The American Enterprise Institute has spent the past couple of decades gradually shedding a once-decent reputation for think-tank scholarship--a worthy conservative counterpoint to (and occasional collaborator with) the Brookings Institution--and acquiring a new reputation as a slick assembly line for partisan agitprop. It began under AEI President Christopher DeMuth, whom I once labelled a "hack extraordinaire." But AEI's current president, Arthur C. Brooks, makes DeMuth look like a monk.
While researching an item from earlier this morning -- yes, I do research, I just try to avoid talking to people -- I came across a fascinating exchange about the concept of economic stimulus. In 2001, the economy was undergoing a mild slowdown. Liberals generally argued that the scale of the problem was small enough for the Federal Reserve to handle with monetary policy, and didn't require a Keynesian fiscal stimulus. Conservatives took the opposite position.
Interesting concession today from AEI president Arthur Brooks: What is that governing philosophy? Here is an answer from the great economist and Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek: As regards the economy, the government should provide a minimum basic standard of living for citizens, and address market failures in cases where government action can do so cost effectively. That's all. We should acknowledge that markets are not perfect.
David Frum got an enormous amount of attention for his blog post arguing that Republicans erred by refusing to engage with Democratic moderates on health care reform. Now he's resigned from the American Enterprise Institute. It doesn't look all that voluntary: I have been a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute since 2003. At lunch today, AEI President Arthur Brooks and I came to a termination of that relationship. Below is the text of my letter of resignation. Dear Arthur, This will memorialize our conversation at lunch today.
MARCH 9, 2006, was a bad day for the White House. Weeks before, Claude Allen, the president’s chief domestic policy adviser, had resigned, saying that he wanted to spend more time with his family. Then, on March 9, Allen was charged with having stolen some $5,000 worth of merchandise from Washington-area department stores during a months-long shoplifting spree.
Now the Republicans are doing the same thing. And in style, too. The Democrats' seminar-attenders and program devisers in most cases at least had the decency to work out of dusty little cubby holes in elderly buildings in the Dupont Circle area of Washington. But the AEI, as the Washington Post noted, has "well appointed offices" which are "spread over four floors of a modern building." Corporate-style, the Post might have added.