2017 Templeton Freedom Award winners and finalists

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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 winner is awarded $100,000 and the other finalists are awarded $25,000. The award, generously supported by the Templeton Religion Trust, is presented annual during Atlas Network's Liberty Forum & Freedom Dinner. Here are the past winners and finalists:

2017 Templeton Freedom Award Finalists

2017 Finalist: Beacon Center of Tennessee (Nashville, Tennessee)

Project: Tackle the Hall Income Tax

Overview: For decades, Tennessee has claimed to be an income tax-free state, and for decades, this has been a lie. Despite a constitutional amendment banning income taxes, Tennessee continued to tax income gained through investment with its “Hall Tax.” But last year, the Beacon Center of Tennessee fought back with a comprehensive public awareness and digital advertising campaign “Tackle the Hall Tax.” The Beacon Center’s relentless advocacy culminated in a full repeal of the Hall Tax, and Tennessee is now only the second state in history to fully repeal an income tax. Tennessee taxpayers are projected to save over $300 million dollars per year, and now, as a truly income tax-free state, Tennessee can rightfully be counted as a beacon for economic freedom. Read more here.

2017 Finalist: Georgia Center for Opportunity (Norcross, Georgia)

Project: Prisoner Reentry Initiative

Overview: Approximately 1 in 13 Georgians are under some form of correctional supervision – the highest rate in the country. The Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO) tackled this disturbing trend head-on with its Prisoner Reentry Initiative. After forming its first working group on the issue in 2013, GCO produced expert insights in two landmark reports. In the years that followed, nearly all of GCO’s recommendations were adopted into law, helping to broaden opportunities for former inmates reintegrating into society. With a 6 percent drop in Georgia’s prison population since 2012 – a $264 million saving for taxpayers – the reforms spearheaded by GCO are driving this positive trend. GCO’s Prisoner Reentry Initiative gives formerly incarcerated individuals and their families a renewed and revitalized outlook on life. Read more here.

2017 Finalist: IMANI Center for Policy and Education (Accra, Ghana)

Project: IMANIFesto

Overview: Last year, IMANI Center for Policy and Education launched its 2016 IMANIFesto Campaign, which estimated the costs and rated the feasibility of all campaign promises made by Ghana’s political parties. For the first time this forced the country’s political parties to attempt to justify many of their unrealistic plans to the public. IMANIFesto stirred public debate with each publication and subsequent press event, which pressured political parties to reform several of their previously unrealistic promises. Near-constant attention in the national media and IMANI’s savvy use of social media made IMANIFesto a household name in Ghana. IMANI’s engagement of millions of Ghanaians has reminded the people of Ghana that the power to hold the government accountable is in their hands.

2017 Finalist: Instituto de Estudos Empresariais (Porto Alegre, Brazil)

Project: Fórum da Liberdade

Overview: What began as a modest attempt to create a new dialogue in an otherwise closed and illiberal Brazilian state in 1988 has become a treasured cultural icon and international fixture – Instituto de Estudos Empresariais (IEE)’s annual Fórum da Liberdade has been described as “the Super Bowl of liberalism.” Bringing the ideas of a free society to the mainstream of Latin American culture, Fórum da Liberdade provides a unique opportunity for business leaders, students, academics, politicians, and former heads of state from Latin America and beyond to come together to discuss policy and principles. In 2017 the big event spanned six days of events, attracted 6,372 participants, disseminated 5,240 books, amassed tens of thousands of online views, and garnered hundreds of media mentions.

2017 Finalist: Instituto Mexicano para la Competitividad (Mexico City, Mexico)

Project: Anticorruption Reform Initiative for Mexico, 3for3

Overview: For the first time in the history of modern Mexican democracy a credible, relevant, and effective anticorruption legal infrastructure exists. It holds Mexican politicians accountable and keeps them honest from the get-go, all thanks to Instituto Mexicano para la Competitividad (IMCO)’s revolutionary “3for3” campaign. As of July 18, 2017, it is the law of the land that every politician must publish his or her declarations of assets, taxes paid, and possible conflicts of interest. This comes as the result of an intensive two-year campaign launched and led by IMCO, in which they raised 634,143 signatures – five times the number required – to introduce the “3for3” (3de3) framework to the Mexican Congress for consideration of its passage into law.

