Thursday, April 8, 2010


Point: Julian Sanchez writes a long, thoughtful essay on "epistemic closure" and the intellectual state of the right. Reihan Salam, and Noah Millman write long and thoughtful responses. Counterpoint: today the Heritage Foundation launches a new, explicitly political arm.

Perhaps it's unfair to juxtapose these items. Yes, it's important to be able to influence legislation; I certainly hate bad legislation as much as the next person. And perhaps a group that's loosely connected to an existing think tank would have a comparative advantage at reaching legislatures. At the same time, when there's plenty of ink being spilled by very smart and thoughtful people about the hyper-politicization of the right, I'm inclined to suspect that there's some meat to their complaints. So I'm not really sure that it's wise for Heritage -- an institution that might well have some comparative advantage at standing above the political fray and serving as a quasi-university-like generator of ideas -- to get more actively involved in the nitty-gritty of politics itself.

I should add that I have some thoughts on Noah Millman's points about funders, as I worked for one of the large right-of-center foundations for about a year and change. I'm not sure it's politic to post them here. I will say that the Institute for Humane Studies does give out plenty of grants and scholarships to libertarian-ish academics just starting out on their careers. While they look for people in the libertarian-ish ballpark, they don't require the people they fund to take particular positions. Pnin and I were both, at different times, beneficiaries of their generosity. I'd encourage Millman to learn more about them if it so interests him.

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