I’m working on a business question and need an explanation to help me understand better.
Please respond to the following:
- Interest groups and think tanks certainly carry opinions that can directly influence policymakers. After careful analysis, discuss why you think policy commitments may be suspected of undue influence rather than responding to citizen needs?
Think tanks are often believed to have a significant impact on policymaking. In the US, government representatives are reportedly utilizing think tanks’ research outputs more often than they use the Congressional Research Service (Bruce Bartlett 2012), and politicians move to think tanks in the hope of gaining more influence there (Snider 2012), but their actual impact remains disputed (Peter Leeson 2012). Andrew Rich (2005) argues that while think tanks have exploded in number in the US, their influence has not expanded proportionally because the overt ideological biases of some have undermined the credibility of the whole sector. In China, think tanks’ influence may vary with location (Erdong Chen 2009), while in India, they are thought to be weak as they lack access to the government (Manjari Chatterjee Miller 2013). Dieter Plehwe (2014) suggests that the power of think tanks is best analyzed by using a network approach, rather than by looking at individual agents in isolation.
Think tanks influence policy in a variety of ways. Their staff pen op-eds, appear on television, testify in congressional hearings (Donald Abelson 2011), cultivate close relationships with politicians, build coalitions on policy issues (George Monbiot 2011), and shape public debates (Ken Silverstein and Brooke Williams 2013). While Murray Weinbaum (2010) highlights that providing information to journalists is a core function of think tanks, Lisa Graves (2013) warns that public relations firms in the US have begun setting up fake ‘think tanks’ to promote their clients’ interests through media outlets that often fail to check the background of the entities they quote. Outside the US, the influence that thinks tanks wield is often shaped by wider institutional environments. The Economist (2007) has criticized think tanks in Brussels for falling prey to the EU’s non-confrontational culture of consensus. Anna Longhini (2013) hypothesizes that think tanks are more likely to be important in countries that are decentralized or have weak party systems, while Sara Bennett (2011) highlights the importance of financial independence and strong links to policymakers.
The dividing line between think tanks and lobbyists is hotly disputed. In a 2009 speech, Siim Kallas, then Vice-President of the European Commission, urged European think tanks to join a voluntary lobby register. Andrew Willis (2009) reports that most think tanks did not want to be associated with lobbying and refused to sign up. Similarly, Patrick Gilroy (2011) points out that think tanks in the US have argued that educating legislators is distinct from lobbying them. However, Eric Lipton (2014) and Tarini Parti (2012) report that some US think tanks see lobbying as a core function, and Brooke Williams and Ken Silverstein (2013) claim that in “20 of the 25 most influential think tanks in the United States”, senior people have simultaneously worked as lobbyists. The distinction between non-profits and lobbyists is also contested in Britain (BBC 2013). Lee Fang and Scott Keyes (2011) report that the UK Charity Commission – which oversees regulating non-profits – shut down a registered think tank that it regarded as a lobbying outfit in 2011.