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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Brookings Institution

The Brookings Institution is an center-left thinktank dedicated to performing all of those things a policy thinktank ideally is supposed to do. They describe themselves more or less as such.
The Brookings Institution is a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, DC. Our mission is to conduct high-quality, independent research and, based on that research, to provide innovative, practical recommendations that advance three broad goals:
  • Strengthen American democracy;
  • Foster the economic and social welfare, security and opportunity of all Americans; and
  • Secure a more open, safe, prosperous and cooperative international system.
Brookings is proud to be consistently ranked as the most influential, most quoted and most trusted think tank.
They claim for their reputation:
Brookings is proud that many consider us to be the most influential, most quoted and most trusted think tank in the world. Our high-quality research, our independence and our convening power help generate innovative, practical solutions to today's challenges.
A sample of what others are saying about Brookings:
Quality and Influence
  • #1 think tank in the world
  • #1 think tank in the United States
  • #1 outstanding policy-oriented public policy research program
  • #1 in international development
  • #1 for domestic economic policy
  • #1 for social policy
The Global "Go-To Think Tanks", James G. McGann, Ph.D., January 2012
Foreign Policy magazine's Think Tank Index, January 2009
Trust and Impact
"We need the intellectual heft of Brookings to solve our tough economic problems. We need your fresh ideas and new thinking."
— Senator Mark Warner, March 8 2013, Capitol Visitors Center, Brookings Board Meeting
"Brookings has achieved a special measure of respect in Washington because it has risen above partisanship, and that is not an easy thing to do in this town which is sort of built on partisanship."
Hon. Michael Bloomberg, Mayor, City of New York, August 28, 2007
Among 16 organizations with high impact on public policy, a Harris Poll found Brookings is:
  • among the five most powerful
  • among the ten most trusted
  • equally trusted by Democrats, Republicans and Independents.
The Harris Poll's nationwide survey on inside-the-beltway groups, December 2007 (pdf)
"Brookings has been at the center of every important policy debate in this country for 90 years."
Sen. Chuck Hagel, July 28, 2006

Sen. Chuck Hagel, July 28, 2006
"When important debates occur in Washington—whether over Middle East peace, global finance, or urban strategy—it's a fair bet that Brookings is driving the conversation. ... From health care reform to recommendations on closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Brookings has a breadth of experience that allows it to offer innovative fixes for nearly every critical issue facing the United States today."
Now that is all well and good. Everyone has a bias, a point of perspective from which they see and measure events and issues, especially if they were advocating policy.  I first learnt of Brookings in a University course where they were presented as a counterpoint to the Heritage Foundation.  In hindsight I wish that the existence of the Heritage Foundation, Mackinac Center, Brookings Intitution, AEI, the Kirk Center and the others were advertised to us our freshman year.  Brookings is generally promoted as non-partisan in the most literal sense, as sociopolitically centrist as people as can get away with describing.  Brookings certainly benefits from this description bonding with their reputation.

Brookings has also managed to be an old policy thinktank so that alone may indicate how good it is.

As it is everyone has a bias, although by intention Brookings is political neutral, most I know do consider it of the left. "Center-Left" is the best descriptor because to be purely of the left implies a tendency against reason and even an addiction to dogma and dogmatic mores.  I prefer "center-left".  They may be inclined towards policy solutions that Democrats more than Republicans, libertarians or conservatives may embrace, but broadly speaking their membership is comprised of reasonable individuals, and certainly among their fellows is an errant rightist or genuine centrist.  Center-Right individuals, as opposed to outright rightists such as myself.... I hold there to be double-standard, there is nothing unreasonable about being nearly completely right of the political center.... tend to hew to the idea that the Brooking Institution is centrist.  My Professor at James Madison College certainly demonstrated a belief that this was the case, although those professors attempted to be as neutral as possible with certain expectations.

The left-wing Sourcewatch, a wiki from leftwing Center for Media and Democracy, declares that the Brookings Institution is a rightwing organization and is going further right all the time.  In the end when you Google the bias of the Brookings Institution you get a variety of answers, almost as if metatextual volleyball players were batting the thinktank back and forth from left to right, insisting what it must be.  I suspect people generally assign Brookings Institution the ideological designate based on whether they disagreed with the group that week.  My own reasoning for asserting a given label has little to do with evidence I've gathered and presented, as much as experience with other learned people.  I'm not going through a few decades of white papers and determining a litmus test to see and argue how far left or right these people are.  It does benefit me, however, to indicate than an occasional source of mine is not just part of a conservative pantheon.

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