Credit crunch has also brought a negative situation to the funding resources of many think tanks. The environment is being worse for those institutes that receive the bigger part of their funds from corporations and act more as lobbies than as independent research centres. Some people could think this is a negative news for the growth of th think tank marketplace, but I believe it could be a positive wave. In the last years, many ambitious people who have make lots of money have promoted the birth of ideological projects whose philanthropic basis is not very clear. I agree every think tank works with a political, economic or whatever worldview, but it should be compatible with a philanthropic perspective. Think tanks are in the political arena to reinforce democracy and participation, and to provide fresh and consistent proposals to the public policy process. Otherwise, they become purely lobbying platforms that lose credibility when they have to confront public and private interest. I am not saying lobbies are bad stuff. They are other necessary political institutions that help to introduce the private interest in public affairs and contribute to control the power of political parties.
However, think tanks should be another different project. Sometimes I miss the thinking of the founders of the first think tanks, like Robert Brookings or Russell Sage, who believed on the need to provide society a clear and scientific roadmap to solve the public policy challenges. When they set up their institutes, they did not care only about their personal interests. They pursued the search of excellence in policy planning because they thought it was a necessary step to conquer prosperity for everybody in a more complex society. They knew also a big crisis in a situation when there was not a Welfare State. It is a huge difference if we compare to the current crisis. May be they were idealists as they were very confident on the application of scientific method to the political issues. But their intellectual framework is also now in the core concept of what is a think tank. I share their view.