2017 Finalist: Macdonald-Laurier Institute for Public Policy (Ottawa, Canada)

Project: Aboriginal Canada and the Natural Resource Economy

Overview: The history of Canada’s Aboriginal people is one of state dependency and a lack of opportunity. To address these challenges, Macdonald-Laurier Institute for Public Policy (MLI)’s multi-year Aboriginal Canada and the Natural Resource Economy project has made the case that Indigenous engagement in the booming Canadian resource economy provides a once-in-a-century opportunity to set right the fundamental inequalities within Canadian life. Through its advocacy, MLI’s project to improve the lives of Aboriginal Canadians through market-based solutions is having a strong impact on both Aboriginal communities throughout Canada and the Canadian Parliament, winning widespread buy-in not only from Aboriginal and business communities but also from the Canadian government.

2016 Templeton Freedom Award Winner and Finalists

2016 Winner: Lithuanian Free Market Institute or LFMI (Vilnius, Lithuania)

Project: "Economics in 31 Hours" Textbook

Overview: In high schools across the world, most students graduate without any exposure to the concepts of market economics. The Lithuanian Free Market Institute (LFMI), based in Vilnius, sought to change that by developing its "Economics in 31 Hours" textbook. "Economics in 31 Hours" teaches how property rights, free exchange, profit, and competition shape decision-making in everyday life. The textbook has proven to be wildly popular in its first year, and is now being used by nearly half of the country's 9th and 10th graders.

2016 Finalist: Foundation for Government Accountability (Naples, Florida)

Project: Restore the Working Class Project

Overview: Although the U.S. welfare state was enacted with the intention of helping the least fortunate, its perverse incentive structure often traps families in poverty and drains state budgets. America’s welfare state has exploded in the past decade, and the number of able-bodied adults on food stamps and Medicaid has doubled, but beginning in 2015 the Florida-based Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA) designed and advocated new welfare reform policy that has achieved reform in 22 states and is helping transition 2.7 million people off welfare.

2016 Finalist: The Israel Center for Social and Economic Progress (Mevaseret Zion, Israel)

Project: Economic Reform Campaign for Israel

Overview: Despite more than 30 years of economic reforms that have helped transform Israel, its economy remains saddled with bureaucracy and regulation that make life difficult and expensive. The economic reform campaign developed by the Israel Center for Social and Economic Progress (ICSEP), based in Mevaseret Zion, has been named one of six finalists for this year’s prestigious $100,000 Templeton Freedom Award. Through its campaign, ICSEP has designed and enacted an array of successful reforms that include reducing the tax and bureaucratic burden for small businesses, breaking the banking industry’s credit card duopoly, scaling back duty fees, and liberalizing import laws so that goods and services are less expensive for families.

2016 Finalist: FIRE, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Project: Legislative and Policy Project

Overview: Nearly half of America’s colleges and universities maintain blatantly unconstitutional speech codes, which are the draconian and illiberal policies that administrators use to silence unpopular and inconvenient speech on campus. That’s why Philadelphia-based FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) is fighting back with its Legislative and Policy Project.

2016 Finalist: The Centre for Justice (Stockholm, Sweden)

Project: Litigating for Liberty Project

Overview: When government violates the individual and economic liberties of entrepreneurs in Sweden, the Stockholm-based Centre for Justice (Centrum för rättvisa) fights back by defending the dreams of these entrepreneurs in court. The organization’s Litigating for Liberty project has been named one of six finalists for this year’s prestigious $100,000 Templeton Freedom Award. The Centre for Justice has won landmark cases before the European Court of Human Rights, and has a perfect record — 14 out of 14 victories — before the Swedish Supreme Court. Its victories have required trade unions to be held liable for property damages, set precedent for government liability when it violates rights guaranteed by the Swedish Constitution, protected business owners from double jeopardy prosecutions, and more.

2016 Finalist: Goldwater Institute (Phoenix, Arizona)

Project: Right to Try Initiative

Overview: The cruel coldness of bureaucracy is never more apparent than when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) keeps potentially life-saving drugs out of reach of terminally ill patients, even after deeming them safe. The Goldwater Institute, based in Phoenix, Ariz., is driving a new national conversation around access to treatments for the terminally ill with its Right to Try Initiative. With this initiative, the Goldwater Institute is forcing movement on policies that promote the access to a fundamental but overlooked human right: the right to save your own life.

2015 Templeton Freedom Award Winner and Finalists

2015 Winner: Acton Institute (Grand Rapids, Michigan)

Project: Poverty, Inc.

