eli5-What is a think tank?

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eli5-What is a think tank?

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Anonymous 0 Comments

Organization, often non-profit, dedicated to researching and publishing in certain area, typically public policies, economy, environment, etc.

Anonymous 0 Comments

It’s a large, metal vehicle on treads that uses a big gun to blast knowledge into people.

Or, it’s just a group of people you consider clever and you use them to bounce ideas around and work on them.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Much of our scholarship and writing on public policy issues comes out of universities, but universities generally intend to be non-partisan and address issues from a level of academic remove — for example, they’re more likely to respond to how a proposed law would affect the system they study and than they are to write the law they think would be best.

Think tanks are generally half way between a university and a political party. They write articles, white papers, proposed laws, etc., but they do so from a particular political viewpoint and more openly advocate for a particular political outcome than professors would generally feel comfortable doing. They may be generally conservative/progressive or they may push a particular policy agenda — pro business, low tax, libertarian, environmental, LGBT, etc.

The Heritage Foundation is very influential in conservative legal policy, for example, and is generally seen as creating a short list of judges to be considered for Republican appointments to the Supreme Court. On the other side, the Brookings Institute generally advocates for researched backed policies, which tend to lean left in that they’re in favor of government activity to address social and economic problems.

Anonymous 0 Comments

It’s where business interests and wealthy people get together to decide what kind of laws they want. Then media companies will publish articles about their ideas and this is used to shape public sentiment. It’s one of the primary mechanisms by which the ruling elite exercise influence over society.

Anonymous 0 Comments

They basic serve as mills to churn out “research” tailored to their clients requirements.

If you want actual academic, nominally non-partisan, nominally unbiased research you go to a university and can sponsor a research topic and they’ll return the findings. The findings may be slanted towards what they think you want to hear, but normally will be grounded in some level of academic standards.

A think tank is an outfit who produce stuff that looks like academic research, but is nakedly partisan, openly biased and will give you the findings you’re paying for. The papers they produced are then used to give an air of credibility to the customer’s goals – the customer can point to these publications as though they were independent academic research findings and use them to support their agenda.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Basically, various groups know what they think. Like, Libertarians know they hate government, and they want total freedom. But they occasionally run into problems when somebody says, “But that’s batshit crazy. Because all of these bad things would happen…”

So the think tank’s job is to really carefully think about Libertarian ideals, then write papers about how it would ideally work, and then make that all sound reasonable.

So like, it’s bad if everybody says, “Libertarians want predatory price gouging after natural disasters.” And then the think tank steps in with a paper that says, “There is no such thing as price gouging. What’s happening is, the free market encourages entrepreneurs to flock to disaster sites with much-needed supplies, for which they expect a certain nominal profit to defray the risk of entering a disaster area. Were these profits not allowed, there would simply be no disaster supplies and the victims of natural disasters would surely die. Market regulation assures the deaths of countless hurricane, tornado, and flood victims every year, and only the unfettered market can save them.”

And that sounds much better, and so people who hear it say, “Oh well I guess that makes sense. Cool.” And then you have your crazy uncle at Thanksgiving who is now armed with a litany of arguments and rhetorical attacks, courtesy of the think tank. Libertarian rhetoric can shift the public mind, and Libertarians presumably have a better chance of getting their people elected into office.

That’s more or less the goal of a think tank.

(sorry for the snark)