Think tanks and political, economic, and social stability

30 January 2012

Last week I published a short op-ed in Peruvian newspaper: El Comercio (in Spanish). The main argument I was trying to make was this:

Peru is a country with relatively weak institutions. Political parties are not able to provide long term visions and the government is incapable of holding its ground against the push of the media and interests groups from all sides of the political and corporate spectrum.

In this context, think tanks offer an alternative. They can offer the stability that other institutions can’t. Privately funded they can avoid the short falls of bureaucracy; properly funded they can set their sights on long term horizons and attempt to shift our national short-sightedness.

Peru has been recently rocked (or maybe that is too harsh a word) by a series of ideological fights all the way at the top of the government. The country’s already weak policy debate has turned for the worse. Think tanks can offer a solution to this by injecting a bit of critical thinking (and some evidence) into the mix. They can facilitate discussions, open new avenues of argument, manage conflict between different parties and factions, etc.

Everyone wins with this deal. The mining corporations and the communities that today fight each other over non-negotiable positions could focus instead on well researched options in which everyone may get more at a lower cost -and without resorting to violence.