What on earth is The Nassau Institute?

First Published: 2013-03-23

(Recent presentation to the Rotaract Club of South East Nassau by Rick Lowe, Vice President and Treasurer of The Nassau Institute.)

The Nassau Institute was founded in 1995 (known originally as the Institute For Economic Freedom). Since then it has been one of the few independent voices contributing to public policy debate in The Bahamas.

Our goal is to become a fully functioning independent non-political, non-profit institute that promotes economic growth, employment and entrepreneurial activity.

We believe this can best be achieved with a free market economy and a society that embraces the rule of law, the right of private property and the values of family, learning, honesty and hard work.

These beliefs lead to the following broad public policy positions.

We’re,

For a balanced budget
For the rule of law
For the privatisation of all public corporations
For a smaller government and lower taxes
For an efficient justice system
Against government management of the labour market
Against a minimum wage
Against price controls
Against Government subsidies

The Institute produces and disseminates credible research and commentary aimed at effecting a change in the climate of ideas.

And since our inception have weighed in on a range of issues, including;

healthcare reform
tax reform
welfare reform
free trade
constitutional matters, and
education

Most of our limited funds are invested in the production and mailing of informational materials and the maintenance of a web site – www.nassauinstitute.org. Look for us on You Tube, Facebook and Twitter as well.

We are also establishing a library at our offices on East Bay Street, where we host meetings from time to time.

The Institute’s work is supported by voluntary contributions from foundations, corporations, and individuals. Some revenue is also generated by conference registration fees or from the sale of publications or merchandise.

And remaining an independent, nonpolitical and non-profit organisation that seeks to broaden the parameters of public policy debate without government contributions is important. (After all, government funding does not come from some “fourth dimension”, it comes from fellow taxpayers).

The Institute seeks to advance economic growth and political liberty in a society governed by the rule of law.

Thanks to our work, journalists and policymakers have an alternative to official (read Government) spokesmen. We are grateful to all of our donors, who make possible our continued support of the cause of freedom in The Bahamas.

While we await a young dynamic Bahamian economist to join us to run the Nassau Institute from day to day and take it to the next level – as an aside we would like to see it become The Bahamas own CATO Institute or Foundation for Economic Education or the Institute for Economic Affairs.

Where was I? Oh yes, what we do while we await that young dynamic Bahamian to take us over.

Well we are fortunate enough to have contacts with great economists throughout North America that share our fundamental philosophy and several of them have been happy to visit and provide top quality lectures for us.

To name but a few, with apologies to those I‘ve forgotten to mention, we’ve had,

  • Mr. Lawrence Reed, now President of FEE.org – he started the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Michigan.
  • Professor Lawrence White, economist and monetary authority at George Mason University.
  • Professor Don Boudreaux, economist and free trade authority at George Mason Iniversity.
  • Mrs. Laura Huggins, research fellow and director of outreach at the Property & Environment Research Center
  • Professor Bruce Yandle, of the Mercatus Center
  • Professor Steve Horwitz, Charles A. Dana Professor of Economics at St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY
  • Mr. Mike Lafaive of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy
  • Professor Art Carden
  • Dr. Yaron Brook President of the Ayn Rand Insitute
  • Professor Richard Ebeling of Northwood University who has led our Spring Lecture Series at COB for the last two years

The list does go on and you will find radio interviews and You Tube videos of them and papers by them all on our sites.

We also hold discussion groups at our office from time to time.

Basically, we attempt to keep ideas to alternative public policy alive, as Dr. Milton Friedman said, until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.

Now for a bit about our founding:

Joan Thompson, our Founding President wrote the following statement a couple years ago and I thought you might find it interesting.

I quote.

“What motivated a few people to start a “free market think tank” in the Bahamas? She asks.

“Quite simply, the aftermath of negative economic growth during the 1980s. The Bahamian economy by 1990 had slowed from a high rate of economic growth, around 7.5 percent in the 1960s and 70s, to a minus-growth rate by the end of the 80s. The hopes for improved living standards had not materialized as promised by the post-independence government.

“The explanation is straightforward-free markets and less government were yet to be recognized as essential factors for economic growth and prosperity. Economics as such were not part of polite discussion-politics dominated. It is not surprising that the socialist ideology of the mother country, Great Britain, at the time was expressed in the adolescent “emerging” Bahamas, which became responsible in 1973 for national security and public policy initiatives after its independence.

“Free-market ideas seemed “radical” in the 1990s as government was expected to solve social and economic problems. It continued to expand to fulfill this mandate. Law was enacted and current law “updated,” giving power to government ministers that had not previously existed. They included minimum wage laws, labor legislation, increased licensing of trades and services, all of which were alleged to provide a better quality of life for “working Bahamians.”

“There seemed no limit to what could be identified as “bad” policy.

She added…

“In 1995, the Nassau Institute was founded “to see the Bahamas become the first small, developed, sovereign country in the region, recognized as a model for the world.” With a vision that appeared to be counter-intuitive to the philosophy of the times, the Nassau Institute faced a large challenge in getting our ideas printed and the organization funded. We kept overhead expenses to a minimum and all revenue from our fundraising appeals went into producing a quarterly publication countering various policy initiatives that would take away more individual freedom.

“Our experience as a start-up libertarian institute has shown that laying the groundwork for the ideas is critical. Persuading the public to take a different philosophical position, from the socialist to the capitalist, takes time. However, with each year and so many organizations refuting socialism around the world, the timeframe for change will be shorter than it was ten years ago in the Bahamas.

End quote

I hope to see some of you at our future events. Who knows maybe the torch of liberty will be lit and one of you might take our little Institute to the next level!

While The Nassau Institute can be considered and economic think tank, I am not an economist. It’s just a subject I love, and we hope more young people will come to love it as well.

I’m glad some of you are still awake.

Thank you very much.

Help support The Nassau Institute