Roger Hertog & Lawrence J. Mone One of the most difficult tasks for an organization in the ideas business is to step back and assess how it is doing. It's a very useful exercise that happens too rarely with think tanks and universities. Since the Manhattan Institute recently turned 25, it seemed a perfect time for such an evaluation, so we asked some esteemed outside observers—admittedly friendly ones—to write about different aspects of our work.
The collection you hold in your hands is the result, with all but one of its essays (Tom Wolfe's) published here for the fi rst time. It serves not only as a way to thank our friends and supporters, without whom the books and articles and talks that are the fruits of our ongoing activity wouldn't be possible, but also to provide them (and the public at large) with a report card, so that they can have a chance to review what we have done—and how we have done—over the last quarter-century. As you'll see, we get pretty good grades.
Reading these fascinating essays, the broad questions that the Manhattan Institute seeks to address become clear. What should—and shouldn't—government do? How do free citizens govern themselves responsibly? What policies lead to economic prosperity? How do cities flourish? In answering these and related questions, as our evaluators show, the institute's work has exhibited coherent themes: concern, though not paranoia, about the size and scope of government and welfare policies; an emphasis on racial equality as understood by the original civil rights movement; a belief in the power of free markets and low taxes to deliver prosperity; a recognition of the importance of the social order. But while our ideas are ideological—and place us broadly on the Right—we're also nonpartisan, in that we don't approach what we do with the purpose of defending Republican politicians. Rather, these are the ideas we believe in.
And we have sought to find the best people to argue for them. The Manhattan Institute's most valuable possession, in our view, is intellectual capital. But it is also the hardest to obtain, since there is a scarcity of the kind of talent necessary to think through thorny issues and make arguments with the clarity and force needed to move public opinion. Thus, the institute is always on the lookout for the next Charles Murray or George Gilder or Myron Magnet or Peter Huber—thinkers and writers whose paradigm-shifting books and essays first helped to establish our reputation as one of the most influential think tanks in the nation.
This seems the appropriate place to recognize the contribution of William Hammett, the institute's president from 1980 through 1995. Both of us having worked with Bill Hammett, we can attest to his remarkable talent as an entrepreneur of ideas. Indeed, he put into place many of the operating principles that continue to guide the institute—not just finding the right people but also making sure that their arguments gained the widest possible hearing by securing mainstream publishers for their books and helping to market those books fiercely once they came out.
There is another group of people whose contributions we would like to acknowledge here as well: our board and other supporters. Most of the time, when people in an organization like ours talk about their board and supporters, it's really code for financial backing—which is, by the way, absolutely necessary. But the other thing you can get from a strong board and motivated contributors is ideas. The men and women who have participated in our endeavor in these roles over the years have done so because they believe that, in the famous words of the scholar Richard Weaver, "ideas have consequences"—and they have brought to the table their considerable experience, their intelligence, and their good sense. We thank them for their leadership once again.
If, after the next 25 years, we get a comparable report card, it will be because of our success in finding the best talent and thanks to the continued guidance of our supporters.