Organizations from Argentina, Croatia, Egypt, U.S. named finalists for 2018 Templeton Freedom Award

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Awarded since 2004 the Templeton Freedom Award is named for the late investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton. The award annually honors his legacy by identifying and recognizing 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 winning organization receives a one hundred thousand dollar prize and the runners-up each receive twenty-five thousand dollars. The award is generously supported by Templeton Religion Trust, and is presented during Atlas Network’s Liberty Forum and Freedom Dinner in New York City.

Here are the 2018 finalists:

The Buckeye Institute (Columbus, Ohio)
"Increasing Safety, Liberty, and Justice: Comprehensive Criminal Justice Reform in Ohio"

In a May 2017 panel on criminal justice reform in Ohio, Buckeye Institute President and CEO Robert Alt (seated far right) speaks with Holly Harris, executive director of Justice Action Network (seated far left), Gary Mohr, director of the Ohio Department of Rehabiliation and Correction (left), and Maurice Clarett (right), former national champion Ohio State University running back who, after being convicted, turned his life around and has become a nationally-recognized advocate for criminal justice reform.

Too often, lives are defined by a single mistake. This is a story about human compassion, redemption, and commonsense solutions to complex public policy issues. It is a story about changing outdated, unjust, and arbitrary laws at the state level. The Buckeye Institute is endeavoring to fix a broken criminal justice system, law by law. And it is succeeding. This small think tank in Ohio has been relentless in its quest to protect the rights of the accused and to save Ohio taxpayers millions of dollars. Buckeye’s efforts have blazed a trail to reverse Ohio’s growth trend in incarceration—by shrinking the state’s prison population to below 50,000, dramatically slashing the recidivism rate from 40 to 27 percent, reducing prison admissions by nearly 10 percent, expanding opportunities for thousands of people leaving prison, and redirecting $40 million dollars to Ohio communities for the treatment of addiction and mental health issues. As a result, Ohio’s prison admissions rate has now hit a 27-year low. The Buckeye Institute’s innovative policy victories are ensuring that prosperity and opportunity are available to all Ohioans, who are now much freer and less likely to become inadvertently ensnared by the criminal justice system.

The Commonwealth Foundation (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania)
"A Titanic Shift: Pension Reform in Pennsylvania"

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In June 2017, the Pennsylvania House and Senate, in an overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion, passed transformative pension reform. Gov. Wolf signs the bill into law in the photo above. Ten years ago, many denied a pension crisis existed, and just two years ago Gov. Wolf vetoed pension reform. The Commonwealth Foundation’s relentless advocacy led to this historic policy change, which Pew Charitable Trusts called 'one of the most—if not the most—comprehensive and impactful reforms any state has implemented.

Pennsylvania was sprinting toward financial meltdown with its unfunded pension liabilities and its state lawmakers apathetic to do anything about it. That was until a small think tank sounded the alarm in 2005. The Commonwealth Foundation, or CF, published the seminal report, “Beneath the Surface,” which kicked off what would become a 12-year effort to avert the crisis. CF created a statewide campaign encompassing research, public awareness and marketing, and effective advocacy to advance pension reform. Its staff worked closely with state lawmakers to craft the legislation and garner support. And despite intense opposition from government unions and Pennsylvania's Governor Tom Wolf, CF scored a major victory for the people of Pennsylvania when the state finally passed a comprehensive pension reform bill into law in 2017. This reversed the growth trend of unfunded liabilities, which had grown by 730 percent from 2006 to 2016. Now Pennsylvania is holding the line against future risk to the state’s taxpayers, with a projected savings of $5 to $30 billion over the next 30 years. This is a case study of a state-based public policy group demanding better outcomes for its fellow citizens, and after a decade’s worth of work, it delivered.

The Egyptian Center for Public Policy Studies (Cairo, Egypt)
"Better Budget for a Better Egypt: Increasing budget transparency and citizen inclusion in the budgeting process"

ECPPS Advocacy Team Member Mai Sami trains NGO staffers from different governorates of Egypt about citizen participation in Egypt's budget as part of the organization's wider effort to increase civic engagement in Egypt's budgeting process, in which it developed the "Citizen Participation in the Budget Report." Egypt's score on the Open Budget Index increased 25 points from 16 to 41 in 2017, thanks in large part to the ECPPS' work to create a better budget for a better Egypt.

