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The Future of American Think Tanks

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K Street, Washington, D.C.

Founded in 1916, the Brookings Institution became America’s first think tank -- an organization that devoted itself to the study of national public policy. Today, Brookings is just one of some 1,800 think tanks operating across the United States. 

Over the years, these organizations have built themselves as major research institutions, dedicated to studying and advocating for some of America’s greatest social, political, and economic policy issues.

Recently, however, some have begun to question whether that role has changed, whether think tanks have become more susceptible to the influences and ideologies of their corporate donors.

This hour we take a closer look at the evolving world of American think tanks. We talk to some think tank experts and scholars to learn more about where think tanks came from, where they stand now, and where they’re headed in the future.


  • Robert Samuelson - Columnist for The Washington Post
  • Ken Silverstein - Former Washington Editor of Harper's Magazine; Senior Investigative Reporter at First Look Media; author of Pay to Play Think Tanks: Institutional Corruption and the Industry Ideas
  • James McGann, Ph.D. - Senior Lecturer of International Studies and Director of the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program at the University of Pennsylvania
  • Carol Platt Liebau - President of the Yankee Institute for Public Policy

Tucker Ives is WNPR's morning news producer.
Catie Talarski is Senior Director of Storytelling and Radio Programming at Connecticut Public.

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