Democracy Institute

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The Democracy Institute describes itself as "a politically independent public policy research organisation".[1]

Founded in 2006, it claims to have bases in London and Washington DC. But it is not registered as a company or charity in the UK and is not registered as a 501(c) organization with the Internal Revenue Service in the US nor as a company in Washington DC or either of the surrounding states (Maryland and Virginia).[2] It claims to, 'further public education through the production and dissemination of accessible commentary and scholarship' [3] by providing a, “a balanced and thoughtful perspective on topical issues, promoting open and rational debate based on evidence rather than ideology”.[4]

The think tank argues against government regulation on issues including tobacco, alcohol, food and gambling, amongst other topics.[5][6][7]

People

Basham was previously the Founding director of the Social Affairs Center at Canada’s Fraser Institute, and was a senior fellow with the Cato Institute's Center for Representative Government.[9]Basham is a former tobacco industry lobbyist and publishes most of the research on the Institute's website along with John Luik who is also a former tobacco industry lobbyist.[10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20]

The following people are linked to the Democracy Institute through several published articles yet are not officially registered via the organisation's own website:

John Luik is a senior fellow of the Democracy Institute[22], and a tobacco industry consultant[23] who, according to reports, was sacked from two academic posts in Canada for misrepresenting his credentials[24][25]. He regularly co-authors articles in the media with Patrick Basham, the founder of the Democracy Institute, on a range of topics including tobacco regulation[26][27][28], obesity[29], alcohol[30] and public health[31].


Snowdon is an adjunct scholar with the Democracy Institute and a freelance journalist who regularly publishes article in the libertarian online magazine spiked.[32] His articles also challenge initiatives that threaten free market policies.


Advisory Council

As listed by the Democracy Institute: [33]


Democracy Institute connections to the Conservative movement

Social Network Analysis of the Democracy Institute and links to other conservative organisations.

Activities

The Democracy Institute’s research interests are within the following areas: Democratisation, education policy; electoral studies; the European Union; fiscal studies; health care; international relations ; obesity; and the regulation of risk.[58] The main focus of its attention is on public health initiatives that are likely to interfere with the marketing activities of the tobacco[59], alcohol[60] and food[61] industries. The Institute is regularly consulted by the media as a body of experts in public health issues with Patrick Basham and John Luik frequently appearing as media commentators, 37 worldwide newspaper articles between 2006 and 2010 cite Basham and Luik as experts on public health issues.[62]

Basham and Luik have published articles in 14 newspapers worldwide with Washington Times printing 6 articles, four of which express the Institute's pro-industry view on obesity. [63] The Washington Times is owned by News World Communications Incorporated, which is under the control of the Unification Church, Reverend Sun Myung Moon – also referred to as the Moonies. [64] The Washington Times is known for its conservative views as are eight of the newspapers that have published the work of Basham and Luik including The Australian (Fox Corporation), The Western Mail; The Irish Independent; New Zealand Herald; Philadelphia Inquirer; Star Tribune; Sunday Telegraph and the West Australian.[65]

In terms of magazines and journals Basham and Luik have published articles in The American Spectator and the National Review which both promote conservative ideology.[66] This again would suggest that the Democracy Institute adopts a partisan rather than independent perspective. Most prominently Basham and Luik have published articles on Spiked online.

Public Health

The two main researchers for the Democracy Institute, Patrick Basham and John Luik, have written in the British Medical Journal on obesity, [67] and Basham has separately written two BMJ blog posts on tobacco issues.[68][69]

On Obesity

In several articles attacking public health, Basham [70] [71][72][73] argues that four obesity claims are nothing but ‘myths’:

  • That the world is obese (both adults and children)
  • That being fat is a certain recipe for early death
  • That fatness stems from the manufacturing and marketing practices of the food industry
  • That we will lengthen our lives if only we eat less and lose weight.

According to Basham, there is no scientific evidence to support these myths. Basham claims that evidence produced by the The Scripps Research Institute in which ‘junk food’ was found to be addictive to rats due to the chemical reactions it causes in the brain are irrelevant to humans for the reason that it is been proved addictive to rats – not humans.

