The John Locke Foundation is an independent, nonprofit think tank working for truth, freedom, and the future of North Carolina.
The John Locke Foundation is named for John Locke (1632-1704), an English philosopher whose writings inspired Thomas Jefferson and the other Founders. Locke is a 501(c)(3) research institute and is funded by thousands of individuals, foundations and corporations. The Foundation does not accept government funds or contributions to influence its work or the outcomes of its research.
Locke envisions a North Carolina in which liberty and limited, constitutional government are the cornerstones of society so that individuals, families, and institutions can freely shape their own destinies.
Locke’s mission is to be North Carolina’s most influential force driving public policy so North Carolinians flourish in a free and prosperous society.
John Hood chuckles about the early days. There were the people who assumed he must be John Locke. There were the hours spent entering names and addresses into an archaic database. And there were the lawmakers who asked him to fetch coffee since the fresh-faced Hood resembled the typical legislative page.
It’s been a memorable journey from john-of-all-trades to president and chairman of a premiere state policy think tank. But that’s the road Hood has traveled from that day in 1990 when he and founding president Marc Rotterman opened the doors of the John Locke Foundation. The following year, Marilyn Avila signed on as bookkeeper and administrator, and the trio formed the intellectual firepower and energy behind the state’s outspoken voice on behalf of conservative principles and free-market economics.
It wasn’t long before movers and shakers took notice. In 1991, Locke’s first alternative state budget addressed the state’s economic downturn and the state’s nearly $1 billion budget hole. John walked the halls of the General Assembly, passing out the budget and explaining its components. “There were some people who, pretty quickly, began to be interested in us and our work,” Hood recalls. “And not just conservatives — some liberals, too.”
Hood believes the development of Locke’s journalism arm represents a key milestone for the foundation. He is proud of Carolina Journal’s reputation as a relentless government watchdog that invests time and resources into investigative journalism. Executive Editor Don Carrington’s 1997 expose on a $21 million legislative slush fund used for pork-barrel projects was the first in a line of consequential stories about misuse of public funds and conflict of interest. “Whether you look at our impact on policy or our journalistic efforts, we’ve had a really remarkable 20 years.”
Hood notes there are still many policy challenges ahead, including alarmist climate change policies, the stifling of public charter schools, the spend-and-tax habit of state and local officials, weak private property rights protections, and local government intrusion disguised as “smart growth” policies. “We’re already working on all of them,” Hood says.
Is the John Locke Foundation Conservative?
Some people ask us: Is the John Locke Foundation a Republican group? No, the John Locke Foundation is nonpartisan.
Others ask: Is the John Locke Foundation conservative? The answer to this question is not as simple.
The John Locke Foundation believes in free markets, limited constitutional government, and personal responsibility. In the modern American political context, those principles are labeled conservative. Historically, and in most other countries today, those have been considered liberal or “classical liberal” principles. Some observers also consider those principles libertarian.
If someone asks whether the John Locke Foundation is conservative, (classically) liberal, or libertarian, the appropriate answer is “yes.”
Our Founding Principles
We are a land of liberty where natural rights of individuals precede and supersede the power of the state.
We are a constitutional republic in which government power is limited and employed for the purpose of providing legitimate public goods rather than for the benefit of insiders and narrow interest groups.
We are a free market in which people have the natural right to sell goods and services to willing buyers, and in which the individual pursuit of economic opportunity benefits all.
And we are a free society where citizens solve social problems not only through government but also by working together in families, neighborhoods, churches, charities, and other private, voluntary organizations.