Think Tank Prognostication

Most are unaware that the USA has many “think tanks,” groups of intelligent and, one assumes, accurately informed people paid to do nothing but research and publish papers based on their analysis of issues. Some, like the Brookings Institute and the Council on Foreign Relations, are names you have probably heard, but there are many you likely have not. An article on the web site TheBestSchools, stated (with no hint of irony,) that there were 1,984 think tanks in the USA at one time.

In confusing times, when news sources attempt to combat false and misleading information while at times passing on false and misleading information, perhaps the best we can do as concerned citizens is to keep listening to a wide variety of voices while fact-checking key points, case by case. The objective, of course, is to make our best guesses as to where things are going and how best to navigate the approaching future.

This web site ( provides a daily overview of what’s making headlines, but underneath these headlines, we might suppose and even sometimes hope, are policies. Where do policies come from? Do Think Tanks guide US policies, foreign and domestic? They do, according to one publication:

“Of the many influences on U.S. foreign policy formulation, the role of think tanks is among the most important and least appreciated. … [they] participate both directly and indirectly in policy-making…” – (pdf)

With this information, it can be quite interesting to scan think tank web sites for hints as to what might be coming up next for the US and the world. Below is one such scan, with article titles and phrases from articles found at ten top US “idea factories.”

Note that this is only what caught this writer’s attention, and not necessarily due to agreement or endorsement of ideas, but because the information stood out as interesting considering other contexts. You are encouraged to visit these sites and others like them for your own review. This author suggests a broad spectrum of ideas as being the most healthy for any individual. Understand the core points in big national disagreements and you will be ahead of the curve in making informed choices.

A Quick Scan of Ten Think Tank Sites to Guess Policy and the Future

Harvard Kennedy School, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

  • Avoiding a Plastic Pandemic: The Future of Sustainability in a Post COVID-19 World
  • COVID-19 Might Not Change the World
  • The Importance of Speed in Vaccine Distribution
  • The System Worked: Stress Testing American Democracy
  • A Face Lift Can’t Fix the State Department
  • Biden Must Hold Fast on Climate Standards
  • The world has more riding on Joe Biden than any US president in decades
  • Donald Trump’s Final Days: Can a Change of Power Succeed Without Further Violence?
  • Fear of Riots in the USA
  • A Threat to Confront: Far-Right Extremists and Nuclear Terrorism. Far right extremists in military might infiltrate nuclear facilities and materials.


The Earth Institute, Columbia University

  • Far-Drifting Antarctic Icebergs Are Trigger of Ice Ages, Scientists Say
  • How fast are Antarctic ice sheets melting, and sea levels rising?
  • Can we grow enough food to feed the planet as farmers face greater drought?
  • How fast will sea level rise?
  • As the oceans absorb more CO2, what are the effects of acidification on ocean ecology?
  • Turning CO2 to stone
  • How can we plan ahead and improve our responses to natural disasters … such as hurricanes, earthquakes, droughts and landslides?
  • How can we increase agricultural outputs and improve nutrition while maintaining balanced ecosystems?
  • How will changing climate and extreme weather events affect the global food supply?


The Heritage Foundation

  • Change to Military Transgender Policy Opts for Political Correctness Over Military Readiness
  • We Can Preserve Jobs, Affordable Energy, and a Clean Environment with the Keystone XL Pipeline
  • The American Green New Deal (GND) has far more to do with government control than it does climate control
  • Serbia has a unique opportunity for a strategic reset that could set the country and the region on course for a better future.
  • Biden’s Eviction of Churchill Bust Signals Weakening Ties With U.K.
  • Arms Control Policy Under Biden Not Off to a Good New START
  • Mask Mandates: Do They Work? Are There Better Ways to Control COVID-19 Outbreaks?
  • A Rash Decision to Rejoin the World Health Organization Before Securing Reforms
  • The Truth About the New Food Stamp Work Requirements’ Effects. There are currently 3 million able-bodied adults without dependents receiving food stamp benefits. The overwhelming majority have zero employment and earnings.
  • Assuring American Access to the Ultimate High Ground: President Trump and the New U.S. Space Force


