|Founder(s)||Richard H. Fink|
(FYE August 2012)
3351 North Fairfax DriveArlington, Virginia 22201
The Mercatus Center at George Mason University (GMU) in the United States is a non-profit American market-oriented research, education, and outreach think tank. It works with policy experts, lobbyists, and government officials to connect academic learning and real-world practice. The Mercatus Center takes its name from the Latin word meaning "markets", and reflects the Center's free market-based approach to solving public policy problems. According to the 2011 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report (Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program, University of Pennsylvania), Mercatus is rated number 8 of the "Best University Affiliated Think Tanks (Global)" and number 49 of the "Top Fifty United States Think Tanks".
The Mercatus Center was founded by Rich Fink as the Center for the Study of Market Processes at Rutgers University. After the Koch family provided more than thirty million dollars to George Mason University, the Center moved to George Mason in the mid-1980s before assuming its current name in 1999. The Mercatus Center is a 501(c)3 non-profit and does not receive support from George Mason University or any federal, state or local government, but rather is entirely funded through donations, including some from companies like Koch Industries and ExxonMobil, individual donors and foundations. As of 2011, the Center shows that 58% of its funding comes from foundations, 40% from individuals, and 2% from businesses.
The organization describes itself as "the world’s premier university source for market-oriented ideas" that aims to bridge "the gap between academic ideas and real-world problems." By advancing knowledge about how markets can work to improve lives and individual freedoms, by training graduate students, conducting research, and applying economic principles, they hope to offer solutions to society's most pressing problems.
Mercatus has several research and outreach programs: Capitol Hill Campus, the Government Accountability Project, the Regulatory Studies Program, and the Global Prosperity Initiative.
Washington Post columnist Al Kamen has described Mercatus as a "staunchly anti-regulatory center funded largely by Koch Industries Inc." Rob Stein, the Democratic strategist, has called it "ground zero for deregulation policy in Washington.” The Wall Street Journal has called the Mercatus Center "the most important think tank you've never heard of."
In 2012, Mercatus scholar Charles Blahous raised a controversy by releasing a study claiming that, contrary to the official Congressional Budget Office forecast, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) would worsen the federal deficit. The study was generally criticized by supporters of the PPACA. Jeanne Lambrew, deputy assistant to the president for health policy, wrote, "This new math fits the old pattern of mischaracterizations about the Affordable Care Act when official estimates show the health care law reduces the deficit." Despite these criticisms, Blahous defended the findings of his research.
In 2010, the Center collaborated with EconStories to produce a parody rap video about the conflict of ideas between F. A. Hayek and John Maynard Keynes. A sequel, "Fight of the Century", was produced in 2011.
Mercatus organizes an active African research activity, Enterprise Africa!, in cooperation with the Institute of Economic Affairs of the United Kingdom, the Free Market Foundation of South Africa, and the John Templeton Foundation. Mercatus holds that the only sustainable solution to alleviate Africa's seemingly continuous trifecta of serious socioeconomic problems – poverty, famine, and political corruption – is not from year-after-year of monetary aid provided by western governments, but rather from entrepreneurship and development from within Africa, to help destroy the problems from the ground up by supporting African innovators directly.
The Mercatus Center is located on George Mason University's Arlington Campus, and is affiliated with GMU's Economics department. The Provost of George Mason University has the power to appoint a Faculty Director to head up the Mercatus Center.
Board of directors
Members of the Board of Directors include:
- Frank Atkinson, Partner at McGuireWoods
- Tyler Cowen, Professor of Economics at GMU *
- Richard H. Fink, Executive Vice President of Koch Industries
- Manuel H. Johnson, economist
- Charles G. Koch, co-owner, Chairman and CEO of Koch Industries
- Edwin Meese, 75th United States Attorney General (1985–1988)
- Menlo Smith, CEO of the Sunmark Capital Corporation
- Vernon L. Smith, 2002 winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences *
* indicates Mercatus Fellow
Scholars affiliated with the Mercatus Center have published hundreds of journal articles and research papers, with topics including government transparency, subsidies, taxation, regulation, corruption, and Austrian School economics. They have also provided more than 100 testimonies to Congress. Notable studies performed include:
- "Annual Performance Report Scorecard" (2000–2009): Produced by the Mercatus Center’s Government Accountability Project, these publications assess the annual reports released by the 24 federal agencies covered by the Chief Financial Officers Act. The reports, required by the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 are rated for their demonstration of "transparency, public benefits, and leadership." The most recent publication, covering the 2008 fiscal year, ranked the reports from Labor, Veterans Affairs, and Transportation departments as the best, and those from SBA, Defense, and HUD as the worst. Only 13 of the departments' reports received a "satisfactory" score in this 2009 publication, which notes that agencies "whose policy views were evaluated as more liberal . . . seem to score slightly better." 
- "Freedom in the 50 States: An Index of Personal and Economic Freedom" ranks states according to how well they meet the Center's ideals of personal and economic freedom. The 2011 rankings regarded New Hampshire, South Dakota, and Indiana as the freest, and New York, New Jersey, and California as the most restrictive. The 2013 rankings regarded North Dakota, South Dakota, and Tennessee as the freest, and New York, California, and New Jersey as the most restrictive.
Scholars at Mercatus include:
- Charles Blahous
- Peter Boettke
- Donald J. Boudreaux
- Bryan Caplan
- Tyler Cowen
- Christopher Coyne
- Robin Hanson
- Steven Horwitz
- Arnold Kling
- Peter Leeson
- Maurice McTigue
- Russ Roberts
- Alex Tabarrok
- Lawrence H. White
- Bruce Yandle
- Todd Zywicki
- "Charity Rating". Charity Navigator.
- "About Mercatus Center". Mercatus Center.
- James G. McGann (Director) (January 20, 2012). "The Global Go To Think Tank Report, 2011". Retrieved August 18, 2013.
- Mayer, Jane (2010-08-30). "Covert Operations: The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama.". The New Yorker (Condé Nast Publications).
- Kamen, Al (July 12, 2006). "I Am OMB and I Write the Rules". Washington Post. p. A13.
- Exxon secrets Database
- Montgomery, Lori (10 April 2012). "Health-care law will add $340 billion to deficit, new study finds". The Washington Post. Retrieved 10 July 2012.
- Klein, Ezra (10 April 2012). "The bizarre baseline games you need to play to make Obamacare increase the deficit". The Washington Post. Retrieved 10 July 2012.
- Spross, Jeff. "Charles Blahous’ Absurd ‘New Math’ In A Chart". Retrieved 10 July 2012.
- Lambrew, Jeanne. "Official Sources Agree: The Affordable Care Act Reduces the Deficit". The White House Blog. Retrieved 10 July 2012.
- Blahous, Charles (11 April 2012). "Why Obamacare Expands the Deficit: Charles Blahous Rebuts His Critics". Forbes.com. Retrieved 10 July 2012.
- ""Fear the Boom and Bust" a Hayek vs. Keynes Rap Anthem". Retrieved 10 July 2012.
- ""Fight of the Century" Keynes vs Hayek Round 2". Retrieved 10 July 2012.
- Mercatus Center Board of Directors
- "Publications – Congressional Testimony". Mercatus Center.
- "Publications – Scorecard". Mercatus Center.
- "10th Annual Performance Report Scorecard: Which Federal Agencies Best Inform the Public?". Mercatus Center.
- "Freedom in the 50 States: An index of personal and economic freedom". Mercatus Center.
- "Executive Summary, Freedom in the 50 States: Third Edition (2013)". Mercatus Center.
- "All – Scholars | Mercatus". Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Retrieved 24 July 2012.