A free-market energy blog
Random header image... Refresh for more!

The Heartland Institute and Joe Bast: An Appreciation

[May 7th Update: The subjects of this post have been diminished by the very unwise decision to conduct a (quickly terminated) billboard campaign linking global warming beliefs to madmen. We all make mistakes, and this was a big one. Our side has little margin for error given the huge resources of the other side. We cannot become 'Joe Romm' (et al.) in the quest to fight Joe Romm (et al.)]

The scandal perpetrated by climate alarmist Peter Gleick has brought the libertarian think tank Heartland Institute and its founder, president, and CEO Joseph Bast into the spotlight.

Heartland’s free-market orientation led Bast et al. into climate-change science, economics, and policy. Criticism from the climate establishment led Heartland to add a section on its website, Reply to Critics, to rebut charges that it is a ‘front group’ or anti-science. Instead:

Heartland’s mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. Such solutions include parental choice in education, choice and personal responsibility in health care, market-based approaches to environmental protection, privatization of public services, and deregulation in areas where property rights and markets do a better job than government bureaucracies.

Kudos to Bast and Heartland to see a major threat to personal freedom and economic prosperity from ‘climate stabilization’ . Climate alarmism is arguably the anti-industrialist, neo-Malthusians last stand, and it is a recipe for open-ended Big Brother.

Students of the dynamics of government intervention can see how a beginning carbon cap-and-trade program could be tomorrow’s carbon police knocking on the door. Remember Jimmy Carter’s thermostat regulations in the 1970s? Seen another way, it is not hard to fear the mentality of the Peter Gleicks and Joe Romms and the Paul Ehrlichs of the world.

My Association with Heartland

I have known Joe Bast and Heartland (founded 1984) for at least twenty years. Not only is Bast a top libertarian entrepreneur and doer, but he is a scholar. His draft comments on Capitalism at Work: Business, Government, and Energy (2009) helped me immensely. How did he find the time to read, page by page, line by line, my manuscript, I asked myself?

Over the years, I have given four talks at events associated with Heartland:

“The Increasing Sustainability of Conventional Energy,” Resourceful Earth Day, Chicago, Illinois, April 1999

“Energy Realism, not Alarmism.” Eastern Regional Energy Summit, Heartland, Institute, Newport, RI, August 2007

“Enron and ‘Sustainable Energy’: Buyer Beware,” 2008 International Conference on Climate Change, New York City, March 2008

“The Malthusian Virus in the Climate-Change Debate.” 2009 International Conference on Climate Change, New York City: March 2009

Mont Pelerin Moment

The 2008 International Conference on Climate Change in New York City was a watershed event. It brought hundreds of scholars and many more observers together for the first time, all critical of the climate alarmist/policy activist machine.

It was a real morale booster for the foes of climate neo-Malthusianism. It gave new voice and resolve to both the ‘ultra-skeptics’ and the ‘global lukewarmers.’  We all saw, correctly, the new central planning in the name of climate protection, for planning the climate was really the new rational for planning the economy.

I commented to Joe, who mentioned to the audience, how the New York City event was the Mont Pelerin moment of the climate-change movement.

By way of background, the 1947 Mont Pelerin meeting brought together free market scholars from around the world who hardly knew that there was still a movement during the heyday of Keynesian interventionism and socialist planning. The Mont Pelerin Society was founded as a result. Here is more detail:

After World War II, in 1947, when many of the values of Western civilization were imperiled, 36 scholars, mostly economists, with some historians and philosophers, were invited by Professor Friedrich von Hayek to meet at Mont Pelerin, near Montreux, Switzerland, to discuss the state and the possible fate of liberalism (in its classical sense) in thinking and practice.

The group described itself as the Mont Pelerin Society, after the place of the first meeting. It emphasized that it did not intend to create an orthodoxy, to form or align itself with any political party or parties, or to conduct propaganda. Its sole objective was to facilitate an exchange of ideas between like-minded scholars in the hope of strengthening the principles and practice of a free society and to study the workings, virtues, and defects of market-oriented economic systems.

