Tankedup

Article excerpt

Byline: HETTIE HARVEY

Whether you want to end poverty, create world peace, abolish tax or suppress the EU there's a think tank already on the case. Hettie Harvey thinks outside the box

ADAM SMITH INSTITUTE

WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA?

To foster competition in public services, increase personal freedom, reduce tax and cut government waste.

Fans include Lords Saatchi, Tebbit, Parkinson and Powell.

A terrifying quartet.

WHICH CLEVER PERSON THOUGHT OF THAT?

Named after the Scottish economist, founded in 1977 by St Andrews graduates Dr Madsen Pirie, 64, and Dr Eamonn Butler, 53, its president and director.

Based in Westminster, within spitting distance of the Houses of Parliament.

PEOPLE POWER

Makes an effort to appeal to today's 'yoof'. Apart from the aged directors, its staff has an average age of 21. Dr Pirie describes the atmosphere as 'a lot of fun with healthy scepticism towards those in authority'. What larks.

SPREADING THE WORD

Its weblog gets over 3,000 hits a day. Its independent seminar on the Open Society exposes school students to economic and political debates; and at The Next Generation meetings, 18- to 33-yearolds quaff champagne and muse on current issues.

PAST SUCCESSES

Tax Freedom Day: how long does it take to work off the burden of taxation? In 1963, the average taxpayer worked for the government from New Year's Day until late April. As of the March 2005 budget, TDF is 31 May. A daunting prospect.

WHAT'S NEXT?

Flat tax: a system in which all taxpayers pay income tax at the same rate; lowest earners are exempt. Personal allowance goes up, while most tax deductions are removed.

THE CENTRE FOR FUTURE STUDIES

WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA?

To improve the future.

The Prime Minister's Strategy Unit directed by Stephen Aldridge relies heavily on the Centre's forecasts.

WHICH CLEVER PERSON THOUGHT OF THAT?

Futurist Dr Frank Shaw founded the Centre in 1997. It operates 'in an environment conducive to creativity' - an 'electronic cottage' near Canterbury.

Inside the 1600s cottage is a Tardis-like, hi-tech, electronic world.

PEOPLE POWER

Eleven project managers run the work of experts around the globe, as well as the UK Futurists Network, an eclectic group of futurists. The office is informal: no working hours and, according to Dr Shaw (who is the boss), no boss.

SPREADING THE WORD

The Centre runs retreats for strategic planners looking for inspiration in La Gomera in the Canary Islands. Members speak at conferences around the world.

PAST SUCCESSES

Foresaw the AIDS epidemic in Africa, the growth of terrorism, the pensions crisis, the growth of biotechnology and teleworking.

WHAT'S NEXT?

Currently predicting global water shortages, an energy crisis and advances in artificial intelligence.

Also a new global currency, a world without oil, the collapse of the EU and the end of Nato by 2020.

CENTRE FOR POLICY STUDIES

WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA?

To develop policies that encourage individuals to pursue their own aspirations.

John Redwood thinks they're 'lucid'.

WHICH CLEVER PERSON THOUGHT OF THAT?

Margaret Thatcher and Sir Keith Joseph founded the Centre in 1974. Based close to Parliament Square, the Centre is run by Lord Blackwell and Ruth Lea.

Sir Rocco Forte, Matthew d'Ancona and Lord Saatchi are on the board.

PEOPLE POWER

Just four people work from the Westminster townhouse in what they describe as 'a relaxed and pragmatic creative powerhouse'.

SPREADING THE WORD

Books, articles and lectures help disseminate the glad tidings.

PAST SUCCESSES

The Centre kicked off the current furious debate on immigration in 2001 with Harriet Sergeant's report, Welcome to the Asylum. …

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