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ON POLITICAL BOOKS ness sentiment in the universities, Baroody At best research can only be bipartisan," an American Dream?, Hedrick Smith named located it instead in think tanks, transform- unnamed Brookings official is quoted as the thief: Lewis Powell. The future justice ing Powell's argument into a successful pitch saying. Having hired Republican Bruce Macwas "a commanding general gearing up an army for battle," and his memo "gener- for fund-raising for his own and other right- Laury as its president, in search of corpoleaning public policy institutes. rate funding, Brookings sought to take in ated broad tremors of change in corporate Anyone indoctrinated in the fashion- the whole ideological market. That tradiAmerica and set off a seismic transformation of our political system," according to able view of the Powell Memo as a blueprint tion has continued, with Brookings in 2014 Smith. That same year, the American Pros- will be disappointed at Stahl's reinterpreta- hiring, for example, the cheerful Thatcherpect put a caricature of Powell with a pair of tion of the memo's influence, but it's an in- ite Stuart Butler from the Heritage Founsight that shapes the remainder of the book. dation. Stahl sees a ratcheting effect: AEI Satanic horns on its cover. The idea that Powell's note was some sort When the "marketplace of ideas" took over "competes" from the right, and instead of of battle plan-and he a general-for right- from the older ideal of technocratic com- meeting the challenge by being forthrightleaning think tanks, legal organizations, petence, it enabled the right to weight the ly liberal, Brookings decides it needs to host and ideological warfare has never been con- scale heavily in its own direction. The "mar- the competition internally. And the median ketplace," in Baroody's voice, could sound al- point in the D.C. political consensus shifts vincing, save as a fund-raising pitch. The conservative institutions that emerged in most unobjectionable, just a matter of en- inevitably rightward. Right Moves doesn't quite live up to its the decade that followed had little in com- suring that all views are heard. After all, mon with the plan Powell suggested, which "marketplace of ideas" is a concept associat- subtitle-it's a deep dive into AEI's archives mostly involved the Chamber of Commerce ed with Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., the Su- surrounded by a thin, secondary history of itself. Nor was Powell any kind of movement preme Court justice whose recognition in the others. There's virtually no mention of conservative. He was, instead, a stodgy cor- 1919 of the central value of free expression other nonconservative think tanks, such remains one of the milestones on the path as the Urban Institute or the still-gloriouslyporate lawyer, but a Democrat, and, by the technocratic Center on Budget and Policy standards of Virginia in the 1960s, a progres- to a full and fair democracy. Stahl traces the new think tank ideal of Priorities, perhaps the most respected and sive one-as chair of the Richmond school board, he integrated the city's schools with "competition" through several episodes-be- credible domestic policy think tank over the little conflict, and he was a moderate even ginning with AEI's creation of a task force on last twenty years. It feels at times like a cage on the most liberal Supreme Court ever. His energy policy in the 1970s-which unabash- match between Brookings and AEI, those memo even identifies "collective bargaining" edly pushed changes that would benefit its soon-to-be neighbors on Think Tank Row. And it doesn't quite do AEI justice. For exas one of the central values of the "free en- energy-sector funders but nonetheless did terprise system." The actual Powell Memo, provide a counter to the regulation-heavy ample, during the period when supply-side and its influence, hardly lived up to the use- consensus at the time. From there, this economics took hold in conservative cirful fiction that has been developed around it. conservative notion quickly runs to the ab- cles, most of the institute's top economists The Powell Memo plays a significant part surd. The marketplace concept opened the were basically Keynesian moderates, such in Right Moves: The Conservative Think Tank door to "policies that lacked significant rig- as Herbert Stein. They were veterans of the in American Political Culture Since 1945, his- or: the barrier for entry of those ideas into Nixon and Ford administrations with little torian Jason Stahl's new book on the emer- the policy debate was now extremely low," interest in fringe ideas. In other words, AEI says Stahl, as he recounts the evolution of had plenty of internal competition of ideas; gence of conservative think tanks, but it's a different and much more persuasive story, supply-side economics with blistering con- that wasn't solely Brookings's franchise. one that serves Stahl's provocative theory tempt. "In some sense, the more provocative Even today, the AEI remains a comfortable of recent policy debates. Making none of the and 'heretical' the idea, the easier chance it home for Norman Ornstein, the political strained effort to link Powell to the found- had of entering the marketplace given the scientist who has been increasingly unrestrained in calling out the current Repubing of the Heritage Foundation or to Rea- overriding need to 'balance' the debate." If everything is just a product on the shelf lican Party's extremism. gan's anti-union policies, Stahl reports inDecades after the events Stahl narrates, stead on a note sent to William Baroody Sr., in a market, an institution such as AEI has the longtime president of AEI, recommend- no responsibility to screen for those that are the world of domestic policy think tanks supported by evidence. "The barrier for en- mostly looks like the duopoly of our paring the Powell Memo. Baroody responded with a copy of a speech he had delivered to try in the marketplace was now so low that ties, lined up along Massachusetts Avenue, a group of CEOs, which he thought showed drawings on napkins and large block quotes or a few blocks off, along the path to Capitol him thinking two steps ahead of Powell. from David Hume were taken seriously by Hill, albeit with a few, including Brookings, Whereas AEI had previously modeled itself many, including the president of the United trying to build cross-partisan relationships. on Brookings's ideal of technocratic neu- States," Stahl writes, in the liveliest section One of the most routine think tank products remains the "joint" task force, between trality, Baroody's speech called instead for of the book. The turn toward a "marketplace of ideas" a think tank on each side of the ideological "effective competition" to an "intellectual mainstream" that held a "monopoly hostile concept spread quickly beyond AEI. "There Maginot Line, aiming to produce policy recto business." Where Powell saw antibusi- is no such thing as 'nonpartisan' research. ommendations whose singular credential is Washington Monthly 121

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