Members—who include high government officials, Nobel prize recipients, journalists, economic and financial experts, and legal scholars from all over the world—come regularly together to present the most current analysis of ideas, trends and events.

Heartland History: ‘Lunches with Dave’

Last December, upon reading a tribute by Joe Bast to David Padden, a Chicago businessman who was the inspirational founder of Heartland. I asked Joe if I could reprint his piece at MasterResource. He replied in part:

I think those of us who benefited from Dave’s generosity over the years really have a duty to keep his name in lights….

Heartland’s first year budget (1984) was $20,000 … Dave gave $1,200 that year, and never gave more than $10,000 in a single year. We finally broke $1 million in 1999, $2 million in 2004, $3 million in 2005, $5 million in 2007, $6 million in 2010.

I conclude with “Lunches with Dave,” reprinted from Heartland’s 3Q-2011 report. All interested in the Heartland Institute in the wake of the Gleick affair should read this piece to understand the spirit and purpose of the organization under Joe Bast.


David Padden, a Chicago businessman who devoted much of his life to fighting for individual freedom and limited government, died on Sunday, October 2, 2011. He was 84.

Dave was the founder of The Heartland Institute, but he was much more than that. He was a pioneer of the libertarian movement in the United States, serving as a founding member of the boards of  numerous think tanks and advocacy groups that were responsible for the re-emergence of interest in the classical liberal philosophy of the Founders and Austrian economics.

In addition to Heartland, he helped start and supported financially the Acton Institute, Bionomics Institute, Cato Institute, Center for  Libertarian Studies, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Council for a Competitive Economy, FreedomWorks, Free To Choose Media, Foundation for Economic Education, and Loop Libertarian League.

500 Lunches

For ten years – from 1984 to 1994 – I had lunch with Dave once a week. That’s about 500 lunches, and about 2,000 cans of Pepsi between the two of us.

Every lunch was at a small conference table in Dave’s office at the corner of Madison and Clark in downtown Chicago. During the past 17 years we met less often, but rarely went more than a week without talking.

Dave was my mentor, the guy who gave me a chance 27 years ago to start a nonprofit organization that I still run today. He was my best friend, and like a second father to me.

What do I owe Dave Padden? Everything. Those long talks we had went far beyond the financial reports, books, and events we worked on. In a way, the business of running a think tank was only the  pretense for far-ranging conversations about life, values, why people think and act as they do, and all sorts of other things.

I doubt he learned much from me, but I learned everything from Dave.

The Freedom Philosophy

Dave’s political philosophy can be summed up in fewer than a dozen words: Force should be used only in self-defense, never initiated. The use of force to achieve other goals, he believed, is immoral, a violation of our God-given or natural (your choice) right to freedom, and in any case, unlikely to succeed.

The organizations Dave helped build created the intellectual, social, and political movements we call libertarianism. They cultivated academics and public intellectuals, published thousands of books and reports, held conferences around the world, and helped turn public opinion away from reliance on ever-bigger and more powerful government, and toward self-reliance and free enterprise.

Dave was attempting, in Friedrich Hayek’s words, to “make the philosophic foundations of a free society once more a living intellectual issue, and its implementation a task which challenges the ingenuity and imagination of our liveliest minds.” He succeeded.

Ideas Have Consequences

Ideas have consequences. Dave’s ideas were toxic to communists and totalitarians, and to the socialists of all political parties. Very simply, the freedom philosophy says most of what governments do today is illegitimate and unnecessary.

The movement Dave helped start touched the lives of every person who reads this essay and billions more who never will. Without Dave Padden and a very small group of others like him, would the Berlin Wall have fallen and the Soviet Union collapsed? Would there have been a Ronald Reagan? A Tea Party movement? More prosaically, the taxes you pay on your home, your income, and the stuff you buy are lower because of Dave Padden. So are the prices you pay for electricity, natural gas, and gasoline. The freedom you take for granted to choose a doctor or other care provider  ... Dave Padden kept that freedom from being taken away. He was one of a small handful of people who could be said to have really changed the world. No history of the twentieth century will be complete without some mention of Dave Padden.

