About Mercatus

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The Mercatus Center at George Mason University is the world’s premier university source for market-oriented ideas—bridging the gap between academic ideas and real-world problems.

A university-based research center, the Mercatus Center advances knowledge about how markets work to improve people’s lives by training graduate students, conducting research, and applying economics to offer solutions to society’s most pressing problems.

Our mission is to generate knowledge and understanding of the institutions that affect the freedom to prosper, and to find sustainable solutions that overcome the barriers preventing individuals from living free, prosperous, and peaceful lives.

Founded in 1980, the Mercatus Center is located on George Mason University’s Arlington and Fairfax campuses.

Click here for our history and timeline.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Mercatus Center?

The Mercatus Center is a university-based research center dedicated to bridging the gap between academic research and public policy problems.

What does “Mercatus” mean and how is it pronounced?

Mercatus is a Latin word for “market.” It is pronounced mer-KAY-tus.

What does the Mercatus Center do?

Mercatus researchers conduct research, work with graduate students to apply ideas to problems in the world, and make research findings available to the media and to policymakers to connect academic learning with real-world practice.

As the name implies, Mercatus research focuses on how markets solve problems.

Our goal is to bridge the gap between academic research and public policy problems, advancing an understanding of the economics of public policy. We do this through education (graduate student training), research (peer-reviewed academic publications and policy studies), and outreach.

More specifically, Mercatus scholars conduct their own research regarding which institutions—markets, governments, nonprofits, or combinations of the three—promote the best social outcomes.

Through our visiting scholars program, academic seminars and workshops, and participation in professional academic association meetings, we encourage a lively and interdisciplinary engagement with our research.

The Mercatus Center’s “economic toolkit” draws from Nobel laureates Friedrich A. Hayek, Elinor Ostrom, Douglass North, and George Mason University’s own James Buchanan and Vernon Smith.

Our topics of study vary, from economic development in Africa to rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina to the 2008 financial crisis to lessons from the history of the wine trade to the rules that governed pirate ships to the economics of government spending—and many in between.

Who runs the Mercatus Center?

The Mercatus Center is led by a faculty director who is appointed by the provost of George Mason University. Tyler Cowen, a professor of economics at George Mason University, is the current faculty director of the Mercatus Center.

How can students get involved with the Mercatus Center?

The Mercatus Center supports graduate students interested in understanding social change and in applying economics to solve problems in the world. Our graduate fellows work closely with Mercatus scholars, enjoy access to our rich network of affiliated faculty, participate in sponsored conferences, seminars, workshops, and readings groups, and become actively involved in a learning environment where they can grow as scholars as well as policy analysts.

How is the Mercatus Center funded?

The Mercatus Center at George Mason University is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization and is supported by foundations (58%), individuals (40%), and businesses (2%) from around the country. The Mercatus Center does not receive financial support from George Mason University or any federal, state, or local government.

How can I make a donation to the Mercatus Center?

Visit our donation page to learn about the many ways to support the Mercatus Center.

Why should I donate to the Mercatus Center?

The Mercatus Center relies on the generosity of supporters who value economic research that speaks to real-world problems.

The Mercatus Center brings good ideas from scholars around the world to people in government. More than 30% of our budget supports George Mason University professors and the graduate students who have the potential to become tomorrow’s economics professors and policy experts.

Your generosity today can help the Mercatus Center work to bring about a freer, more prosperous, and more peaceful society. Your support will help us inject sound economic thinking into policy debates at both the federal and state levels.

Does the Mercatus Center do directed research or research for hire?

Mercatus scholars do not do directed research or research for hire. Researchers select their own projects and are committed to the highest standards of academic quality and credibility for their research procedures and products.

We ensure our standards through rigorous internal review, peer review, and a transparent process for selecting and undertaking research projects.

While the credibility of the research any organization produces should stand on the quality and reliability of that research alone, more is often necessary. The Mercatus Center strictly adheres to a stated policy regarding independence of research.

What is the relationship between the Mercatus Center and George Mason University?

The Mercatus Center is one of over 90 centers at George Mason University and is led by a faculty director who reports to the provost. As an independent 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization, the Mercatus Center does not receive any financial support from George Mason University or the state of Virginia. Mercatus is the largest supporter of graduate education at George Mason University, supporting more than 65 graduate students in the 2018-2019 school year. Throughout its 40 years at George Mason University, Mercatus has helped attract more than a dozen faculty members, including two economists who received the Nobel Prize in Economics while at Mason.