ACRE: Our Research

The vision and hope of ACRE faculty, staff, and supporters is greater human well-being—a society in which everyone lives the best, most rewarding life possible, as defined by each individual. Decades of research show a strong correlation between economic and personal freedom and greater societal wealth, career and job opportunities, health outcomes, and overall happiness.

Empirical evidence clearly shows that limited government, free markets, and individual freedom is the path to human well-being. To achieve that end, we created ACRE. Over the past decade, growth in the size and power of federal, state, and local governments has eroded freedom in the United States. We are suffering the consequences: a sluggish economy, high unemployment, and a heavy tax burden on hardworking individuals.

ACRE pursues economic research in four primary areas:

Regulations that inhibit people’s efforts to earn a living. In the entire United States, Arkansas has the second-greatest burden in terms of the number of jobs that require government licenses to work, and the education, experience, and expenditure required to obtain these licenses. Arkansas requires more education and experience for licensure than any state nearby. These regulations hinder Arkansans’ ability to earn a living. The regulations are touted as protecting consumers, but they actually protect incumbents from competition.

Transparency and efficient governance. We choose to focus on transparency and good governance because we believe that voters should be able to easily obtain timely, relevant, and comprehensible information related to the activities of the government that represents them. Our first transparency project focuses on transparency at the county level. Multiple counties in Arkansas have experienced budgetary irregularities brought on by illegal, inept, or inappropriate spending. It is very difficult for voters to track down these irregularities because many counties do not share financial documents with the public. Many do not even provide the mandated materials, much less make the materials easily searchable on the web. Improved transparency would increase voter confidence and save money.

Strategies for unleashing entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is key to economic growth. Small firms create 64 percent of net new private-sector jobs. About 40 percent of the private sector’s net new jobs have been created by the churn of start-ups minus closures. Entrepreneurship is more than economic growth. When people become entrepreneurs they are choosing to make their own dreams come true – to run their own lives. Yet entrepreneurship is an area where Arkansas does not do well. According to the Kauffman index on start-up activity, Arkansas ranked 26th in 2014 and 32nd in 2015. Of Arkansas’s neighbors, only Tennessee ranks lower.

Public education. We chose education as one of our topics because education improves the lives of Arkansans in a very direct and meaningful way. Educated workers earn more money and start more businesses. Arkansas spends a greater percentage of its budget on education than any of its neighbors do, but students do not score well on tests overall in Arkansas. Further, we find that when we rank states by National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) outcomes per dollar spent, Arkansas ranks fifth out of the seven states in the neighborhood.