Gov Accountability

2022 Templeton Freedom Award Finalist Spotlight: Adam Smith Institute

Adam Smith

When COVID-19 reached the United Kingdom and the government began to lock down the country, Adam Smith Institute (ASI) mobilized to ensure those lockdown policies were both wise and respectful of human freedom. Coordinating with partners in the U.K. and around the world, the Institute worked tirelessly to identify errors in policy that needlessly limited individual rights with little public health benefit. They encouraged the government to lighten quarantine requirements for twice-vaccinated individuals, advanced market-based reforms to speed the pandemic response and save thousands of lives, and fought to prevent a National Health Service monopoly over testing and vaccine distribution by involving multiple public and private organizations. Adam Smith Institute’s efforts protected essential rights and led to a more prudent policy response across the United Kingdom.

“Being nominated for the Atlas Templeton Award means so much to an organization like ours," said Morgan Schondelmeier, director of operations at Adam Smith Institute. "As a small, passionate group of young people just trying to make a difference, being recognized by the giants of the free market think tank movement is a testament that even when we might think a challenge is too big, or a policy too out there, with the right people, right approach, and right timing, we can all further the cause for freedom.”

Through their “Locking Down the Right Policy Response” initiative, London-based Adam Smith Institute helped inform the U.K.’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic from beginning to end. When it first became clear that the virus was going to be a long-term problem, the institute shifted most of its focus to pandemic-related research and advocacy. Their efforts reached millions of everyday people, as well as influential policymakers, through an impressive media campaign. They have produced 11 research reports on specific policy recommendations, over 50 webinars, and nearly 100 podcast episodes.

The United Kingdom quickly resorted to sweeping lockdown policies early in the pandemic. These effectively shut down or seriously hindered the operation of many businesses, especially those in the hospitality and food service industries. ASI convinced policymakers to more carefully tailor their lockdown approach to avoid an unnecessary impact on individual freedoms. As a result, businesses were allowed to innovate ways of operating without additional licenses or permissions, such as offering outdoor or takeout service.

The government also instituted an app-based contact tracker, which would prompt people to quarantine if they had been in contact with someone who had tested positive for COVID-19. The app had an unacceptably high rate of false positives, however, forcing people to quarantine even when they had simply passed someone on the street or even been on the opposite side of a wall from them. It did not even account for vaccination status. This crippled the economy and seriously curtailed individual rights by forcing millions of people to stay home. Adam Smith Institute released their research to the media, and it made an immediate splash. Policymakers took a serious look at rules and quickly issued revisions, including updated guidelines for fully vaccinated adults and minors, as well as slashing the back-dating of interactions that required a quarantine.

One of the institute’s most important contributions to the pandemic response was to successfully argue against a National Health Service monopoly over the vaccine rollout. The NHS pushed hard to have sole jurisdiction over the distribution and administration of vaccines, but Adam Smith Institute recognized that a monopoly could lead to a lethally slow-moving operation. Thanks to ASI’s efforts, the vaccine rollout was a public-private partnership, involving not only the NHS, but the military and myriad private clubs and organizations. As a result, the U.K. had the fastest rollout of any nation in Europe or the G7, saving an estimated 100,000 lives.

Adam Smith Institute’s commitment to measured policy responses and protecting individual rights paid dividends throughout the pandemic, and will continue to do so as the U.K. and the world emerge from the pandemic.

About Adam Smith Institute:
The Adam Smith Institute is an independent, non-profit and non-partisan think tank that works to promote free market, neoliberal ideas through research, publishing, media outreach, and education. The Institute is at the forefront of making the case for free markets and a free society in the United Kingdom.

About the Templeton Freedom Award:
Named for the late investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton, the Templeton Freedom Award has annually honored his legacy. Since 2004, the Award has identified and recognized the most exceptional and innovative contributions to the understanding of free enterprise, and the public policies that encourage prosperity, innovation, and human fulfillment via free competition. The Templeton Freedom Award is generously supported by the Templeton Religion Trust and will be presented during Atlas Network's Freedom Dinner on November 17 in New York City. The winning organization will receive a US$100,000 prize, and all other finalists will receive US$20,000 prizes. Find out more about the award HERE.

See the related articles below to learn more about the other 2022 Templeton Freedom Award finalists.