I hadn't realized that Chris DeMuth is stepping down as the president of the American Enterprise Institute. Here is an essay he wrote reflecting on the nature and role of think tanks. I thought the following excerpt was interesting:
I have tried to explain it to people who have been setting up liberal and leftist think tanks in recent years, advising them that the secret of success is to go away and spend thirty years in the political wilderness. They have thought I was joking. Let me try again here.
Every one of the right-of-center think tanks was founded in a spirit of opposition to the established order of things. Opposition is the natural proclivity of the intellectual (it's what leads some smart people to become intellectuals rather than computer programmers), and is of course prerequisite to criticism and devotion to reform. And for conservatives, opposition lasted a very long time--in domestic policy, from the New Deal through 1980.
It's been more than half that period of time since 1980, and the conservative think tanks are now part of the status quo and not the political wilderness. Maybe the Lefties aren't the only ones who could benefit from a few day hikes.
Read the whole thing.