Being, er, independent at the moment, I have time to attend think tank events in the DC area. They're always interesting, if only to see certain well-known, dare I say, celebrities among conservative and liberal intellectuals. Wednesday found me at the Hudson Institute's "2008 Bradley Symposium: Encounter at 10: The Power of Ideas." I was curious to see Victor Davis Hanson and Andrew McCarthy in human form and hear what they had to say.
Being no one worthy of attention, I can usually just stand by the wall and observe. One word to describe for this event: posing. Lots and lots of posing. To steal a term from ornithology, there were plenty of subadult males in town for summer internships, still looking awkward in their suits. There were plenty of middle-aged white men all talking presidential politics.
I sat at a side table eating a breakfast danish and watching all the posing much like watching a raft of ducks in the water, albeit less interesting. I eventually asked myself: Why thank tanks? Is it possible to work an entire career within a four block radius of K Street? And why would anyone want to do that? Where did these places come from, and do we really need another excuse for overeducated people to pose?
I think God actually heard me, because that very night, I received an answer in the form of George Weigel.
DC's afternoon tempest left my neighborhood without electricity, and so I decided to go to a talk he was giving at the Catholic Information Center on K Street, just one block north of where I had been earlier in the day.
At one point during Weigel's rather extemporaneous talk, he mentioned that he had worked within a four block radius of K Street for (I think he said) twenty years. Why, because it was the think tank where the ideas that mattered were being generated. The ideas that you will see worked out in the day-to-say policies of government are not being generated in academia. They are being generated in think tanks. Think tanks are, he said, the counterweight to academia in the US.
As long as some think tanks continue to employ men like George Weigel, I think I can handle the posing. Thanks, Mr. Weigel.