Fraser Institute

Non-thinking tank

During the lead-up to the HST referendum, business advocate Fraser Institute complained,

“…opponents of the harmonized tax have filled newspapers, broadcast media, and the blogosphere with inaccurate – and often outrageous – claims about the tax and how it would affect British Columbians.”

Opponents filled? Readers of newspapers, viewers of television and listeners to radio would find that statement bewildering, given near-universal coverage favouring HST by broadcasters and publishers. I suppose boosters of “economic freedom” do not value disputation freedom quite so much, particularly when opposition to their right-wing interests is mounted in the blogosphere.

These reactionaries have a rather narrow view of the world and The Guardian’s George Monbiot defined it recently, saying conservative free-market or conservative thinktanks, or as they prefer, research institutes,

“…have a remarkably consistent agenda. They tend to oppose the laws which protect us from banks and corporations; to demand the privatisation of state assets; to argue that the rich should pay less tax; and to pour scorn on global warming. What the thinktanks call free-market economics looks more like a programme for corporate power.”

Monbiot wonders why questions of funding are seldom asked of thinktanks and he says that to understand influence we must follow the money. He writes,

“I’ve shown how such groups, funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, built and directed the Tea Party movement. The Kochs and the oil company Exxon have also funded a swarm of thinktanks which, by coincidence, all spontaneously decided that manmade climate change is a myth.

“The harder you stare at them, the more they look like lobby groups working for big business without disclosing their interests. Yet throughout the media they are treated as independent sources of expertise. …Even when the corporate funding of its contributors has been exposed by human rights or environmental groups, [they are still allowed] to masquerade as unbiased commentators, without disclosing their interests.

“…I charge that the groups which call themselves free market thinktanks are nothing of the kind. They are public relations agencies, secretly lobbying for the corporations and multi-millionaires who finance them. If they wish to refute this claim, they should disclose their funding. Until then, whenever you hear the term free market thinktank, think of a tank, crushing democracy, driven by big business.”

From Fraser Institute website 9/17/2011

On its website, the Fraser Institute claims to hold innovative programs and initiatives as well as engaging workshops and seminars. They promise dynamic events giving us the opportunity to hear acclaimed and influential policy makers such as Milton Friedman, Bjorn Lomborg and Margaret Thatcher.

I for one, don’t much care about Lomborg, he was here six years ago anyway, and I do not want to put extra pressure on the frail health of an 86 year-old ex Prime Minister who almost never travels, but I’m definitely not skipping the dynamic event when the Fraser Institute next hosts Milton Friedman.

I don’t know how often Friedman gets involved in Fraser Institute presentations. Afterall, he was born in 1912 and might be a bit out of date, but I hope he is at least regularly part of the thinktank’s rigorous peer review process for its research. He is now as well qualified as others serving this function, at least according to The Sixth Estate,

“As usual, five of the reviewers of this [2011 school] report are actually dead, some others are in their 90s, and one of them is also the author, a conflict of interest if ever there was one.”

Categories: Fraser Institute

3 replies »

  1. Lobbyists are just propaganda machines. They are something, not quite clean. The Fraser Institute is one of the worst.

    I will take the word of world renowned scientists, the dirty tar sands oil is the dirtiest energy in the world. The glaciers are melting. The far north is melting. The climate is changing, for the worse. Our oceans are dying. There is acid in the ocean, right up to the shores of BC. The clean underground water, is being poisoned by fracking. When you can light the water from your faucets on fire..I would say scientists have a, very valid point. The stink from fracking, is making people very ill.

    The evidence of fossil fuels destroying our planet, is right before our eyes. Tanker spills in the oceans. Off shore rigs exploding. Pipeline bursts poisoning, rivers, lakes, streams and soil. Lakes poisoned with toxic mine waste.

    When the oceans eventually get an overdose of carbon monoxide, they will completely die. If the oceans die, we die. When the glaciers are gone, rivers will dry up. No water for irrigation. The climate is becoming more and more extreme.

    Lobbying is usually for a dishonest outcome, and can be bought.


  2. Corporate advocacy groups like the Fraser Institute: the word “pernicious” comes to mind.

    All I can think of these days is “Who's gonna ending up cleaning up the Augean stables once the public has had enough of this rabid free market nonsense?”


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