Idea Factories

Christopher DeMuth , retiring as head of AEI, has a column in the Wall Street Journal on the role think tanks play in using reseach to advance ideas and affect policy change:

Think tanks aim to produce good research not only for its own sake but to improve the world. We are organized in ways that depart sharply from university organization. Think-tank scholars do not have tenure, make faculty appointments, allocate budgets or offices or sit on administrative committees. These matters are consigned to management, leaving the scholars free to focus on what they do best. Management promotes the scholars’ output with an alacrity that would make many university administrators uncomfortable.

And we pay careful attention to the craft of good speaking and writing. Many AEI scholars do technical research for academic journals, but all write for a wider audience as well. When new arrivals from academia ask me whom they should write for, I tell them: for your Mom. That is, for an interested, sympathetic reader who may not know beans about the technical aspects of your work but wants to know what you’ve discovered and why it makes a difference.