Mercatus Center

Coordinates: 38°53′09″N 77°06′06″W / 38.8857°N 77.1018°W / 38.8857; -77.1018
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Mercatus Center
Founder(s)Richard Fink
Established1980; 43 years ago (1980)
DirectorDaniel M. Rothschild
BudgetRevenue: $29,566,224
Expenses: $27,582,187
(FYE August 2017)[1]
Formerly calledCenter for the Study of Market Processes
Address3434 Washington Blvd., 4th Floor Arlington, Virginia 22201
Coordinates38°53′09″N 77°06′06″W / 38.8857°N 77.1018°W / 38.8857; -77.1018

The Mercatus Center is an American libertarian, free-market-oriented non-profit think tank.[2][3] The Mercatus Center is located at the George Mason University campus, however the organization is privately funded and its employees are independent of the university.[4] It is directed by Daniel M. Rothschild and its board is chaired by American economist Tyler Cowen. The Center works with policy experts, lobbyists, and government officials to connect academic learning with real-world practice. Taking its name from the Latin word for market, the center advocates free-market approaches to public policy. During the George W. Bush administration's campaign to reduce government regulation, The Wall Street Journal reported, "14 of the 23 rules the White House chose for its 'hit list' to eliminate or modify were Mercatus entries".[5]

According to the 2017 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report (Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program, University of Pennsylvania), Mercatus is number 39 in the "Top Think Tanks in the United States" and number 18 of the "Best University Affiliated Think Tanks".[6] The Koch family has been a major financial supporter of the organization since the mid-1980s.[7][8] Charles Koch serves on the group's board of directors.[7][9]


The Mercatus Center was founded by Richard Fink as the Center for the Study of Market Processes at Rutgers University. After the Koch family gave more than $30 million to George Mason University,[9] the Center moved there in the mid-1980s. It took its current name in 1999.[9]

The Mercatus Center is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and does not receive support from George Mason University or any federal, state, or local governments.


The organization describes itself as "the world's premier university source for market-oriented ideas" and says it aims to bridge "the gap between academic ideas and real-world problems."[9] By advancing knowledge about how markets can work to improve lives and individual freedoms, by training graduate students, conducting research, and applying economic principles, they hope to offer solutions to society's most pressing problems.

Mercatus currently runs the following research programs: The Project for the Study of American Capitalism; Technology Policy Project; State and Local Policy Project; Spending and Budget Initiative; Program on the American Economy and Globalization; Program on Monetary Policy; Program on Financial Regulation; and Program for Economic Research on Regulation.[10]

Rob Stein, a Democratic strategist, has called Mercatus "ground zero for deregulation policy in Washington."[9] The Wall Street Journal has called the Mercatus Center "the most important think tank you've never heard of".[9]


In 2018, Mercatus announced that it "sponsored the development of a futures market based on [nominal gross domestic product] contracts with Hypermind, a UK-based prediction market." As explained in the announcement: "Mercatus Center's Scott Sumner and David Beckworth have made the case that an alternative monetary policy approach, nominal gross domestic product (NGDP) level targeting, is superior to inflation targeting. NGDP is essentially the nation's total income. According to Sumner and Beckworth, instead of targeting inflation (general prices), the Federal Reserve's monetary policy should target the rate at which the nation's total income is expected to grow. NGDP level targeting will ensure that the right amount of money supply is provided to meet the economy's needs."[11]

In 2016, Mercatus launched its Program on the American Economy and Globalization,[12] run by Daniel Griswold, which aims to help "the public and policymakers understand the benefits of an economy free from protectionist barriers against the international movement of goods, services, capital, ideas, and people."[10]

In 2015, Mercatus launched its annual Ranking of the 50 States by Fiscal Conditions.[13]

Also in 2015, Mercatus started its Program on Monetary Policy.[14]

