unthink tanks


This article in The Globalist talks about the intellectual decline of think tanks (specially of the right wing, free market persuasion) as the center of truly original and oppositional ideas in Washington. The author compares their recent performance in serving as door mats for the Bush administration and their current War with the “courage” of the New York organizations and foundations in serving as the focal point of intellectual criticism of the war effort and the larger “war of terror” (to use a Boratism) centered on the Patrio Act, the Guantanamo Prisons, Abu Graib, etc.

The author wants to make it all about moral dichotomies, contrasting New York’s “intellectual courage” to the Washington policy wonks girlie-man (subvocalize this last phrase in an Austrian accent) pusillanimity. Even the Brookings Institution, which is supposed to be the “liberal” think tank, was primarily silent throughtout the first three years of the war, regarding the various human rights abuses. Thus, it is all about the superior moral standing of New York, versus the spineless corruption of Washington.

However, as most of you know by now, whenever you feel the need to mo-ra-lize, you should instead so-cio-logize. It’s a lot more fun, and easier on your cardiovascular health.

After all the talk about NY courage versus Washington pandering, the author lets out the sociological clue to his quick comparative case study: “Much of the think tank activism in Washington is donor-driven. Apparently, there was little or no money to be raised by coming out against torture.” In other words the Washington think tank’s cowardice is really a standard case of resource dependence. The fact that the survival New York organizations was less contingent on Washington-affiliated donor money accounts for their courage. The author kinds of stumbles, (after more talk about the “intellectual failure” of Washingtonians) on this toward the end:

Perhaps New York organizations are more forthright — because they do not depend on high-profile photo opportunity visits by administration officials to use to loosen donors’ wallets. Or perhaps New York-based organizations have enough distance that they can still recognize an atrocity when they see it.

I’ll take hypothesis number one Alex.



Written by Omar

November 17, 2006 at 6:53 pm

Posted in uncategorized

2 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. especially for so- cio-lo-gi-zing instead of mo-ra-li-zing – absolutely right!!



    November 21, 2006 at 4:42 pm

  2. Interesting. I have branded my consulting team the “unthinktank”. I googled this trademark after doing so and found your use of the term. We go into businesses and institutions suffering from unproductive paradigms and help them shift off center into new areas of healthy dynamic function. Thinktanks are often thought of in the socio-political realm, but they also have value in commercial and industrial realms as well. For me, being an unthinker means that there is always a better way. Thanks for popularizing my phrase to some degree. Perhaps as I publlish it more, it will cross reference your article more. Please use it only in a journalistic fashion and not for commercial purposes. Thank you.



    December 20, 2006 at 5:02 am

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: