Think Tanks, Advocacy Tanks, and the Kleiman Rule
Dan is absolutely right to distinguish between real think tanks and what I called “fake think tanks” (and what he calls, more generously, “advocacy tanks.”). But what we need is some criterion for distinguishing the two: one key move of the modern Conservative Movement has been to dismiss all study as simply being the product of ideology. No wonder that Josh Marshall, in a wonderful piece, described George W. Bush as “The Postmodern President.”
So how does one judge? My UCLA colleague Mark Kleiman offers this test:
When you hear of a think tank producing a study, do you know what the result will be without reading the study?
I think that just about sums it up. You don’t need to read a Heritage Foundation report to know what it will say; ditto with a Sierra Club report on the environment. Of course, the Sierra Club freely concedes that it is an advocacy group; Heritage, or the Cato Institute, deny it. But that sort of mendacity is also very postmodern.
Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic – Land Use, the Environment and Loc…READ more