In 2012, Mercatus scholar Charles Blahous released a study saying that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) would worsen the federal deficit, contrary to the official Congressional Budget Office forecast.[15] The study was generally criticized by supporters of the PPACA.[16][17] Jeanne Lambrew, deputy assistant to the president for health policy, wrote, "This new math fits the old pattern of mischaracterizations about the Affordable Care Act when official estimates show the health care law reduces the deficit."[18] Blahous defended the findings of his research.[19]

In 2010, the center collaborated with EconStories to produce a parody rap video about the conflict of ideas between F. A. Hayek and John Maynard Keynes.[20] A sequel, "Fight of the Century", was produced in 2011.[21]

In 2001, the Office of Management and Budget asked for public input on which regulations should be revised or killed. Mercatus submitted 44 of the 71 proposals the OMB received.[8]

Organizational structure[edit]

The Mercatus Center is located on George Mason University's Arlington Campus, and is affiliated with GMU's Economics department. The Provost of George Mason University has the power to appoint a faculty director to head the Mercatus Center.

Board of directors[edit]

Members of the Board of Directors include:[22]


Scholars affiliated with the Mercatus Center have published hundreds of journal articles and research papers, with topics including government transparency, subsidies, taxation, regulation, corruption, and Austrian School economics. They have also provided more than 100 testimonies to Congress.[23] Notable studies performed and books published include:

  • "Tyranny Comes Home," published in 2018, assesses how, under certain conditions, U.S. policies, tactics, and technologies deployed abroad via military interventions "are re-imported to America, changing the national landscape and increasing the extent to which we live in a police state."[24] The authors "examine this pattern―which they dub 'the boomerang effect'―considering a variety of rich cases that include the rise of state surveillance, the militarization of domestic law enforcement, the expanding use of drones, and torture in U.S. prisons."[24]
  • "Permissionless Innovation," a book by scholar Adam Thierer, which argues that if "the precautionary principle," trumps "permissionless innovation" with regards to government's approach to technological innovation, then "the result will be fewer services, lower-quality goods, higher prices, diminished economic growth, and a decline in the overall standard of living."[25]
  • "How Are Small Banks Faring under Dodd-Frank?," a 2015 survey of approximately 200 small U.S. banks serving mostly rural and small metropolitan markets. The survey "included questions about specific regulatory and compliance activities, interactions with regulators, effects of particular regulations, changes in fees and revenue, and business strategy decisions since the passage of Dodd–Frank."
  • "Annual Performance Report Scorecard" (2000–2009):[26] Produced by the Mercatus Center's Government Accountability Project, these publications assess the annual reports released by the 24 federal agencies covered by the Chief Financial Officers Act. The reports, required by the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 are rated for their demonstration of "transparency, public benefits, and leadership."[27] The most recent publication, covering the 2008 fiscal year, ranked the reports from Labor, Veterans Affairs, and Transportation departments as the best, and those from SBA, Defense, and HUD as the worst. Only 13 of the departments' reports received a "satisfactory" score in this 2009 publication, which notes that agencies "whose policy views were evaluated as more liberal ... seem to score slightly better."[27]
  • "Freedom in the 50 States: An Index of Personal and Economic Freedom" ranks states according to how well they meet the Center's ideals of personal and economic freedom. The 2011 rankings regarded New Hampshire, South Dakota, and Indiana as the freest, and New York, New Jersey, and California as the most restrictive.[28] The 2013 rankings regarded North Dakota, South Dakota, and Tennessee as the freest, and New York, California, and New Jersey as the most restrictive.[29] This index was later transferred to the Cato Institute.[30]


Notable scholars at Mercatus include:[31]


