Thursday, October 14, 2004

The role of think tanks

Che Tibby is considering the role of think tanks, and struggling with how a left-wing think tank should or could respond to a fear campaign such as the Australian federal election (or, I suppose, National's constant playing of the race card over here). But I think this is misconstruing the role of think tanks. Their role is to fight the long-term battle in the marketplace of ideas, by producing and critiquing policy, conducting studies, providing media comment, and generally propagating the memes and providing "intellectual ammunition". They are a strategic weapon, not a tactical one. While they could use their research ability and expertise to counter misinformation, as Che points out, that requires that people listen. Getting people to do that is the sort of thing best done by politicians, not by researchers.

And OTOH, the above is pretty much academic, given that the New Zealand left is pretty much unarmed on the think-tank front.