Alexis de Tocqueville Institution

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Logo of the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution.

The Alexis de Tocqueville Institution (AdTI) was a Washington, D.C.–based think tank.

It was named after the French historian Alexis de Tocqueville. Founded in 1988, its president was Ken Brown and its chairman was 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.


The AdTI published a 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 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][4][5]

The AdTI published 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.

The AdTI produced a number of papers on education policy.

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.[7]

The AdTI published Newt Gingrich's 2003 book, Saving Lives & Saving Money: Transforming Health and Healthcare.[8]

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".[9]


  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. ^ "The Best Defense: The B-2 Bomber". Archived from the original on October 15, 2007. 
  8. ^ 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
  9. ^ "The Cooler Heads Coalition". February 4, 2004. Archived from the original on April 27, 2006. 

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