Independent Institute

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Not to be confused with the Independence Institute, a conservative think-tank based in Golden, Colorado.
Independent Institute
The logo of the Independent Institute.png
Motto The Power of Independent Thinking
Founder(s) David J. Theroux
Established 1986
Focus Public policy, libertarianism, classical liberalism
President & CEO David J. Theroux
Faculty 10
Adjunct faculty 249
Staff 21
Budget Revenue: $2,775,869
Expenses: $2,521,584
(FYE June 2014)[1]
Address 100 Swan Way, Oakland, CA 94621-1428

The Independent Institute is an American libertarian conservative think tank based in Oakland, California.[2] Its stated mission is "to boldly advance peaceful, prosperous, and free societies, grounded in a commitment to human worth and dignity."[3] Founded in 1986 by David J. Theroux,[4] the Institute focuses on political, social, economic, legal, environmental and foreign policy issues. It has more than 140 research fellows. The Institute was originally established in San Francisco, was re-located in 1989 to Oakland, and since 2006, has had an office in Washington, D.C. The Institute is organized into seven centers addressing a range of issues. According to the 2014 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report (Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program, University of Pennsylvania), the Institute is ranked number 54 (of 60) in the "Top Think Tanks in the United States".[5]

Publications and programs[edit]

The results of the Institute's work are published as books and other publications and form the basis for conferences and media programs. Since 1996, the Institute has published the quarterly, scholarly journal, The Independent Review,[6] whose Founding Editor and Editor at Large is the economist and historian Robert Higgs and Co-Editors are Christopher Coyne, Michael Munger, and Robert Whaples (Wake Forest University). The Independent Review is peer-reviewed and includes articles in economics, political science, law, history, philosophy and sociology.[7]

Articles on the Institute's findings are published in newspapers, magazines and journals, and its fellows appear on various television and radio programs.[8] In addition, the Institute conducts conference programs for scholars, business leaders, the media, policy makers and the general public. The Institute's Independent Policy Forum includes seminars by historians and economists including James M. Buchanan,[9] legal scholars, foreign policy experts, criminologists, authors of such disparate personality and political temperament as Gore Vidal[10] and P. J. O'Rourke,[11] human rights leaders, scientists, jurists, journalists, and business leaders.[12][13][14][15]

Its program in criminal justice sponsored a series of televised debates on PBS-TV, Stopping Violent Crime: New Directions for Reduction and Prevention, moderated by Harvard law professor Arthur R. Miller, and former U.S. Attorney General Richard Thornburgh, Federal Judge David Sentelle, civil libertarian writer Wendy Kaminer, and others.[16]

In 2006 the Institute opened an office in Washington and expanded its media program, including a weekly column by Senior Fellow Álvaro Vargas Llosa in the Washington Post.[citation needed] In 2006 the Institute released an Open Letter on Immigration,[17] signed by more than 500 economists, including five Nobel laureates, and received editorial endorsements in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

In 2010, the Institute began a satellite website which features the headline "What is government spending costing you?". The site includes a calculator which asks for visitors' education, income, and age, and then calculates the person's share of government spending and debt for the current year, as well as for the person's remaining projected lifespan. The site also features a blog with news and analysis of examples of government waste, mismanagement, and fiscal irresponsibility.[18]

The Institute operates programs for students, including an essay contest for college students, summer seminars for high school and college students, student internships, and tuition assistance for disadvantaged families to send their children to private schools (Independent Scholarship Fund).[19]

Climate change[edit]

The Independent Institute has published works by S. Fred Singer, a research fellow of the Institute.[20] The works include Hot Talk, Cold Science: Climate Change's Unfinished Debate, a 2009 attempt to rebut climate change policies. It was co-authored with Frederick Seitz, another research fellow of the Institute.[21] The book included Singer's 2004 essay, "The Scientific Case against the Global Climate Treaty".[22] The Institute also published a 2003 policy report, “New Perspectives in Climate Change: What the EPA Isn't Telling Us”, by Singer.[23] That report criticized the EPA's 2001 Climate Action Report.


For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2014, the Institute had total revenue of $2,775,869.[1] From 2007 to 2011 the Institute took in $12,249,065 from gifts, grants, contributions, and membership fees; and $536,747 in gross income from interest, dividends, payments received on securities loans, rents, royalties, and income from similar sources.[24]

Microsoft funding controversy[edit]

On June 2, 1999, the Institute sponsored a full-page advertisement titled Open Letter on Antitrust Protectionism in the Washington Post and the New York Times. The ads were signed by 240 economists and claimed "headline-grabbing cases against Microsoft, Intel, Cisco Systems, Visa and MasterCard, along with a flurry of merger investigations now under way, would appear to demonstrate the need for a vigorously enforced antitrust policy that will create checks and balances to eliminate consumer harm. However, consumers did not ask for these antitrust actions—rival business firms did."[25]

In September 1999, a controversy arose when New York Times reporter Joel Brinkley stated that the advertisements had been paid for by Microsoft. Based on internal Independent Institute documents "provided to the New York Times by a Microsoft adversary associated with the computer industry who refused to be further identified", Brinkley wrote that Microsoft "has secretly served as the institute's largest outside financial benefactor in the last year." Independent Institute internal documents showed that Microsoft had contributed $203,217 in 1999, making it the single largest contributor. Brinkley calculated that Microsoft's contribution amounted to approximately 20% of the funds in 1999 from external sources, excluding $304,725 contributed by Theroux.[26]