Overview: Poverty, Inc. provides a comprehensive perspective on the issue, giving voice to charity workers, local micro-entrepreneurs, politicians, and leading development experts such as Paul Collier of Oxford University, Marcela Escobari of Harvard University’s Center for International Development, and Hernando de Soto of Atlas Network partner the Institute for Liberty and Democracy. This film is part of Acton Institute’s multi-year educational initiative, PovertyCure, which also includes a dedicated website, a group study curriculum, a mentorship program, and a “ReThink Missions” toolkit.

2015 Finalist: Institute of Public Affairs (Melbourne, Australia)

Project: Repeal the Carbon Tax

Overview: Starting from the day the tax was announced, the IPA took an active role in the mainstream media to counter the misinformation that advocates of the carbon tax were peddling. The IPA’s research and analysis of the economics underpinning the case for the carbon tax appeared in print media outlets 209 times between Jan. 1, 2010, and July 31, 2014. IPA research scholars also featured on radio and television stations around Australia, with 363 radio appearances between 2008 and 2013 and 261 television appearances in the same timeframe. The organization also published two full-page advertisements in Australia’s most influential nationwide newspaper, The Australian, which had a circulation of 125,000 at the time. The IPA was the loudest consistent voice against the carbon tax in a time when there were very few dissenting voices in Australia.

2015 Finalist: Institute for Justice (Arlington, Virginia)

Project: Strategic research program

Overview: IJ’s strategic research has documented real-world harms of big-government policy while at the same time demonstrating the benefits of freedom to the individual, to occupations, to communities, and to the nation as a whole. In case after case and report after report, IJ’s strategic research gives IJ advocates an important tool to make the case for freedom in courts of law, in the mainstream media, in academic journals, and elsewhere.

2015 Finalist: Free Market Foundation (Johannesburg, South Africa)

Project: Khaya Lam (My House) Land Reform project

Overview: FMF’s pilot project has focused on the Ngwathe municipal area of the Free State province, where there are an estimated 20,000 houses for which the ownership rights have not been documented and registered. The major purpose of this pilot project was to determine the most rapid and cost-efficient method of registering the rights of the homeowners and placing them in possession of title deeds that prove their rights and enable them to trade with their property legally, in any way they please.

2015 Finalist: Center for Dissemination of Economic Knowledge about Freedom (Centro de Divulgación del Conocimiento Económico para la Libertad, or CEDICE Freedom) (Caracas, Venezuela)

Project: Watchdog for Freedom and Democracy

Overview: In its focus on individual liberty, CEDICE’s Watchdog for Freedom and Democracy project aims to monitor the political mechanisms that undermine the freedom of Venezuelans, analyzing the data it collects and using it both to alert the people of the problems they face and to instill a public conscience about the consequences of government control.

2015 Finalist: Tax Foundation (Washington, D.C.)

Project: State Business Tax Climate Index

Overview: With the State Business Tax Climate Index, now in its 11th edition, the Tax Foundation aims to start a conversation with policymakers about how their states fare against the rest of the country, and then provide them with the expertise and analysis they need to enact positive change in their state by reforming their tax structures in a pro-growth fashion, consistent with the principles of sound tax policy. The results are tax reforms that lead to more state economic activity, thereby creating an environment for more prosperity and economic freedom.

2014 Templeton Freedom Award Winner and Finalists

2014 Templeton Freedom Award Winner: Lithuanian Free Market Institute (Vilnius, Lithuania)

Project: Municipal Performance Index for Freedom and Free Enterprise

Overview: Launched in 2011, the index measures and ranks the performance of municipal governments in three overarching categories: municipalities for citizens, municipalities for investors, and municipal governance and administration. The methodology of the index comprised 55 indicators and anchored the evaluation criteria in the underlying values of freedom of choice, private ownership and initiative, free enterprise, efficient use of public resources, and transparent and accountable governance.

2014 Finalist: Acton Institute (Grand Rapids, Michigan)

Project: Acton University

Overview: Established in 2005, Acton University is a four-day conference that brings together a globally diverse group of influencers to discuss the intersection of human dignity and free enterprise.

2014 Finalist: Center for Political Studies (CEPOS) (Copenhagen, Denmark)

Project: Private Property Project

Mission: For the first time in Denmark’s history, this project made it easy to review government-led expropriation of private property, particularly for the benefit of private interests, in the country’s 98 municipalities. As a result, the incidence of expropriation of private property for the benefit of private interests has dramatically declined to only one such case in a single year.

