I don’t necessarily have a problem with ideological think tanks; really I don’t. I mean, I admit and acknowledge the fact that, if you get too many like-minded people into a room together, after a while all of the ideas that they produce will be the products of ideological inbreeding, but that’s not necessarily a killing flaw in a democracy; if their ideas become too out of sync with reality as the public at large perceives it, then chances are they are not going to be forming a government anytime soon anyways. In fact, I think that in many ways this is a strength of the Think Tank model; when politicians craft policies they need to tailor them to popular sentiments; people working at think tanks are free to come-up with policies in an environment free of messy, real-world details. I would even go so far as to say that the existence and influence of large, corporate-funded policy think tanks was probably a major factor behind the ascendancy of right wing politics in the western world since the 1980s (and the increasing extent to which these think tanks have fallen victim to ideological inbreeding is a significant cause of the recent ridiculous state of the US republican party).
What I do find objectionable,however, is when these think tanks, rather than just formulating policies, start producing “studies” for public consumption. And when I say “studies,” understand that I am in fact being facetious*, as “studying” is something that one does when one is trying to learn about something. These think tanks, however, are not trying to learn, they are trying to advocate; thus,their “studies” have a remarkable way of “proving” whatever it was that their authors believed in the first place.
Now, one of two things is going on here: either the people at these think tanks are just so incredibly brilliant that they can be absolutely right about everything right off the bat before they even start researching, or these “studies” are pure propaganda. It think it’s pretty obvious which one is the more likely explanation.
This being said, could major media outlets please stop publishing these things?
* hence the scare-quotes