The day after Brinkley's article appeared, Theroux stated that "our final year-end records do not agree with the numbers he had been provided by his source" and claimed that at the media conference he had stated that the Microsoft funding amounted to 7%. "It now appears the final figure is about 8%, a statistically insignificant difference, and far less than the 20% figure Mr. Brinkley claimed in his article," said Theroux.[27]

In June 2000, Wall Street Journal staff reporters Glenn Simpson and Ted Bridis revealed that Oracle had hired Investigative Group International, as well as Chlopak, Leonard, Schechter & Associates, a Washington, D.C., public-relations agency, to distribute damaging information about Microsoft's allies to media outlets. Oracle admitted that this was the "Microsoft adversary associated with the computer industry who refused to be further identified," which was the sole source for Brinkley's article.[28]


  1. ^ a b "Form 990" (PDF). Independent Institute. 30 June 2014. Retrieved 29 September 2015. 
  2. ^ Christopher Cadelago and David Garrick (June 22, 2013). "Merit raises: next public employee front?". San Diego Union-Tribune. p. 2. Retrieved 27 June 2013. 
  3. ^ "About The Independent Institute". its website's "About Us" page, 2nd paragraph. The Independent Institute. 
  4. ^ "Factsheet: David J. Theroux". Exxon Secrets. 
  5. ^ James G. McGann (Director) (February 4, 2015). "2014 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report". Retrieved February 14, 2015. 
  6. ^ ISSN 1086-1653; OCLC 33958358
  7. ^ "The Independent Review, A Journal of Political Economy". Retrieved 27 June 2013. 
  8. ^ "Multimedia Archive of TV appearances". Retrieved 1 July 2013. 
  9. ^ "National Dinner to Honor James M. Buchanan". 29 October 1987. Retrieved 1 July 2013. 
  10. ^ "Transcript: Understanding America’s Terrorist Crisis". 18 April 2002. Retrieved 1 July 2013. 
  11. ^ "Transcript: P.J. O’Rourke "On the Wealth of Nations"". 9 February 2007. Retrieved 1 July 2013. 
  12. ^ "The Information Revolution and the New Global Market Economy". San Francisco, CA. 25 January 1993. Retrieved 1 July 2013. 
  13. ^ "Innovation, Entrepreneurship and the Global Marketplace". San Francisco, CA. 21 April 2004. Retrieved 1 July 2013. 
  14. ^ "Dinner to Honor Sir John Marks Templeton". San Francisco, CA. 1 October 1998. Retrieved 1 July 2013. 
  15. ^ "Entrepreneurship and the High Technology Revolution: Honoring David Packard". San Francisco, CA. 8 June 1995. Retrieved 1 July 2013. 
  16. ^ Miller, Arthur R. (2003). Stopping violent crime new directions for reduction & prevention. Oakland, CA: Independent Institute. p. 35. ISBN 978-094-599-994-2. Televised Debate on “Stopping Violent Crime: New Directions for Reduction and Prevention” sponsored by the Independent Institute, the Koch Crime Commission, and Washburn University (one of twelve invited participants). 
  17. ^ Editor, WSJ; July (May 19, 2006). "Open Letter on Immigration". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on 2007. Retrieved 6 February 2013. ...some 150 economists from the left and the right have electronically signed a letter to President Bush and Congress stating that immigration is a net gain for America and that only a small percentage of native-born Americans in low-skilled jobs may be harmed by it. The letter, bouncing around the Internet, was written by Alex Tabarrok, research director at The Independent Institute... 
  18. ^ "". The Independent Institute. Retrieved 26 June 2013. 
  19. ^ "Student Programs: The Independent Institute". Retrieved 27 June 2013. 
  20. ^ James Hoggan; Richard Littlemore (2009). Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming. Greystone Books Ltd. p. 80. ISBN 978-1-55365-485-8. 
  21. ^ United States. Congress. House. Committee on Science and Technology (2007). Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight (2007). Shaping the message, distorting the science: media strategies to influence science policy: hearing before the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, Committee on Science and Technology, House of Representatives, One Hundred Tenth Congress, first session, March 28, 2007. U.S. G.P.O. p. 32. 
  22. ^ Laura E. Huggins; Hanna Skandera (2004). Population puzzle: boom or bust?. Hoover Institution Press. p. 401. ISBN 978-0-8179-4532-9. 
  23. ^ S. Fred Singer (July 2003). "New Perspectives in Climate Change: What the EPA Isn't Telling Us" (PDF). The Independent Institute. p. 2. Together, these studies increasingly integrate the notion that climate change will be modest and easily adapted by free and vibrant economies. 
  24. ^ "Independent Institute Finances". Retrieved 2 July 2013. 
  25. ^ "An Open Letter to President Clinton from 240 Economists on Antitrust Protectionism" (PDF). 2 June 1999. Retrieved 2 July 2013. 
  26. ^ Joel Brinkley (September 18, 1999). "'Unbiased' Ads for Microsoft Came at a Price". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 February 2013. 
  27. ^ Theroux, David J. (September 19, 1999). "Winners, Losers & Microsoft Strikes a Sensitive Nerve". The Independent Institute. Retrieved 6 February 2013. 
  28. ^ Glenn R. Simpson and Ted Bridis, Oracle Admits It Hired Agency To Investigate Allies of Microsoft, Wall Street Journal, Updated June 28, 2000.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 37°43′55″N 122°12′18″W / 37.7319°N 122.2050°W / 37.7319; -122.2050