Basham and Luik recently published an article in spiked expressing their opinion concerning the San Francisco Board of Supervisor’s decision to approve a preliminary ban that would force fast food retailers to stop providing promotional toys with happy meals.[74] According to the article the ban would give parents an opportunity to promote healthier meal options to their children. According Basham and Luik in the article, the proposal is presumptuous as it assumes that the fast food industry and its marketing techniques contribute towards childhood obesity. The evidence-less Happy Meal ban should remind us that the entire idea of fat children is largely a cultural construct, not a scientific one. A hundred years ago, today's penchant for thin children would have been considered a shocking instance of child neglect.The idea that children weighing over a certain amount are fat or obese has no scientific foundation, as the dividing line between fat and normal is purely arbitrary, representing nothing more than a public health bureaucrat's notion of where normal ends and fat begins.[75]

More recently, Basham and Luik have criticised the NHS for proposing to prevent obese people from receiving certain operations due to lifestyle choices.[76] Basham and Luik (2011) present the following evidence in the article,

“Van Baal and his colleagues estimated lifetime health costs for three groups of 1,000 people: the ‘healthy-living’ group (thin and non-smoking), obese people, and smokers. The researchers found that from age 20 to 56, obese people racked up the most expensive health costs. But because both the smokers and the obese people died sooner than the healthy group, it cost less to treat them in the long run.”

The purpose of the article that Basham and Luik refer to as evidence was to examine the medical cost of obesity before considering implications for obesity prevention in order to reduce costs. The article concludes that obesity prevention to some extent, reduces health costs. [77]

On Equality

Wilkinson and Pickett's book The Spirit Level was criticised in a series of reports by the Taxpayers' Alliance, the Democracy Institute and the Policy Exchange. The criticisms from the Policy Exchange and the Taxpayers' Alliance were published just 24 hours apart.[78][79]

Transparency

The organisation’s website gives no information about its major funders however in his book, A Picture of Health? Why Graphic Warnings Don’t Work John Luik states that the writing of the book was, “made possible by funding provided by Imperial Tobacco Group PLC” indicating that the organisation has corporate associates.[80]

In a more recent article, Basham and Luik state the following, “The Democracy Institute has not received any funding from the food, gambling, tobacco, alcohol, or indoor tanning industries to publish this paper. Nor have the authors received any funding from those industries to research and write this paper, the contents of which have not been shared with or reviewed by any individual or organisation affiliated with the food, gambling, tobacco, alcohol, or indoor tanning industries.” [81]

Links

The Democracy Institute is a think tank with links to the Cato Institute [82] and Spiked online.[83]

Publications

Affiliations

Spiked | Institute of Humane Studies | Pacific Research Institute | Mercatus Center | International Foundation for Electoral Systems | Cato Institute | Independent Institute | Social Affairs Unit.[84]

Contact Details

London

Democracy Institute
2nd Floor
145-157 St John Street
London EC1V 4PY
0845 310 4144
www.democracyinstitute.org.uk
Email: info@democracyinstitute.org

Washington

Democracy Institute
2001 M St NW
Washington DC 20036
301 390 3711
www.democracyinstitute.org
Email: info@democracyinstitute.org

