Last September, George Monbiot published his article “Think of a Tank”, in which he sought information from fifteen so-called Think Tanks on the sources of their funding. Eleven of these were right-leaning organisations: almost all scored badly on their responses. To show that matters have not changed of late, the website Who Funds You has conducted a similar survey, with all too similar results.
Yes, it's them again
Three of the organisations contacted refused to give any information, and two of those, predictably, were the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), which demands transparency of others while failing to practise it itself, and the Adam Smith Institute (ASI) , that well known museum of outdated economic thought that has fraudulently appropriated the name of the founder of economics.
And, as has been pointed out by Adam Bell, this flies in the face of Public Choice Theory: “It rests upon the key insight that incentives apply to the people that comprise Government and the interest groups that attempt to lobby them – not just markets. These incentives can lead to ‘Government Failure’ – regulation or Government action which fails to produce the outcomes it was ostensibly intended to deliver. This can be down to incentives on particular politicians or the corrosive influence of interest groups attempting to capture political action for their own cause”.
The definitive paper on Public Choice Theory was written by one Eamonn Butler, who is, to no surprise at all, director of ... the ASI! So some incentives, to mix Bell with Orwell, are more transparent than others. And Butler is a hypocrite.
That groups like the ASI and TPA are “attempting to capture political action for their own cause” is clear from the steady stream of supposedly learned research that pours out of them: in the case of the latter, as I’ve pointed out many times previously, this is generally slanted to suit a conclusion already written. TPA output is usually littered with logic leaps, false assumptions and a seasoning of dishonesty.
Moreover, we don’t even know the nationality of the funding sources for these groups. The total silence on the subject means that any individual, corporation or pressure group anywhere in the world could be pouring money into the likes of the TPA. And that does not auger well for the health of democracy in the UK: Government subject to external “incentives” is no longer “for the people”.
So how have these groups responded? The ASI’s Tim Worstall, trying not to splutter into his Super Bock, took to Telegraph Blogs to explain that he was a “senior fellow” there, and that readers should trust him that ideological purity and intellectual rigour always trump crude monetary considerations. Sorry Mr W, but without a reliable citation for that, I have to call bullshit.
Those who seek influence should be accountable. Your director says so.