According to their about page their “mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems.” And they’ve had their fair share of successes in politics and the media on these matters.
Recently they uploaded their 25 year anniversary video -- called What Is The Heartland Institute? -- to YouTube (they are now 29 years old) and in it they get congratulated for their excellent work:
However, anyone familiar with me will know I do not think they have done excellent work. Far from it, a lot of their work has actually harmed people.
For example in the 1990s they worked with the tobacco industry to cast doubt on the harmful health effects of secondhand smoking. What they did, and several other free market organisations, was to cast doubt on these findings in an attempt to delay/prevent regulations that would protect consumers. Their campaigns also confused consumers themselves which caused them to be misinformed on the risks.
They still have these materials in their “Smoker’s Lounge” section on their website. Where they to this day refer to research that show the health risks of smoking and secondhand smoke as “junk science.”
But this wasn’t what made me familiar with this organisation, it’s their statements on environmental issues. They consistently misrepresent valid scientific findings and do their utmost to cast doubt on real issues.
For example they still maintain the position that CFCs do not harm the ozone layer:
Yet in spite of the hardships caused by the hasty phaseout of CFCs and other suspected ozone-depleting halocarbons, the EPA has never questioned the adequacy of the science that forms the basis for its phaseout policy. The facts are that the scientific underpinnings are quite shaky: the data are suspect; the statistical analyses are faulty; and the theory has not been validated.
Doesn’t matter that the EPA has done these studies and that it has shown that the scientific underpinnings aren’t shaky.
But this does sound familiar, doesn’t it?
These are the same things they say about other environmental issues, for example anthropogenic global warming. Doesn’t matter how much evidence there is backing these scientific findings, if the consequence will be that we need to regulate, they will oppose it. No matter how much damage this might cause.
So no they have not done excellent work and in my opinion it reflects badly on the organisations that say they did. To me this indicates they also place their ideology above scientific findings, which is never a good sign.