Human Rights Watch

  • China’s Covid Success Story is Also a Human Rights Tragedy
  • Turkey: Crackdown on Independent TV Channels
  • Efforts to control speech and information are accelerating, by both governments and private actors in the form of censorship, restrictions on access, and violent acts directed against those whose views or queries are seen as somehow dangerous or wrong.
  • Many urgent arms-related challenges should be addressed to protect civilians affected by conflict and its deadly legacy. … development of fully autonomous weapons—“killer robots”—that could select and engage targets without human intervention need to be stopped…
  • Government failures and predatory business practices can combine to heap misery on the poor.
  • Millions of children have no access to education, work long hours under hazardous conditions and are forced to serve as soldiers in armed conflict
  • As effects of climate change intensify, environmental crises will increasingly devastate the lives, health, and livelihoods of people around the globe.
  • Harmful laws, policies and practices routinely interfere with access to health care and increase vulnerability to ill health, particularly for poor, marginalized or criminalized populations.
  • People around the world face violence and inequality—and sometimes torture, even execution—because of who they love, how they look, or who they are.
  • Digital surveillance tools, from hacking to facial recognition, are used to target activists, racial and ethnic minorities and workers.


KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation)

  • Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues.
  • “Nothing Found” (Search for keyword “ivermectin”)
  • Nearly Half of Public Wants to Get a COVID-19 Vaccine as Soon as They Can or Has Already Been Vaccinated, Up Since December
  • Ensuring racial and ethnic diversity in clinical trials for development of COVID-19 vaccines is particularly important since COVID-19 has taken a heavy disproportionate toll on people of color, and people of color, particularly Black adults, historically have had lower vaccination rates and express more concerns about getting a COVID-19 vaccine compared to their White counterparts.
  • Remdesivir, Given to Half of Hospitalized Covid Patients in U.S., Is Big Win for Gilead — Boosted by Taxpayers
  • Providers are not allowed to charge patients who get the vaccine, at least during the public health emergency.
  • A KFF analysis of administrative data suggests that relatively few Americans have lost job-based health insurance amid the economic chaos of the pandemic — and that many who did likely found a safety net in coverage through Medicaid or the Affordable Care Act’s individual market.
  • How Quickly We Need To Ramp Up Vaccinations To Get To Herd Immunity. We need to  average 2.4 million doses a day starting now to reach the point where 70% of the population is vaccinated by July 4th (assuming two doses needed per person).
  • When it comes to reaching rural residents, a large majority of rural Americans (86%) say they trust their own doctor or health care provider to provide reliable information about a COVID-19 vaccine. Smaller shares say they trust the FDA (68%), the CDC (66%), their local public health department (64%), Dr. Fauci (59%), or state government officials (55%).
  • There are over fifty actions the Biden administration can take by executive and administrative action that can add up to significant change in health care. Together they would affect virtually every dimension of the health care system: COVID-19, the ACA, Medicaid, Medicare, mental health, reproductive health, LBGTQ health, long-term care, immigration, behavioral health, and HIV.


Council on Foreign Relations

  • How Biden Could Use the Defense Production Act to Increase Vaccine
  • Pro-Navalny Protests Sweep Russia in Challenge to Putin
  • How to Distribute 100 Million Vaccine Doses in 100 Days
  • US needs vaccination plan less seasonal flu and more like act of bioterrorism.
  • To Prevent Pandemics and Protect Biodiversity, Combat Wildlife Crime
  • Scientists around the globe have documented thousands of mutated versions of the coronavirus
  • A More Infectious Virus Could Lead to Many More Deaths
  • The Department of Defense should implement a program to help service members and their families avoid falling victim to disinformation.
  • Service members and their families [may] be targeted by highly-trained foreign agents using military-style techniques to influence their thoughts and actions.
  • Mass shootings in Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom prompted those governments to tighten gun laws.


