I don't know about you, but I have grown so accustomed to hearing the term "conservative think tank" in the daily political tussle that I've grown to pay as much attention to it as I do to the sound of my coffee maker going off. One day last week I was discussing this place (DFP) with a friend who had never visited and she asked "So what is it, like a think tank?"
Note for the future: I would love to see DFP evolve into a think tank. But as for the here and now, she got me thinking: So are there liberal think tanks? I did a little digging and found out that there are indeed. However, what I found was a startling disparity. Let's call it the Great Think Tank Divide.
What I found at FindtheData
was less than inspiring. Liberals have 15 listed think tanks. Conservatives have a whopping 34. Cons have 13 think tanks with revenues over a million dollars. Liberals have 5. The top five con think tanks have a combined (revenue after expenses) of 17.6 million dollars. The same for liberals: 12.5 million dollars.
(Odd, but funny, sidenote: 2 conservative think tanks actually ran deficits of 3 million dollars each.)
The oldest liberal think tank I could find was founded in 1975. The conservatives started one back in 1943. Indeed, the majority of liberal think tanks are not older than 1990. One of their arguably most noble ones, the Center for War/Peace Studies, is operating $4k in the red.
As you can see, we're straggling in the think tank game.
So why is this? Don't liberals find value in think tanks? I know we find value in ideas, so I don't know how that can resolve to an indifference to organizations that develop ideas. Are think tanks, in fact, nothing more than money making scams with a gilded veneer of intellectual legitimacy? Hard to say since so many of them aren't obscenely rich.
Or worse yet, is the liberal think tank lag the result of too many years of assuming we have the ideological/intellectual edge in all things? Judging from the last few elections, we have been annoyingly easy to outmaneuver, out-argue and out-huckster in the media. We have lost more important elections than we have won. Have we gotten too confident in our ideas that we abandoned keeping them in working shape?
Maybe it's time to put more work towards think tanks, before we tank anymore.