Justin Logan writes at Foreign Policy:
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Why do think tanks exist? Are they really, as the common phrase goes, “universities without students?” Are they just places where aspiring government officials can do the spadework for their next run at being appointed deputy secretary of something or other? Or perhaps they’ve stepped into the void created by what some have termed the “cult of irrelevance” in the academy, which used to be a source of advice about public policy but has become too abstruse and method-intensive to be of much use to harried policymakers?
I’ve had ample reason to ponder the subject, considering that the think tank at which I work, the Cato Institute, is currently defending itself from a hostile takeover attempt by Charles and David Koch, two billionaire industrialists who are intensely involved in partisan politics. (For those who don’t know, Cato’s mission is to “increase the understanding of public policies based on the principles of limited government, free markets, individual liberty, and peace.” This libertarian orientation frequently puts us at odds with both political parties.)
Here’s the quick and dirty on what’s happening.