Niskanen Center

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Niskanen Center
Formation2015; 9 years ago (2015)[1]
HeadquartersWashington, D.C., U.S.
Ted Gayer
Revenue (2021)
Expenses (2021)$4,639,471[2]

The Niskanen Center is an American think tank based in Washington, D.C. that advocates environmentalism, immigration reform, civil liberties, and strengthening social insurance around market-oriented principles.[1][3][4] Named after William A. Niskanen, an economic adviser to Ronald Reagan, it states that its "main audience is Washington insiders",[5] and characterizes itself as moderate.[6] The organization has been credited with fostering bipartisan dialogue and promoting pragmatic solutions to contemporary political challenges on issues such as family benefits, climate change, and criminal justice reform.[7]


The Niskanen Center was founded in early 2015 by Jerry Taylor.[8] At its launch, the center was composed primarily of former staffers of the Cato Institute who departed in the wake of a 2012 leadership struggle pitting Ed Crane against the Koch Brothers for control of the libertarian think tank. Taylor[9] and vice president Joe Coon[10] publicly aligned themselves with Crane during the dispute. Both departed shortly after Crane was replaced by John Allison as Cato's president as part of the settlement with the Kochs.

Funding for the center includes donors who seek to counter libertarian-conservative hostility to measures against global warming. North Carolina businessman Jay Faison, a Republican donor, made an early contribution to the Niskanen Center to spur public climate education[11] but has ceased all ties to the organization in recent years. Other donors include the Open Philanthropy Project, which supports the center's work to expand legal immigration,[12] the Linden Trust for Conservation, which provided the Niskanen Center with a grant "to develop and analyze a potential economy-wide carbon tax",[13] and the Hewlett Foundation, which provided the Center with a $400,000 operations grant.[14]

In May 2022, the organization announced that Ted Gayer, an executive vice president at the Brookings Institution, would serve as the Niskanen's next president.[15] Gayer started in his role on August 1, 2022.

Policy areas[edit]

The Niskanen Center's policy approach combines market-oriented policies with support for a strong welfare state.[16] The organization focuses on a number of distinct areas of public policy including climate change, social insurance policy, healthcare, immigration reform, and civil liberties.[1]

Climate change[edit]

The Niskanen Center advocates the imposition of a global carbon tax for the purpose of offsetting global warming and the effects of climate change.[17] The Center also endorses the understanding of climate change as anthropogenic and believes that government action is a necessary component of mitigating the risks associated with long term sea level rise and extreme weather events associated with climate change.[18]

The Niskanen Center's support for carbon taxation represents a nearly complete reversal of Taylor's previous advocacy at the Cato Institute, where he was a vocal climate change skeptic.[19] Taylor explained his shift in a 2015 interview with Vox, indicating that he had "fundamentally switched" his previous beliefs on the issue after seeing new scientific evidence and the more general strengthening over time of the case for the dangers of climate change, as well as arguments from fellow libertarians about responses to the challenge of climate change that were consistent with, and even required by, a libertarian political stance.[20][21]

In November 2015 the Niskanen Center announced the founding of a new Center for Climate Science under the direction of Dr. Joseph Majkut, a climatologist who previously served on the staff of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).[22]


Niskanen Center's Kristie De Peña moderates a panel discussing the benefits of expanding the U.S. refugee resettlement program on September 20, 2018.

The Niskanen Center has argued that the United States best safeguards its national identity and global leadership by welcoming those refugees and other immigrants. Since then, Niskanen has hosted two Hill events focusing on the practical benefits of refugee resettlement to the U.S.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "About". Niskanen Center. Retrieved December 8, 2015.
  2. ^ a b "The Niskanen Center 2021 Annual Report" (PDF). Niskanen Center. Retrieved April 11, 2021.
  3. ^ O'Connor, Patrick (January 29, 2015). "Libertarian Group Aims to Influence Immigration, Climate-Change Policies". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved December 8, 2015.
  4. ^ Young, Richard C. (January 30, 2015). "Breaking News: A New Libertarian Think Tank". Retrieved December 10, 2015.
  5. ^ "Announcing the Niskanen Center Summer 2016 Internship Program - Niskanen Center". February 2, 2016. Retrieved December 20, 2017.
  6. ^ Lindsey, Brink (December 18, 2018). "The Center Can Hold: Public Policy for an Age of Extremes". Niskanen Center.
  7. ^ Ball, Molly (March 7, 2023). "The The Most Interesting Think Tank In American Politics". Time.
  8. ^ "Niskanen Center, New Libertarian Think Tank, Launches with Focus on Congressional Action". (Press release). Retrieved December 20, 2017.
  9. ^ "Jerry Taylor". Koch v. Cato.
  10. ^ "Joey Coon". Koch v. Cato.
  11. ^ Mooney, Chris (June 10, 2015). "This businessman thinks he can change the GOP's mind on climate change". Washington Post. Retrieved January 16, 2016.
  12. ^ "Niskanen Immigration Policy Grant | GiveWell". GiveWell. Retrieved January 21, 2016.
  13. ^ "Recent Grants (archived from May 2015)". Lawrence Linden Trust for Conservation. Archived from the original on May 3, 2015. Retrieved January 16, 2016.
  14. ^ "Grants". Retrieved December 20, 2017.
  15. ^ "Press Release: Niskanen welcomes Ted Gayer as new President". Niskanen Center. May 31, 2022. Retrieved August 1, 2022.
  16. ^ "A New Center Being Born". The New York Times. December 20, 2018. Retrieved March 27, 2023.
  17. ^ Taylor, Jerry. "The Conservative Case for a Carbon Tax" (PDF). Niskanen Center. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 19, 2017. Retrieved December 19, 2015.
  18. ^ "Libertarian Principles & Climate Change". Niskanen Center. April 6, 2015. Retrieved December 10, 2015.
  19. ^ "Stossel – Global Climate Change". YouTube. December 10, 2009.
  20. ^ Roberts, David (May 12, 2015). "The arguments that convinced a libertarian to support aggressive action on climate". Vox. Retrieved December 18, 2015.
  21. ^ Pope, Carl (April 29, 2015). "Let the Dialogue Resume!". Huffington Post. Retrieved December 10, 2015.
  22. ^ Geman, Ben (December 1, 2015). "Conservative-to-Conservative Outreach Heats Up Climate-Science Debate". National Journal. Retrieved January 16, 2016.
  23. ^ "Refugee Resettlement Programs, Part 1 |". Retrieved November 14, 2019.

External links[edit]