After the dust settled following the Arab Spring in 2011, Egypt’s score fell dramatically on the Open Budget Index, which measures government transparency and citizen engagement in the budget-making process. Seeking a more transparent and accountable state, the Egyptian Center for Public Policy Studies, or ECPPS, developed a program to tackle three longstanding problems in Egypt’s budgeting process, which were: a lack of transparency; limited citizen inclusion in the budget-making process; and out-of-control energy subsidies, which accounted for a third of all government expenditures. After four years on the project partnering with various stakeholders and the Ministry of Finance to address each issue, Egypt’s score on the Open Budget Index increased 25 points from 16 to 41 in 2017, citizen participation in the budget exists for the first time, and the Egyptian government announced that it will cut all energy subsidies after 2019. At a time when budgeting reform in Egypt seemed politically impossible, ECPPS helped make it politically inevitable. And at the end of the day, this project means greater government transparency, better civic engagement, and more opportunities for civil society to have a voice in Egypt.

Libertad y Progreso (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
"Downsizing of Argentina’s Government"

The team at Libertad y Progreso meet around the conference room table at its Buenos Aires offices. The team developed a massive org-chart of the government of Argentina and affixed it under the glass of the table to serve as practical tool and daily reminder of what they are up against with its campaign to downsize the country's government.

A little over a century ago, Argentina was one of the world’s wealthiest nations. Yet decade after decade of economic mismanagement and a ballooning state has tanked its economy and ingrained a culture in which Argentines view their government as a benevolent provider of prosperity—even as 28 percent of the country lives below the poverty line, taxes on private firms are the second highest in the world, and public spending clocks in at 44 percent of GDP. Enter Libertad y Progreso, which set out to show the real nature of government with “Downsizing of Argentina’s Government,” a massive education, awareness, and advocacy campaign that addressed issues of nepotism, government waste, and public political apathy. Libertad y Progreso’s research, media presence, and social activism resulted in the Macri administration’s adoption of a series of reforms, including a Modernization Agreement, to reduce the size of the Leviathan state. While Argentina faces ongoing challenges, borne from years of economic mismanagement, Libertad y Progreso's important work is popularizing the understanding that lasting prosperity requires self-reliance, not government intervention.

Lipa — Taxpayers Association (Zagreb, Croatia)
"Campaign against the introduction of the property tax in Croatia"

The Lipa team in action during their campagin against the introduction of the property tax in Croatia on Cvjetni square (Flower square) in Zagreb.

With Croatia’s population declining for decades, its government ought to pursue policies that encourage growth. Instead, it pursued a policy that threatened to further push Croatians out with the 2017 passage of a tax on privately-owned property—and since 90 percent of Croatians own their own homes, the new tax threatened to hurt the rich and poor alike. Lipa Taxpayers Association refused to stand by and allow this property tax to hit an already troubled economy, so it enlisted one of the country’s most influential economists and launched an award-winning campaign against the tax, emphasizing Croatia’s already crippling tax burden. Its efforts turned public opinion sharply against the tax in a matter of months, resulting in over 146,000 petition signatures, media coverage in more than 100 news outlets, and a full repeal of the property tax. Following the repeal, public opposition to taxes has remained high, with the government unable to introduce any new taxes since. And while Croatians may still be overtaxed, they are grateful that Lipa’s success means they won’t be sending payments to the government just to live in their own homes.

The Mercatus Center at George Mason University (Arlington, Virginia)
"Unleashing Prosperity by Cutting State Regulations"

The term “burdensome regulations” under-communicates just how harmful their impact can be. Ever-growing regulatory codes pose a very tangible and acutely felt burden on the lives of real people. They are the ones who feel the pain the most from a seemingly ever-growing Leviathan state. Enter the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, which saw an opportunity to change this ongoing problem using its ground-breaking RegData software to paint a clear picture of how reducing state-level regulations can have a measurable improvement on economic growth. RegData’s “snapshots” of the regulatory codes of 34 states show the real-world effects of how regulations shape economic growth. These snapshots give states a way forward to reduce their regulatory burdens and make a meaningful difference in their citizens’ lives. Kentucky, for example, partnered directly with Mercatus for its regulatory reform initiative. As of August 2018, the state has reviewed over 2,300 regulations, repealed 453 of them, amended an additional 424, and identified hundreds more for future action. So far, Mercatus’s RegData snapshots have reduced red tape in seven states—and more are in progress. These red tape reductions represent an opportunity for economic growth, new job prospects, and overall more prosperity and opportunity for all.

The winner of the 2018 Templeton Freedom Award will be announced on stage at Liberty Forum & Freedom Dinner, Nov. 7–8 in New York City.