The Power of One

Dave believed the most powerful way to accomplish social change isn’t to write books, run for office, or lobby politicians. It is to live your life according to the freedom philosophy, and thereby be a model and inspiration for others. He certainly had that effect on me, and at his funeral and subsequent events I met scores of other people who embraced the freedom philosophy simply out of respect and admiration for the man who preached it.

As word of Dave’s death spread, I got a flood of emails from people who said their lives had been touched by him. People said they saw Dave present “The Incredible Bread Machine” to their junior high or high school class. Others attended one of his Mises Seminars, or a meeting of the Loop Libertarian League. Academics wrote to say Dave helped make their careers possible.

Dave’s influence extended far beyond Chicago. I received a message from Terry Dunleavy, in New Zealand, saying “without Dave, New Zealand also would be less prosperous and less free.”

Friends and freedom fighters in London, South Africa, Latin America, and Turkey wrote to express their sorrow and report their debts.

If you knew Dave Padden, chances are you already are helping to advance the freedom philosophy in some way. If you never had the chance to meet him, I hope this little essay will inspire you to go out and do what Dave did, to become an outspoken advocate and generous supporter of the freedom philosophy.

The world needs freedom fighters, especially now. We lost a great one on October 2.

Will you come forward and take his place?


1 The Gleick Tragedy | Watts Up With That? { 03.02.12 at 11:04 am }

[...] 7:60AM 3/2 From Master Resource – An appreciation for the Heartland Institute and Joe Bast Meanwhile, if you want to show appreciation while poking some fun, Heartland now offers Fakegate [...]

2 John F. Hultquist { 03.02.12 at 11:31 am }

Just checking in from WUWT. I have to admit I had not heard of Dave Padden. Thanks for the introduction, and the comments on The Heartland’s Joe Bast.

3 Joseph A Olson { 03.02.12 at 4:02 pm }

The Nihilists belive that “nothing is knowable and that there is no right or wrong”. It is the Malthus-Nihilist philosophy that drives liberalism, environmentalism and neo-feudalism. With this “any means justifies the end” mentality these ammoral guerillas attack all of humanity. There are three sides to this Faux Debate. The Warmists and Luke Warmists are both wrong on the science….the Warmists are wrong on science and ETHICS. There is absolutely NO Carbon forcing or feedbacks.

4 Russell { 03.02.12 at 11:13 pm }

How the mighty are fallen- Mount Pelerin relying on mercenaries and Yes Men like Milloy and Bast ?

It’s a wonder we won the Cold War.

5 rbradley { 03.03.12 at 1:09 am }


The ‘mercenary’ charge is refuted by the fact that more money and most of the awards go to the other side. Do you know of any MacArthur award geniuses on the free market side?

I’d say a lot of us on the free-market side have chosen the harder fundraising path and would love to be nominated for more awards than we do.

6 Russell { 06.01.12 at 12:15 am }

” How did he find the time to read, page by page, line by line, my manuscript, I asked myself?”

The time Joe spends ignoring the scientific literature affords him ample leisure. Comparing the Mount Pelerin meeting to the Heartland confab is as bad as eliding a comic book convention with the election of a pope.

7 rbradley { 06.01.12 at 7:58 am }

That is a pretty cheap ad hominem argument. When you realize that climate alarmism is a stanza in the neo-Malthusian litany of false alarms, and that feedback effects that are in high dispute are really what seperates anthropogenic GHG emissions from being a positive ‘externality’ or a negative ‘externality’, then the excitment of the first Heartland climate conference can be appreciated.

The Mount Pelerin meeting has lasted and Heartland’s conferences have declined, but the intellectual rage over central planning–the former (MP) with the economy and the latter (H) with the climate (which means the economy)–inspired them both.

I stick by my analogy but appreciate your challenge to revisit it. I did step out on that one…..

Leave a Comment