California Think Tank Launches New ‘Free Cities Center’ to Incubate Free Market Ideas to Improve Cities


As West Coast cities face rising crime, soaring housing costs, sprawling homelessness and devastated downtowns, the nonpartisan Pacific Research Institute today launched the “Free Cities Center,” an ambitious initiative cultivating innovative ideas to improve urban life based around freedom and property rights – not government.


The Free Cities Center launched today with a new website at


“West Coast cities offer an unparalleled vibrancy and significant cultural and economic importance, but failed government urban policies are making them virtually unlivable,” said Steven Greenhut, director of PRI’s Free Cities Center and R Street Institute western region director. “Now we’re seeing an exodus of people voting with their feet by leaving. The policy status quo must change to reverse this tragedy.”


The Free Cities Center will regularly release incisive reporting and analysis on crime, housing, education, homelessness, social mobility and other urban issues through commentaries, videos, and webinars.


With the launch, PRI released the first in a series of magazine-style papers that will explore the free-market vision for Western cities. In “Back from Dystopia,” Greenhut sets forth how we can build freer and better cities with good quality of life, safe streets, and vibrant culture.


Other Free Cities Center highlights include:

• A video tour of the Orange County Rescue Mission and interview with president Jim Palmer on how the private charity is turning lives around more effectively than traditional government homeless programs

• An article by Matthew Fleming and interview with former Anaheim mayor Tom Tait on the city’s “freedom experiment” promoting development based on property rights rather than government planning,

• An article by PRI Center for California Reform fellow Kerry Jackson on how the world’s most vibrant and interesting cities came from the bottom-up, not urban planners

• An article by The Hon. Daniel Kolkey, PRI board member, on how the state’s efforts to control wildfires is major problem in urban areas, in addition to rural communities

• An article by Lance Izumi, senior director of PRI’s Center for Education, on how revamping urban schools can improve quality of life in cities


PRI scholars and an array of noted California free-market thinkers will be contribute to the Free Cities Center, including Chris Reed, Dr. Wayne Winegarden, Wendell Cox, John Seiler, Steve Smith, Matt Fleming, and more to come.


“It is important to look at market-based policies on crime, housing, homelessness, the economy and more that make great cities thrive. Rather than lament their decline, The Free Cities Center is about coming up with good policies that will make cities better places,” said Greenhut. “We aim to foster serious thinking and incubate good ideas to improve our cities so residents will feel safe and will want to plant roots in healthy communities rather than flee.”


The Pacific Research Institute ( champions freedom, opportunity, and personal responsibility by advancing free-market policy ideas. Follow PRI on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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