which asserts that "the science of global warming is uncertain" and is focused on "dispelling the myths of global warming by exposing flawed economic, scientific, and risk analysis".[16]


  1. ^ Brown, Kenneth (June 4, 2004). "Samizdat's critics... Brown replies". Archived from the original on September 11, 2010. Retrieved September 11, 2010. 
  2. ^ Tanenbaum, Andy (May 20, 2004). "Some Notes on the "Who wrote Linux" Kerfuffle, Release 1.5". Archived from the original on September 11, 2010. Retrieved September 11, 2010. "I said that to the best of my knowledge, Linus wrote the whole kernel himself, but after it was released, other people began improving the kernel, which was very primitive initially, and adding new software to the system--essentially the same development model as MINIX." 
  3. ^ Linux makes a run for government
  4. ^ Carney, Dan; Borrus, Amy; Greene, Jay (May 15, 2000). "Microsoft's All-Out Counterattack". Bloomberg L.P. Archived from the original on September 11, 2010. Retrieved September 11, 2010. 
  5. ^ Lambert, Tim (June 23, 2004). "When Think Tanks Attack". Deltoid. ScienceBlogs LLC. Archived from the original on September 11, 2010. Retrieved September 11, 2010. 
  6. ^ Stapleton, Lisa (December 1, 2004). "ADTI: Ready for Round Three with Open Sourcers". Linux Insider. ECT News Network, Inc. Archived from the original on September 11, 2010. Retrieved September 11, 2010. 
  7. ^ Yach, Derek; Bialous, Stella (November 2001). "Junking Science to Promote Tobacco". American Journal of Public Health. American Public Health Association. Archived from the original on April 16, 2003. 
  8. ^ "Clean Air Villain of the Month". Clean Air Trust. March 15, 2001. Archived from the original on September 11, 2010. Retrieved September 11, 2010. 
  9. ^[dead link]
  10. ^ Singer, S. Fred. "Whither Environmental Regulation?" (PDF). Archived from the original on June 13, 2008. 
  11. ^ Georgia, Paul J. (September 29, 1999). "Vol. III, No. 20". Competitive Enterprise Institute. Archived from the original on September 11, 2010. Retrieved September 11, 2010. 
  12. ^ Georgia, Paul J. (September 15, 1999). "Vol. III, No. 19". Competitive Enterprise Institute. Archived from the original on September 11, 2010. Retrieved September 11, 2010. 
  13. ^ Georgia, Paul J. (March 7, 2000). "Vol. IV, No. 5". Competitive Enterprise Institute. Archived from the original on September 11, 2010. Retrieved September 11, 2010. 
  14. ^ "The Best Defense: The B-2 Bomber". Archived from the original on October 15, 2007. 
  15. ^ Gingrich, Newt, Dana Pavey, and Anne Woodbury. Saving Lives & Saving Money: Transforming Health and Healthcare. Washington, DC: Alexis de Tocqueville Institution, 2003. ISBN 978-0-9705485-4-2
  16. ^ "The Cooler Heads Coalition". February 4, 2004. Archived from the original on April 27, 2006. 

External links[edit]

Media coverage[edit]

This article uses content from the SourceWatch article on Alexis de Tocqueville Institution under the terms of the GFDL.