When people are free to vote with their feet, moving from one city to another in pursuit of lower taxes, a more favorable regulatory climate, and greater economic opportunity, municipal governments have to respond with better policy. In order to make informed choices about where to live, though, people need quality information. That’s why the Lithuanian Free Market Institute (LFMI), 2014 winner of Atlas Network’s prestigious Templeton Freedom Award, recently hosted an in-depth webinar briefing to explain how the organization is reshaping the public policy landscape in Lithuania to create an environment that attracts investment and prosperity by setting benchmarks for measuring municipal freedom and effectiveness.
In his introduction to the webinar, Atlas Network CEO Brad Lips shared a quote from the granddaughter of Sir John Templeton, Jennifer Templeton Simpson, from her presentation of the 2014 Templeton Freedom Award to LFMI for its Municipal Performance Index at November’s Liberty Forum & Freedom Dinner.
“My grandfather, like many other philanthropists, was concerned about the impacts of poverty,” Simpson said. “But he found that, most often, philanthropic organizations were focusing on symptoms of current poverty, and not enough time was being spent on preventing future poverty. You prevent future poverty by creating a climate of economic opportunity, so individuals have the freedom to use their talents to create wealth, to satisfy customers, and help employees. I know this is what Atlas and its partners are working towards, and the Templeton Freedom Award is a wonderful celebration of these values that were so dear to my grandfather.”
LFMI designed and launched its Municipal Performance Index to measure and rank the performance of municipal governments in three overarching categories: municipalities for citizens, municipalities for investors, and municipal governance and administration.
“The performance index is an easy self-evaluation tool for municipalities,” LFMI President Zilvinas Silenas said. “As a byproduct of the index, we have been able to go to various cities and meet mayors, local entrepreneurs, and citizens to discuss issues and solutions related to their schools, taxes, or debts. So we not only present our self-evaluation tool, we actually help them to be clearly heard.”
Citizens can use the index to hold their local governments accountable or seek better conditions elsewhere, and city officials can use it to determine how they stack up in comparison to their municipal neighbors.
“In all the countries, the municipalities are more or less forgotten,” Silenas said. “We as think tanks always want to influence the prime ministers and the presidents, while that sector of local governments are ignored. I believe there is a niche market for that.”
LFMI is eager to share the methodology and mechanics of its index with other free-market think tanks, and explain how to adapt its evaluation metrics for the municipalities in other nations. A guidebook for replicating the index is in the works, and Silenas is happy to answer questions about the project.