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Economics and Human Flourishing


Successful projects within the Economics and Human Flourishing Priority will fit into the scope described here. We have established a set of inclusion and exclusion criteria to frame our goals and appropriate topics in this space, as well as to stimulate their exploration.

Inclusion Criteria

We are particularly interested in funding:

  • Economic research projects that utilize experimental, quantitative techniques to test hypotheses including: controlled field trials, lab experiments, new analysis of natural experiments, and computational simulations; 
  • Projects that expand research beyond high-income country settings, e.g., outside the United States and Western Europe; 
  • Projects that investigate aspects of individual freedom, the functioning of free markets in the context of individual and community flourishing, or entrepreneurship. Ideally, projects will advance a core economic theory often (but not exclusively) found in the classical liberal tradition (e.g. markets, innovation, entrepreneurship, firms, technology, information flow) by generating new data or analysis; 
  • Projects using the tools and techniques of empirical economic research to evaluate the impact of policy changes, interventions or natural experiments on human flourishing, (e.g. health, material well-being, security) by increasing individual freedom, enhancing the reach and efficiency of market systems, or expanding entrepreneurship; 
  • Projects that will result in peer-reviewed publication(s) and real-world applications. 

Exclusion Criteria

We will not fund:

  • Traditional advocacy efforts designed to change public opinion or policy. Although these areas are important and within Sir John’s donor intent, we are focused on new research frontiers. 
  • With this funding round, we are not interested in projects which seek simply to explain current economic theory without new empirical analysis. 
  • We do not support projects related to markets in vices, e.g., alcohol, drug, prostitution, and gambling-related projects, or projects related to promoting a libertine lifestyle or libertine understanding of liberal ideas – that is freedom without responsibility. 
  • Projects not consistent with Sir John Templeton’s intent. Sir John believed that individual freedom and free markets were positive goods, and that the classical liberal tradition provides an effective foundation from which to understand, support, and promote freedom.
Topics scope

Topics that are in and out of scope

To assist you as you begin to think about topics and individuals who may fall within the remit of this funding opportunity, here are some ideas that fall within scope and those that do not. 

We have organized them into the core categories of Individual Freedom, Competition, Free Markets, and Entrepreneurship. This is not an exhaustive list but should help provide some direction on the projects we are willing to consider.

Individual Freedom

Research Topics - In Scope

  • Research on the protection of private property and its use, especially from confiscation, as expressed by United States Chief Justice John Marshall: “An unlimited power to tax involves, necessarily, a power to destroy; because there is a limit beyond which no institution and no property can bear taxation.” 
  • Machine-augmented decision making and access to data. 
  • Fair and equal protection before the law, without favor or bias. 
  • Research on access to financial products and services. 


Research Topics - In Scope

  • Research on whether and how free competition prevents or alleviates poverty.
  • Research on for-profit competition within an industry. 
  • Studies on share ownership, increased personal savings, and the accumulation of wealth and their relationship to measures of human flourishing. 
  • Research on whether highly competitive industries have higher levels of new product development and sales growth. 
  • Profit-based competition to meet the broad scope of human and social needs such as health, education, food, transportation, communication, infrastructure, and sustainable energy. 
  • How free markets and competition can help the scientific research enterprise become more innovative and productive.

Research Topics - Out-of-Scope 

  • Research comparing the effectiveness of two or more government programs or policies. We are instead most interested in new research frontiers, not specific policy or programmatic options. 
  • Government competition with private enterprise—especially when the power levers of government, such as taxes and regulations, eliminate any prospect of a fair and neutral playing field. 

Other examples of a vast variety of forms of competition Sir John would prefer not to fund include: 

  • Government competition with private enterprise—especially when the power levers of government, such as taxes and regulations, eliminate any prospect of a fair and neutral playing field.
  • Government-controlled service choices in meeting social needs, including health, education, food, transportation, energy.

Free Markets

Research Topics - In Scope

  • Research and education regarding the far-ranging, multi-faceted benefits of free markets of alleviating and preventing poverty; in allowing individuals to prosper and thereby become independent and to combine their drive and vision in the pursuit of opportunity; and in creating an ever-wider universe of personal freedoms for self and society. 
  • Systems to foster and promote reliable financial information to assure due diligence, reliable custodianship and safe levels of liquidity. 
  • Research into the interactions between market participation and trust & social bonds.
  • Research to build a theoretical basis for markets and culture. 
  • Research into the impacts of fintech innovations and cryptocurrency on the functioning of free markets. 
  • Research into innovative private market solutions to cheap, reliable and clean energy, particularly in low and middle income countries. 


Research Topics - In Scope

  • Research on the effects of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions and programs on entrepreneurship and innovation. 
  • Research explaining geographic or cultural differences on entrepreneurship. 

Research Topics - Out-of-Scope 

  • Research comparing government-funded job training programs