Mercatus Center

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Mercatus Center
Mercatus logo.png
Founder(s) Richard H. Fink
Established 1980
Director Tyler Cowen
Budget Revenue: $23,977,583
Expenses: $19,205,513
(FYE August 2015)[1]
Formerly called Center for the Study of Market Processes
Coordinates 38°53′09″N 77°06′06″W / 38.8857°N 77.1018°W / 38.8857; -77.1018Coordinates: 38°53′09″N 77°06′06″W / 38.8857°N 77.1018°W / 38.8857; -77.1018

3434 Washington Blvd., 4th Floor

Arlington, Virginia 22201

The Mercatus Center at George Mason University is an American non-profit free-market-oriented research, education, and outreach think tank directed by Tyler Cowen. It works with policy experts, lobbyists, and government officials to connect academic learning and real-world practice. Taking its name from the Latin word for "markets", the Center advocates free-market approaches to public policy. During the George W. Bush administration's campaign to reduce government regulation, the Wall Street Journal reported, "14 of the 23 rules the White House chose for its "hit list" to eliminate or modify were Mercatus entries."[2]

According to the 2014 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report (Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program, University of Pennsylvania), Mercatus is number 44 (of 60) in the "Top Think Tanks in the United States" and number 19 (of 45) of the "Best University Affiliated Think Tanks".[3]


The Mercatus Center was founded by Rich Fink as the Center for the Study of Market Processes at Rutgers University. After the Koch family gave more than $30 million to George Mason University,[4] the Center moved there in the mid-1980s. It took its current name in 1999.[4]

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 governments. It is entirely funded through donations, including corporate donations from Koch Industries[5][better source needed] and ExxonMobil.[6][better source needed] In 2011, 58% of its funding came from foundations, 40% from individuals, and 2% from businesses.[7]


The organization describes itself as "the world’s premier university source for market-oriented ideas" and says it aims to bridge "the gap between academic ideas and real-world problems."[4] 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.

Media/political comments[edit]

Rob Stein, the Democratic strategist, has called Mercatus "ground zero for deregulation policy in Washington.”[4] The Wall Street Journal has called the Mercatus Center "the most important think tank you've never heard of."[4]


In 2012, Mercatus scholar Charles Blahous released a study saying that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) would worsen the federal deficit, contrary to the official Congressional Budget Office forecast.[8] The study was generally criticized by supporters of the PPACA.[9][10] 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."[11] Blahous defended the findings of his research.[12]

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.[13] A sequel, "Fight of the Century", was produced in 2011.[14]

In 2001, the Office of Management and Budget asked for public input on which regulations should be revised or killed. Mercatus submitted 44 of the 71 proposals the OMB received.[5]

Mercatus organizes an African research activity, Enterprise Africa!, 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 monetary aid from western governments, but from entrepreneurship and development from within Africa.[citation needed]

Organizational structure[edit]

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 the Mercatus Center.

Board of directors[edit]

Members of the Board of Directors include:[15]


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.[16] Notable studies performed include:

  • "Annual Performance Report Scorecard" (2000–2009):[17] 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."[18] 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." [18]
  • "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.[19] The 2013 rankings regarded North Dakota, South Dakota, and Tennessee as the freest, and New York, California, and New Jersey as the most restrictive.[20]


Notable scholars at Mercatus include:[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "IRS Form 990 2015". GuideStar. Retrieved 18 July 2016. 
  2. ^ Bob Davis, "In Washington, Tiny Think Tank Wields Big Stick on Regulation," July 16, 2004. Accessed July 9, 2014.
  3. ^ James G. McGann (Director) (February 4, 2015). "2014 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report". Retrieved February 14, 2015.  Other "Top Think Tank" rankings include #27 (of 65) for Best Managed Think Tanks, #36 (of 60) for Best Use of Social Networks, and #17 (of 80) of Think Tanks to Watch.
  4. ^ a b c d e Mayer, Jane (2010-08-30). "Covert Operations: The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama.". The New Yorker. Condé Nast Publications. 
  5. ^ a b Kamen, Al (July 12, 2006). "I Am OMB and I Write the Rules". Washington Post. p. A13. 
  6. ^ Exxon secrets Database
  7. ^ "About Mercatus Center". Mercatus Center. 
  8. ^ Montgomery, Lori (10 April 2012). "Health-care law will add $340 billion to deficit, new study finds". The Washington Post. Retrieved 10 July 2012. 
  9. ^ 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. 
  10. ^ Spross, Jeff. "Charles Blahous' Absurd 'New Math' In A Chart". Retrieved 10 July 2012. 
  11. ^ Lambrew, Jeanne. "Official Sources Agree: The Affordable Care Act Reduces the Deficit". The White House Blog. Retrieved 10 July 2012. 
  12. ^ Blahous, Charles (11 April 2012). "Why Obamacare Expands the Deficit: Charles Blahous Rebuts His Critics". Retrieved 10 July 2012. 
  13. ^ ""Fear the Boom and Bust" a Hayek vs. Keynes Rap Anthem". Retrieved 10 July 2012. 
  14. ^ ""Fight of the Century" Keynes vs Hayek Round 2". Retrieved 10 July 2012. 
  15. ^ Mercatus Center Board of Directors
  16. ^ "Publications – Congressional Testimony". Mercatus Center. 
  17. ^ "Publications – Scorecard". Mercatus Center. 
  18. ^ a b "10th Annual Performance Report Scorecard: Which Federal Agencies Best Inform the Public?". Mercatus Center. 
  19. ^ "Freedom in the 50 States: An index of personal and economic freedom" (PDF). Mercatus Center. 
  20. ^ "Executive Summary, Freedom in the 50 States: Third Edition (2013)" (PDF). Mercatus Center. 
  21. ^ "All – Scholars | Mercatus". Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Retrieved 24 July 2012. 

External links[edit]