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Saturday, February 07, 2009

Creative Think Tank Destruction

Is this a bad thing?:

Incredible shrinking think-tanks, by Gideon Rachman, Commentary, Financial Times: ...[E]ven venerable and well-funded think-tanks like Brookings are going to be squeezed by the credit-crunch. And some ... are actually going to go out of business.

Part of my job involves mixing with people who run or staff think-tanks. And like a lot of the other people I mix with - journalists, bankers, middle-class layabouts - they are a worried group.

The think-tanks with large endowments like Brookings, the Rand corporation and the Council on Foreign Relations have seen a lot of their cash-pile go up in smoke in the stock-market slump. Things are even more precarious for a lot of the smaller think-tanks ... that do not have big endowments, but rely heavily on corporate donations and sponsorship. As company bosses and investment banks look for easy items of expenditure to take the axe to, donations to think-tanks for research are an obvious target.

The world of public-policy research will soon be feeling the effects.

Some of the think tanks promoting liberal ideas do a good job, but on balance I don't think think tanks have been a help to Democrats (Krugman: "I never had any illusions about intellectual integrity in the world of right-wing think tanks"). So unless differences in funding levels and funding sources across think tanks mean that think tanks promoting liberal ideas are more likely to go out of business than their conservative counterparts, which is certainly a possibility, I have a hard time seeing this as a negative development.

    Posted by on Saturday, February 7, 2009 at 01:08 PM in Economics, Policy | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (31)

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