Notable former Mercatus scholars, students, and employees include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Mercatus Center" (PDF). Foundation Center. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  2. ^ Scott, Dylan (2018-08-23). "The revealing Medicare-for-all fact-check debate roiling the internet, explained". Vox. Retrieved 2021-05-12.
  3. ^ Pan, J. C. (2020-11-17). "Charles Koch Got the Free-Market Dystopia He Wanted. Now He'd Like Your Approval". The New Republic. ISSN 0028-6583. Retrieved 2021-05-12.
  4. ^ Dayen, David (2018-09-19). "Koch-Funded Think Tank Linked to George Mason University Is Now Pretending It's Not Part of George Mason University". The Intercept. Retrieved 2023-08-04.
  5. ^ Davis, Bob (16 July 2004). "In Washington, Tiny Think Tank Wields Big Stick on Regulation". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on 12 November 2017. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  6. ^ McGann, James (January 31, 2018). "2017 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report".
  7. ^ a b "Koch's low profile belies political power". Center for Public Integrity. 2004-07-15. Retrieved 2017-04-13.
  8. ^ a b Kamen, Al (July 12, 2006). "I Am OMB and I Write the Rules". Washington Post. p. A13.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Mayer, Jane (2010-08-30). "Covert Operations: The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama". The New Yorker. Condé Nast Publications.
  10. ^ a b "Programs". Mercatus Center. Retrieved 2018-04-09.
  11. ^ Scott Sumner & David Beckworth. "Mercatus Announces Futures Market to Forecast Nominal GDP". Archived from the original on 2018-04-09. Retrieved 2018-04-09.
  12. ^ "Program on the American Economy and Globalization". 2016-05-04. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  13. ^ "Ranking the States by Fiscal Condition". Mercatus Center. 2015-06-29. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  14. ^ Joe (2015-01-15). "Mercatus Center's New Program on Monetary Policy | Joseph T. Salerno". Mises Institute. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  15. ^ Montgomery, Lori (10 April 2012). "Health-care law will add $340 billion to deficit, new study finds". The Washington Post. Retrieved 10 July 2012.
  16. ^ Klein, Ezra (10 April 2012). "The bizarre baseline games you need to play to make Obamacare increase the deficit". The Washington Post. Retrieved 10 July 2012.
  17. ^ Spross, Jeff. "Charles Blahous' Absurd 'New Math' In A Chart". ThinkProgress. Retrieved 10 July 2012.
  18. ^ Lambrew, Jeanne (9 April 2012). "Official Sources Agree: The Affordable Care Act Reduces the Deficit". Retrieved 10 July 2012 – via National Archives.
  19. ^ Blahous, Charles (11 April 2012). "Why Obamacare Expands the Deficit: Charles Blahous Rebuts His Critics". Retrieved 10 July 2012.
  20. ^ "'Fear the Boom and Bust' a Hayek vs. Keynes Rap Anthem". YouTube. Archived from the original on 2021-12-19. Retrieved 10 July 2012.
  21. ^ "'Fight of the Century' Keynes vs Hayek Round 2". YouTube. Archived from the original on 2021-12-19. Retrieved 10 July 2012.
  22. ^ "MercatusBoard of Directors". Mercatus Center. Retrieved 15 June 2022.
  23. ^ "Publications – Congressional Testimony". Mercatus Center.
  24. ^ a b "Tyranny Comes Home". Mercatus Center: F. A. Hayek Program. 2018-02-05. Retrieved 2018-04-09.
  25. ^ "What is Permissionless Innovation?". Permissionless Innovation. Retrieved 2018-04-09.
  26. ^ "Publications – Scorecard". Mercatus Center.
  27. ^ a b "10th Annual Performance Report Scorecard: Which Federal Agencies Best Inform the Public?". Mercatus Center. 2009-05-05.
  28. ^ "Freedom in the 50 States: An index of personal and economic freedom" (PDF). Mercatus Center. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-01-18.
  29. ^ "Executive Summary, Freedom in the 50 States: Third Edition (2013)" (PDF). Mercatus Center. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-04-18. Retrieved 2013-04-02.
  30. ^ "Freedom in the 50 States 2016 | About the Fourth Edition". Retrieved 2018-04-09.
  31. ^ "All – Scholars | Mercatus". Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  32. ^ "White House National Economic Council Director Announces Senior Staff Appointments – The White House".

External links[edit]