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A Brief History of
the Sabre Foundation


The Sabre Foundation was registered in 1969 as a private operating foundation in the State of New York. Its name was meant to suggest a cutting edge. The Foundation was broadly chartered to encourage projects in what it came to call "the philosophy and practice of free institutions".

Sabre hoped to support innovators -- non-profit entrepreneurs as well as independent thinkers and writers -- in projects that would not otherwise be underwritten by established institutions or single-purpose charities. It planned to seek funding ad hoc for each project.

In 1970-73 Sabre undertook its first two projects: expanded property ownership and the all-volunteer army. An Expanded Ownership Task Force examined the philosophy of property ownership underlying American government and traced the recurring legislative attempts to expand the middle class. In a two-volume report it analyzed such contemporary proposals as community development corporations, minority business enterprise, home ownership, employee ownership and profit-sharing plans, portable individual retirement accounts, land banks, and greater progressivity in estate and gift taxation.

A second task force, composed of young people in their twenties, developed specific recommendations for the implementation of an all-volunteer army and issued a subsequent report on Defense Department progress toward this goal.

Beginning in 1975 Sabre sought to improve the quality of political discourse by assisting new writers with research grants to prepare serious investigative and scholarly articles for journals of opinion.The articles appeared in magazines covering the full ideological spectrum.

Policy-oriented programs continued in 1976 with work on free trade zones, enterprise zones, technology transfer projects, and neighborhood empowerment proposals. The most visionary of these, Earthport, was a plan to link equatorial satellite launch facilities with free trade zones. The free trade zone aspect of the proposal had a career of its own, resulting in the formation of a consulting firm, spun off from Sabre, that has done international work in seventy countries.

Sabre's enterprise zone project developed model legislation enacted by several states. It, too, was spun off as the American Association of Enterprise Zones in 1985. A trademark of Sabre's proposals in this field was to emphasize the priority of the local business climate overtax incentives in development strategies.

In 1978 Sabre began a program in philosophy to examine concepts fundamental to free institutions. Several distinguished scholars were to be involved in this work. Sabre organized research, publications, exchanges and conferences, including the first public international academic meeting on the philosophy of market economics to be held in a Communist country. Following the fall of Communism, Sabre assisted in important conferences in Eastern Europe and at the James Madison estate in Virginia to discuss the conceptual grounds of the transition to market-oriented democracy.

In 1986 as an offshoot of its philosophical program, Sabre began modest book donations in Poland and Hungary. The book program grew to serve sixteen countries in the former Soviet bloc, as well as in other countries in Asia and Africa. By Sabre's 25th anniversary theFoundation had involved more than 125 donating publishers in the distribution of two million books appraised at more than fifty million dollars. Book donation, in turn, led to complementary activities in local translation, publication and training, reduced cost purchase ofreference books and journal subscriptions, electronic publishing, and technical assistance in the use of Internet and other on-line resources. Overall, Sabre emerged as the largest donor of advanced English-language materials in the formerly Communist region.

To implement its international programs Sabre formed long-term partnerships with non-profit organizations in each country in which it became active. Several of these bear the Sabre name. Many also became members of Sabre-Europe, a Brussels-based transnational non-profit. In 1990 Sabre US was reincorporated as a public charity to permit greater flexibility in its program activities.

Towards the end of 1994, as Sabre approached its 25th anniversary, an unsolicited donor asked if the Foundation would accept its first endowment gift. He hoped that a gift from which income would be drawn in perpetuity might encourage others to assure the continuity of the Foundation's efforts.

Now having reached its 30th anniversary, Sabre looks forward to shaping the philosophy and practice of free institutions into the next century.