The Role of Think Tanks: A Reply to Critics

The role of think tanks in a democratic society is to engage in the battle of ideas by providing research-based advocacy and evidence-based commentary on pertinent public affairs. One reason most think tanks across the ideological spectrum tend to choose not to disclose their financial supporters is to avoid the risk of full disclosure of identity of funders becoming the story, and distracting attention from the merits of the think tank’s research. Think tanks are creatures of civil society. They are non-government organizations that depend for their survival upon the individuals and the business and charitable organizations prepared to financially support not-for-profit ventures whose aim is to create a better educated democracy. Think tanks’ roles, together with the financial relationships with their supporters, are an entirely legitimate part of the democratic process. The will and ability of like-minded people to band together to inform their fellow citizens about matters of public importance has long been an important and valued feature of truly democratic societies. Think tanks are the modern day equivalents of the variety of civic-minded groups, campaigns and movements that have long dotted the public life of democratic countries.

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