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Adam Smith Institute

The book that tells you how to start a think tank

I was co-founder of the Adam Smith Institute in 1977, set up to research policy initiatives to solve Britain’s long standing economic and social problems. It was named after the Scottish Enlightenment thinker, Adam Smith (1723-1790), whose Wealth of Nations (1776) founded modern economics. We established it to provide a creative counterpart to Public Choice Theory, which taught why some policies are thwarted by bureaucrats and legislators acting in their own interest. We sought policies in the ASI that would circumvent the opposition of vested interest groups to necessary reforms.

From privatization in the late 1970s and early 1980s, internal markets in public services in the mid 1980s, flat tax in 2004, to our advocacy of the Swedish school system in the present day, the ASI has consistently advocated the expansion of choice, market opportunities, deregulation and lower taxes. We have always combined this with a philosophical commitment to libertarianism, believing that individuals and families often know more than governments do about what is best for them.

As President of the Adam Smith Institute I have authored many papers and books, with Economics Made Simple and Think Tank among the most recent. I also authored books with other publishers, including Micropolitics and Privatization. I frequently appear on radio and television, and write articles for national newspapers and magazines. I speak at conferences on ASI policy proposals and often appear as a media commentator on free market and libertarian positions.

Each year the ASI dramatizes Britain’s tax burden by calculating Tax Freedom Day – the day of the year on which we finish paying for the government and start earning for ourselves. In 2008 we unveiled a huge bronze statue of Adam Smith in Edinburgh’s Royal Mile (organized by my colleague and many times co-author, Dr Eamonn Butler).

We were the first UK think tank to embrace the internet with a website and then a blog. Both are hugely popular, with thousands of readers a day and millions in a year. Tens of thousands subscribe to our on-line briefings.

The Institute also does a full range of seminars, parliamentary breakfast briefings, evening lectures, and our famous Power Lunches for decision makers.

As part of our youth outreach programme, I address many school audiences in a year, speak at the Independent Seminar on the Open Society, the ASI’s twice-yearly seminar for 200 sixth-formers, and attend the monthly meetings of the ASI’s highly successful group, The Next Generation, for 16-33 year-olds.


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  1. […] Madsen Pirie himself is still, as of now, pushing this book suggests that I may yet be contributing something to its still-in-progress sales campaign. As I […]

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