The Panopticon Foundation (先機智庫協會) is a private, non-profit think tank that supports the study of societies transitioning to new forms of economic, political, and social organization, ensuring that societies are enroute to becoming more prosperous, free, and mobile while avoiding common developmental pains: population displacement, social upheaval, disease, political corruption, and economic inefficacy, and inevitably, disappointment. The Panopticon focuses on researching and studying the challenges facing these countries, both developed and developing, during their transition periods.
The goal of our research program is to contribute to greater academic and policy understanding of transitional societies, and to use that knowledge to develop and provide inventive yet effective public policy recommendations that advance security, economic opportunity, social welfare, and political development and freedoms.
The Foundation also mentors students through research internships with scholars and practitioners, in which they will conduct supervised, independent research projects on these crucial topics. The purpose of the internship program is to help students develop research skills that are essential for both their academic and ensuing professional careers, and which are often under-emphasized in school. The program also exposes students to comprehensive, in-depth research programs and questions, and helps students explore their interests in important political, social, and economic questions.
The Panopticon (all-seeing)
Its most famous incarnation is Jeremy Bentham’s prison designs, but Bentham actually worked on a more general concept of an “inspection house” that could also be used to make hospitals, schools, and other institutions more efficient and effective. The oppressive, authoritarian systems that these countries are usually transitioning away from invoke the more disturbing aspects of the panopticon prison concept. But one hope of the panoptic prison is that the self-discipline developed in fear of an all-seeing eye will eventually breed the ability to control oneself when unconstrained. In order to make the transition to rule of law and self-governance, and support free, liberal, prosperous, and commercial institutions, the population must develop various virtues, including self-discipline and regard for others. This brings to mind a different type of panopticon, one in which people, in order to live freely and prosperously with each other, govern themselves because they see and consider others in their increasingly and more deeply interconnected societies.