Thursday, September 15, 2005

previous entry | main | next entry | TrackBack (0)

Virginia Postrel shows me the way of the world

Virginia Postrel responds to my post about the value-added of think tanks:

Well, Dan, let me tell you the way of the world. For the most part, think tank donors (especially individuals, as opposed to foundations or corporations) are completely uninterested in original research and unable to evaluate its quality. On the whole, individuals give to think tanks for the same reason they give to religious organizations--to demonstrate commitment to a belief system and to support the people they believe will spread the word. They want to hear the same messages over and over and over again, and they financially reward those who give them what they want. While generally nice, generous people, donors are on the whole indifferent to originality, bored by wonky policy proposals, and annoyed by any think tank employee who challenges their political cathechisms. Boards of trustees tend to reward executives not for doing or supporting important work but for raising money.

Since you can't do the work without money anyway, think tankers who want to do good, significant work eventually either flee or give in to the system's preference for superficiality. Making the system even worse are media bookers who want predictable, preferably partisan views. Dan worries about op-eds. Op-eds are philosophy tomes compared to TV, and as Nicole Kidman aptly observed in To Die For, you're nobody in America if you're not on TV. That goes double for public policy circles.

Read the whole thing.

posted by Dan on 09.15.05 at 09:51 AM


Virginia's comments are depressing for me as my life's goal is to work in think tanks, research and public policy.

On the other hand, maybe the fact that my dream is to work as a researcher in a think tank is the depressing thing.

posted by: Avi on 09.15.05 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

Avi, no one works on public policy in a think tank. People work on public policy in government. Everyone else just talks about public policy, thinks about it, worries about it; they just don't work on it. Think tanks offer an opportunity to not work on public policy in a nice office and fill up air time on C-SPAN2.

posted by: Zathras on 09.15.05 at 09:51 AM [permalink]

Post a Comment:


Email Address:



Remember your info?