August 24, 2020 Print

Awarded annually since 2004, Atlas Network’s Templeton Freedom Award is named for the late investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton. This prestigious prize honors Sir John’s legacy by recognizing Atlas Network’s partner organizations for exceptional and innovative contributions to the understanding of free enterprise and the advancement of public policies that encourage prosperity, innovation, and human fulfillment. The award is generously supported by Templeton Religion Trust and is presented live during Atlas Network’s Liberty Forum & Freedom Dinner. The winning organization receives a $100,000 grand prize and the runners-up each receive $20,000.

Here are the 2020 finalists:

Center for Indonesian Policy Studies (Jakarta, Indonesia)
Affordable Food for the Poor project

Since gaining independence in 1945, Indonesia’s government has pursued a harmful policy of food self-sufficiency that imposes severe import restrictions, tariffs, price controls, monopolies by state-owned enterprises, and barriers to entry—all in the name of independence. These laws increase the cost of food, resulting in widespread malnutrition among Indonesia’s low-income population. Focusing its efforts on making nutritious food widely available for the poor, Center for Indonesian Policy Studies’ Hak MakMur campaign contributed to the reduction of import restrictions on beef, corn, rice, and other food products, resulting in an estimated savings of US$1.9 billion for Indonesian households between 2016 and 2019. In a paradigm shift, government leaders now acknowledge that protectionism makes food less affordable, and they are more likely to liberalize trade in order to achieve food security. The Affordable Food for the Poor project has not only increased access to food in Indonesia, it has laid the intellectual groundwork for a drastic reduction in poverty in the coming decades.

Centre for Public Policy Research (Kochi, India)
Labor Market Liberalization project

For more than half a century, the Kerala Shops & Establishments Act has regulated labor standards and restrictions for commercial establishments within the state of Kerala, India. In this state of nearly 35 million people, the law controls everything from which days and for how many hours a shop can operate to when women can work. Since its implementation in 1960, women have been prevented from working night shifts, contributing to an unemployment rate nearly five times that of men and limiting their income potential. To increase Kerala’s employment opportunities and correct the discrimination women face there, the Centre for Public Policy Research assembled a team to conduct research and educate the public on the costs of these restrictions. Their work persuaded the government of Kerala to implement significant changes that include allowing shops to remain open 24/7, introducing shifts for employees, establishing an online business registration platform, and permitting women to work past 7:00 p.m. This represents a dramatic shift in the Communist-led state of Kerala toward improved working conditions, simplified requirements for entrepreneurs, and increased opportunities for employment—especially for women.

The Fraser Institute (Vancouver, Canada)
Alberta Prosperity Initiative

Historically, Alberta has been a leader in sound economic governance within North America. However, that standing declined in recent years due to poor public policy from across the political spectrum. To reverse this trend, the Fraser Institute launched the Alberta Prosperity Initiative in 2012, seeking to explain to residents and government officials the extent to which Alberta’s growing challenges were being driven by economic mismanagement. In a broadly-distributed collection of 25 research papers produced in the run up to the provincial election of 2019, the Institute charted a path back toward prosperity through a series of concrete policy reforms centered on reining in government activity and unleashing the power and innovation of the market. The government that came to power immediately took up nine of Fraser’s specific policy recommendations, including committing to balancing the budget, reducing taxes and regulations, and allowing for increased private competition in education and healthcare. The Alberta Prosperity Initiative’s impact is ongoing as Fraser provides a responsible, nonpartisan source of policy solutions that will reestablish Alberta as one of Canada’s economic powerhouses and a place of opportunity for all Canadians.

IDEAS Labs (San José, Costa Rica)
#TicosConCoronas Campaign

More than one million Costa Ricans live in poverty, so how do its leaders justify the “luxury pensions” of a few thousand people who receive up to US$24,000 per month? The recipients of these unfair payments—dubbed Ticos Con Coronas, or Ticos with Crowns, by the Costa Rican think tank IDEAS Labs—have found themselves in the spotlight of public ire thanks to IDEAS’ national awareness campaign to eliminate these special privileges. Nearly 50,000 Costa Ricans signed onto a petition to end the luxury pensions that account for over two percent of the country’s gross-domestic product. IDEAS Labs successfully leveraged the petition and media attention to demand accountability from the national government on the issue. In response to the public pressure, the Costa Rican legislative assembly unanimously passed a law in 2019 to slash payments for over 4,000 Ticos con Coronas, and Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado publicly renounced his right to a luxury pension at the conclusion of his term. In less than two years, IDEAS Labs accomplished what the World Bank had recommended for decades, simply by educating Costa Rican citizens on the injustices of rent-seeking at the highest level.

The Mercatus Center at George Mason University (Fairfax, Virginia)
Equity Initiative for American Healthcare

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed a series of avoidable flaws in the American healthcare system, shedding light on the importance of access to low-cost, high-quality care. Across the United States, 37 state governments have certificate of need laws, which burden healthcare providers with an expensive and time-consuming process to expand or establish new facilities and services. These laws protect incumbent providers from competition by requiring new providers to prove that there is a need for their service in the community. The Mercatus Center at George Mason University’s state-by-state analysis shows how these laws increase healthcare costs, reduce supply of healthcare services, and decrease healthcare quality. Their work also demonstrates how practical reforms would improve outcomes for all. Over the last three years, Mercatus research has led to more than 200 policy-related citations, testimonies, and briefings with state policymakers. Guided by Mercatus research, legislatures in 11 states have taken up reform efforts, with a major reform package passed in Florida and others pending in states such as Michigan and Alaska. The COVID-19 pandemic helped expose the sickness within the American healthcare system: misguided policy, burdensome red tape, and a lack of competition together limit access to quality, timely, and affordable healthcare for all.

The Property and Environment Research Center (Bozeman, Montana)
Recovering Endangered Species project

Protecting endangered species is a bipartisan priority. But while the Endangered Species Act of 1973 has helped to prevent 99 percent of listed species from going extinct, only 2 percent of those species have recovered their populations. To improve this sorry track record, the Property and Environment Research Center, or PERC, launched its “Recovering Endangered Species” project in 2017, aimed at enhancing outcomes for endangered species through market-based incentive structures that leverage both private and public conservation efforts. PERC led a diverse coalition and robust media campaign to contextualize the need for reform, resulting in the adoption of its top three recommendations by the U.S. Department of the Interior. This includes the restoration of the Act’s original two-step approach for newly listed endangered species, equal standards for listing and delisting a species, and the revision of regulations that discourage private conservation. A second set of PERC’s policy proposals were adopted by the Bureau of Land Management to tame the wild horse crisis in the western rangelands, which have nearly four times as many horses than it can healthily sustain. PERC’s solution incentivized private adoptions and in the first year of the program, adoptions increased 91 percent, saving taxpayers US$170 million in future costs and showing how collaborative conservation improves outcomes for animals and humans alike.