2014 Finalist: Civismo (Pamplona, Spain)

Project: Low Taxes Campaign for Spain

Overview: This campaign to lower taxes and promote economic freedom all throughout Spain paved the way to significant tax reform. One component of the reform package is that the average income earner will save about 600 euros (US$777) per year.

2014 Finalist: Foundation for Government Accountability (Naples, Florida)

Project: Uncover ObamaCare initiative

Mission: The Uncover ObamaCare initiative resulted in 24 states saying no to ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion. The initiative has kept 9.4 million Americans from becoming dependent on government and will save taxpayers almost $500 billion over the next decade.

2014 Finalist: Goldwater Institute (Phoenix, Arizona)

Project: Education Savings Accounts initiative

Overview: Unlike school vouchers, education savings accounts create the maximum possible choice for parents and opportunities for competition among government schools, private schools, and other education providers. Arizona became the first state to launch education savings accounts in mid-2011. And in 2014 Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed into law the country’s second education savings account program.

2014 Finalist: Illinois Policy Institute (Chicago, Illinois)

Project: Campaign to stop an unfair progressive income tax

Overview: The campaign led to the defeat of a movement to amend the Illinois Constitution and replace the state’s flat income tax with a progressive rate structure. This victory means that over the next five years alone, nearly $30 billion dollars will stay in the hands of Illinois’ families and businesses instead of going to politicians in Springfield.

2014 Finalist: IPEA (Agora Institute for Strategic Thinking) (Queretaro, Mexico)

Project: One Million Youth for Mexico campaign

Overview: The campaign was started to address barriers to freedom throughout Mexico and has produced a growing network of more than 155,000 young leaders in more than 20 cities across Mexico. The campaign played a critical role on the federal level in achieving the Law of Citizen’s Initiative being passed, which will strengthen civil society and rule of law throughout Mexico.

2013 Finalists and Winners

2013 Winner: The TaxPayers' Alliance (London, UK)

Project: 2020 Tax Commission and Single Income Tax report

Overview: The 2020 Tax Commission and Single Income Tax report represented a comprehensive campaign to reform Britain’s outdated and unfair tax system. The TaxPayers’ Alliance team, whose goal is to achieve a society where individuals have greater control over their own lives, completed a strategic, multi-phase public education campaign, recruiting high-profile and influential figures to spend twelve months developing the economic, moral and practical case for lower taxes. The commission’s meticulous 417-page report reframed the debate over Britain’s economic growth strategies and became almost instantly influential, with more than 10,000 downloads its first week of publication. “The TaxPayers’ Alliance has become such a force of nature in a relatively short amount of time,” said Brad Lips, Atlas Network’s CEO. “From impeccable research to clear messaging, they’ve really raised the bar for think tanks.” The project played a critical role in achieving: A scheduled reduction in the Corporation Tax from 24% in 2012 to an expected 20% in 2015, with the system simplified by merging the standard and small business rates; A reduction in the top rate of Income Tax from 50% to 45%; and An abolition of the beer and motor fuel duty escalators.

2013 Finalist: Centre for Civil Society (New Delhi, India)

Project: People, Policies, and Principles campaign

Overview: The campaign has contributed to real change in key areas including economic freedom and education, where they have given an organized voice to private schools and advocated for fair implementation of reforms.

2013 Finalist: Istituto Bruno Leoni (Torino, Italy)

Project: Index of Liberalization

Overview: The Index has become a major reference for opinion-makers, policy-makers and industry stakeholders in debating economic policy, driving reforms in select industries and municipalities related to industry ownership and price fixing.

2013 Finalist: The Mackinac Center for Public Policy (Midland, Michigan)

Project: Right to Work

Overview: After 20 years of consistently producing a wide variety of research, commentary and strategic communications, the campaign achieved a major victory in 2013 with the adoption of Michigan’s right to work legislation.

2013 Finalist: Texas Public Policy Foundation (Austin, Texas)

Project: Right on Crime

Overview: The project contributed to major reforms, both in Texas and in other states, saving billions of dollars by closing prisons and preventing prison expansion, and reversing a culture of over-incarceration and over-criminalization.

2013 Finalist: CIDAC (Centro de Investigación para el Desarrollo, A.C.) (Mexico City, Mexico)

Project: Prosperity and Productivity Project

Overview: The project was recognized for its work advancing prosperity and productivity. The CIDAC team has successfully developed research and communication products that are changing the national discussion on economic policies including industrial, labor, and criminal justice policy.