Resources

Notes

  1. The Democracy Institute (undated), About Us, (accessed 17th February 2011)
  2. David Miller and Steven Harkins Re: Is the obesity epidemic exaggerated? Yes British Medical Journal, 16 April 2015, accessed 17 April 2015.
  3. The Democracy Institute (undated), About Us, (accessed 17th February 2011)
  4. The Democracy Institute (undated), About Us, (accessed 17th February 2011)
  5. Basham P, Luik J. NYC: The City that Never Smokes 26 October 2009. , [accessed 12 November 2014]
  6. Basham P, Luik J. A bleary-eyed attitude to alcohol research The Democracy Institute 2 February 2010. http://www.democracyinstitute.org/AnnouncementRetrieve.aspx?ID=38687 [accessed 12 November 2012]
  7. Basham P, Luik J.[ http://www.democracyinstitute.org/AnnouncementRetrieve.aspx?ID=37564 The myth of an ‘obesity tsunami’], The Democracy Institute 19 January 2010, [accessed 12 November 2014]
  8. About Us, About Us, Democracy Institute, accessed 10 February 2010
  9. Cato Institute (N.D) Patrick Basham accessed 6th April 2011
  10. Telefax, Tflb CONFEDERATION OF EUROPEAN COMMUNITY CIGARETTE MANUFACTURER LIMITED, CONFEDERATION OF EUROPEAN COMMUNITY CIGARETTE MANUFACTURER LIMITED, 22-June-1993
  11. Consultants, John Luik, Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco, Accessed 10-February-2010
  12. Consultants, John Luik, Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco, Accessed 10-February-2010
  13. Gori GB, Luik JC. Passive smoke: the EPA’s betrayal of science and policy. Vancouver, Canada: Fraser Institute, 1999
  14. Marsden, W., "Big tobacco's shell game with the truth," Montreal Gazette, June 21, 2001
  15. Montreal Gazette, Blowing smoke, Cornwall Standard Freeholder (Ontario), 2-July-2001
  16. Sherry Stein, Letter to Adrain Payne at British American Tobacco, 28-July-2000, Accessed through Tobacco Archives 18-February-2010
  17. Sherry Stein, Letter to Martin Broughton, 28-January-2000, Accessed through Tobacco Archives 20-February-2010
  18. Patrick Basham, Public Policy Sources, The Fraser Institute, 1-August-2000, Accessed through Tobacco Archives 20-February-2010
  19. Press Release, Media Release, The Fraser Institute, 9-April-1999, Accessed Through Tobacco Archives 18-February-2010
  20. Patrick Basham, Public Policy Sources, The Fraser Institute, 1-August-2000, Accessed through Tobacco Archives 20-February-2010
  21. Basham and Luik, Five-a-day won’t keep the doctor away, Spiked, 13 May 2010, accessed 5 August 2010
  22. Patrick Basham and John Luik, NYC: The City That Never Smokes, Democracy Institute, 26 October 2009, Accessed 14 November 2014
  23. Consultants, John Luik, Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco, Accessed 10-February-2010
  24. CBC T.V. News and Current Affairs, June 21, 2001; CBC Television
  25. William Marsden, Luik lied to universities about his qualifications, The Montreal Gazette, 21-June-2001
  26. Patrick Basham & John Luik, 'The Plain Truth - Does Packaging Influence Smoking?', Democracy Institute, 14 March 2012
  27. Patrick Basham & John Luik, 'Prescription for conflict: why the alliance between the pharmaceutical industry and the anti-tobacco movement is not in the best interests of smokers', Economic Affairs, Volume 32, Issue 2, pages 41–46, June 2012
  28. Patrick Basham & John Luik, 'Why the plain packaging consultation is deeply flawed', Institute of Economic Affairs, 9 July 2012
  29. Patrick Basham & John Luik, Turning fat into a four-letter word, Spiked, 5 August 2013
  30. Patrick Basham & John Luik, 'A bleary-eyed attitude to alcohol research', Spiked, 2 February 2010
  31. Patrick Basham & John Luik, 'Working class are under attack from health paternalism', The Guardian, 29 April 2010
  32. About the Author, Velvet Glove Iron Fist website, accessed 4 August 2010
  33. About Us, Advisory Council, Democracy Institute, accessed 10 February 2010
  34. Institute for Humane Studies (N.D) Nigel Ashford, accessed 6th April 2010
  35. Pacific Research Institute(N.D)Jason Clemens accessed 6th April 2011
  36. Cato Institute (N.D) Veronique de Rugy accessed 6th April 2011
  37. Mercatus Center(N.D) Veronique de Rugy curriculum vitae, accessed 6th April 2011
  38. Mercatus Center (N.D) Veronique de Rugy accessed 6th April 2011
  39. Linkedin (N.D) Jamie Dettmer accessed 6th April 2011
  40. Jamie Dettmer & Associates (N.D) Jamie Dettmer & Associates accessed 6th April 2011
  41. Jamie Dettmer & Associates(N.D) Jamie Dettmer accessed 6th April 2011
  42. Jamie Dettmer (N.D) Jamie Dettmer accessed 6th April 2011
  43. Cato Institute(N.D)Chris Edwards accessed 6th April 2011
