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Think Tanks, Public Policy, and the Politics of Expertise
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  • Andrew Rich, City College, City University of New York
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Book description

While the number of think tanks active in American politics has more than quadrupled since the 1970s, their influence has not expanded proportionally. Instead, the known ideological proclivities of many, especially newer think tanks with their aggressive efforts to obtain high profiles, have come to undermine the credibility with which experts and expertise are generally viewed by public officials. This book explains this paradox. The analysis is based on 135 in-depth interviews with officials at think tanks and those in the policy making and funding organizations that draw upon and support their work. The book reports on results from a survey of congressional staff and journalists and detailed case studies of the role of experts in health care and telecommunications reform debates in the 1990s and tax reduction in 2001.


‘Andrew Rich's new work is the single best book available on think tanks. It's packed with ideas, insights, and fascinating detail about the operations of these public policy enterprises. His arguments are carefully drawn and are supported by an abundance of convincing evidence. Think Tanks, Public Policy, and the Politics of Expertise is essential reading for anyone interested in the subject.’

Jeffrey M. Berry - Tufts University

‘Andrew Rich's study of evolution and role of think tanks in American politics is a first-class contribution to our understanding of public policy making. Employing both quantitative analysis and dozens of interviews, Rich identifies when and how think tanks most effectively influence the policy making process. He also shows that, ironically, as think tanks become more ideologically disposed and play to the media, they lose the very influence they seek. This is easily the best book on the subject.’

James D. Savage - University of Virginia

‘This timely study is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the growing centrality of nonprofit organizations and subsidized expertise in contemporary public life - and indispensable to understanding the institutional basis of America's conservative revolution.’

Peter Dobkin Hall - Harvard University

‘A lucid, well-written empirical study of the influence exerted on public policy by the wide range of think tanks, which provides, for the first time, hard data on the differences between think tanks whose analyses are driven by an ideological agenda and those which derive their policy positions from an objective assessment of the facts.’

Joel L. Fleishman - Duke University

‘This is a terrific book. It is not only the definitive political science treatment of think tanks in the United States, but also an extremely insightful study of the transformation of the policymaking community and process in Washington. Rich shows that the roles that experts play in influencing policy are severely constrained, and that think tank efforts to improve the timeliness and visibility of their policy ideas frequently come at a cost in terms of credibility. Anyone who reads this book will come away with a deeper understanding of the complex forces that shape contemporary policymaking in the United States.’

R. Kent Weaver - Georgetown University

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