  44. Chris Edwards (N.D) Chris Edwards contributions accessed 6th April 2011
  45. Independent Institute (N.D) Ivan Eland accessed 6th April 2011
  46. American Spectator (N.D). Jeremy Lott accessed 6th April
  47. Competitive Enterprise Institute (N.D) Jeremy Lott accessed 6th April 2011
  48. 123 People (N.D) Michael Mosbacher, Esq's Biography accessed 6th April 2011
  49. Society for Quality Education (N.D) Who we are accessed 6th April 2011
  50. Society for Quality Education (N.D) Who we are accessed 6th April 2011
  51. Independent Institute (N.D) About us Charles V. Peña accessed 6th April 2011
  52. Independent Institute (N.D) About us Charles V. Peña accessed 6th April 2011
  53. Independent Institute (N.D) About us Charles V. Peña accessed 6th April 2011
  54. National Interest (N.D) Christopher A.Preble Accessed 6th April 2011
  55. Cato Institute, People, accessed 15 February 2010
  56. Heritage Foundation (2007, 2008) http://www.heritage.org/search?query=tupy Publications by Marian Tupy] accessed 6th April 2011
  57. Fraser Institute (N.D) [http://www.fraserinstitute.org/author.aspx?id=15422&txID=3324 Research and News) accessed 6th April 2011
  58. The Democracy Institute (undated), About Us, (accessed 17th February 2011)
  59. Patrick Basham & John Luik, NYC: The City that Never Smokes, The Democracy Institute, 26 October 2009, accessed 30 March 2010
  60. Patrick Basham & John Luik, A bleary-eyed attitude to alcohol research, The Democracy Institute, 2-February-2010, Accessed 30-March-2010
  61. Patrick Basham & John Luik, The myth of an ‘obesity tsunami', Democracy Institute, 19-January-2010, Accessed 30-March-2010
  62. Nexis UK (2011), Nexis Search Terms "John Luik" and "Patrick Basham" (accessed 17th February 2011)
  63. Nexis UK (2011), Nexis Search Terms "John Luik" and "Patrick Basham" (accessed 17th February 2011)
  64. Media Owners (n.d)See who owns the American media accessed 8th April, 2011
  65. WorldPress.org(n.d) World Newspapers and Magazines accessed 8th April 2011
  66. Nexis UK (2011), Nexis Search Terms "John Luik" and "Patrick Basham" (accessed 17th February 2011)
  67. Basham P, Luik J. Is the obesity epidemic exaggerated? Yes. BMJ 2008;336(244) http://www.bmj.com/content/336/7638/244 [accessed 12 November 2014]
  68. Basham P. The DOH is wrong about cessation. British Medical Journal 17 March 2010. http://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2010/03/17/patrick-basham-the-doh-is-wrong-about-cessation/ [accessed 12 November 2014]
  69. Basham P. Not smoke-free but snus-free. British Medical Journal 6 April 2010. http://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2010/04/06/patrick-basham-not-smoke-free-but-snus-free/ [accessed 12 November 2014]
  70. Basham, P. & Luik,J. (2006)Four big, fat myths (accessed 24th February 2011)
  71. Basham, P & Luik,J.(2010)A happy meal is nothing to smile about (accessed 19th February 2011)
  72. Basham, P.(2010) "The myth of an obesity tsunami, Democracy Institute (accessed 24th February 2011
  73. Basham, P. & Luik, J. (2008)"Head To Head Is The Obesity Epidemic Exaggerated? Yes, “British Medical Journal”, (accessed 24th February 2011)
  74. Basham, P & Luik, J.(2010)A happy meal is nothing to smile about (accessed 19th February 2011)
  75. Basham, P & Luik (2010) happy meal is nothing to smile about (accessed 19th February 2011)
  76. Basham, P. & Luik,J. (2011), Healthcare for all unless you're fat!, Spiked online, (accessed 11th March 2011)
  77. Pieter H. M. Van Baal, P.H.M; Polder, J.J; Ardine de Wit, G.; Hoogenveen, R.T. Feenstra, T.L.; Boshuizen, H.C.; Engelfriet, P.M.; Brouwe,W. (2008), Medical Costs of Obesity: Prevention No Cure for Increasing Health Expenditure, PLoS Med 5(2): e29, (accessed 11th March 2011)
  78. Adams, T., (2008), Have the Right taken all the best ideas, the Guardian, 31-August-2008, Accessed 29-November-2010
  79. Booth, R., (2010), The Spirit Level: how ‘ideas wreckers’ turned book into a political punch bag, the Guardian, 14-August-2010, Accessed 29-November-2010
  80. Luik,J., (2006),A Picture of Health? Why Graphic Warnings Don’t Work, London, The Democracy Institute (accessed 28th February 2011)
  81. Basham, P. & Luik, J. (2006), The War on Working Class Culture London, The Democracy Institute (accessed 28th February 2011)
  82. Patrick Basham, Adjunct Scholar, The Cato Institute, Accessed 30-March-2010
  83. All Articles, Articles by Basham & Luik, Spiked, accessed 30 March 2010
  84. About Us, Advisory Council, Democracy Institute, Accessed 10-February-2010