The Brookings Institution

  • What to do – and what not to do – in the Middle East
  • The coronavirus crisis in the United States—and the associated business closures, event cancellations, and work-from-home policies—triggered a deep economic downturn of uncertain duration.
  • Amazon and Walmart have raked in billions in additional profits during the pandemic, and shared almost none of it with their workers
  • The Great Real Estate Reset: A data-driven initiative to remake how and what we build
  • Separate and unequal: Persistent residential segregation is sustaining racial and economic injustice in the U.S
  • Carbon taxes can fuel green economic recovery and reduce income inequality
  • How to enable quantum computing innovation through access
  • Disinformation. Trolling. Conspiracies. Social media pile-ons. Campus intolerance. On the surface, these recent additions to our daily vocabulary appear to have little in common. But together, they are driving an epistemic crisis: a multi-front challenge to America’s ability to distinguish fact from fiction and elevate truth above falsehood.
  • Reaching agreement on COVID-19 immunity “passports” will be difficult
  • The other 4+1 (threats): Biological, nuclear, climatic, digital, and internal dangers


The Cato Institute

  • Circumventing Section 230: Product Liability Lawsuits Threaten Internet Speech.  Social media platforms have radically expanded our ability to communicate. Several innovative lawsuits threaten to circumvent Section 230’s protections by alleging that platforms’ scale and ease of use constitute negligent design.
  • Use Persuasion, Not Coercion, to Reach COVID Immunity …  disturbingly, many of New York’s frontline health workers are reluctant to get immunized. (Links to NYPost: Alarming number of US health care workers are refusing COVID-19 vaccine)
  • … recent papers on the status of the right to keep and bear arms in light of the looting, rioting, and violence that broke out in cities across the country this summer.
  • … the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges requiring states to recognize same‐​sex marriages came faster and with broader public support than anyone would have thought possible in 2001.
  • Impeachment of an Ex‐​President Is Unconstitutional
  • Contrary to what you might read in the rest of the media, the overwhelming majority of papers analyzing the U.S. estimate a negative effect on employment of minimum wage hikes (79.3 percent of them).
  • They Say It Can’t Be Done is a documentary that explores how innovation can solve some of the world’s greatest problems and promote human progress. The film tracks four companies on the cutting edge of technological innovations that could help to protect the seas from pollution, solve hunger, eliminate organ transplant waitlists, and reduce atmospheric carbon emissions.
  • Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us
  • America’s criminal justice system is more profoundly broken than most people realize.
  • When, if ever, should government override parents’ educational decisions?


Mises Institute

  • Why the Utes Opposed Biden’s Plans to Limit Oil Drilling
  • Reminder: The Feds Control a Gargantuan Amount of Coastline Real Estate
  • In a Paranoid Nation, “Treason” Is Everywhere
  • What to Expect from Bidenomics. Given the fragile state of the US economy as a result of covid-19, Yellen favors Biden’s $1.9 trillion spending plan to provide support to the economy. Yellen seems to be aware that some commentators might have misgivings about such a massive spending plan given the already large budget deficit and vast public debt.
  • Understanding the Roots and Causes of Inflation. In the long run, inflation comes to an end with the breakdown of the currency; it comes to a catastrophe. When people realize that the government will go on and on without any intention of stopping, then they begin to understand that prices tomorrow will be higher than they are today. Then they begin buying at any price, causing prices to go up to such heights that the monetary system breaks down.
  • Lessons on Economic Freedom from Ancient Greece. Well-defined property rights, freedom to trade, and light regulations conduced an environment where commerce could thrive, thereby improving living standards.
  • The FDA Botched Covid Testing in 2020. Nothing Has Changed Since Then. FDA regulation of testing is premised on the idea that FDA employees are experts at everything they are regulating. This is a very bad assumption.
  • Only Ideological Change Can Make the World a More Peaceful Place. Misled by false ideologies, many people think that nations prosper by seizing the resources of other nations.
  • Yet Another Study Shows—Yet Again—That Lockdowns Don’t Work
  • “Victim-Centered” Justice Is a Threat to Due Process. A guilty-until-proven-innocent mentality is winning at many colleges where a “believe the women” ideology dominates. Now these trends are making inroads into criminal justice even off-campus.


The American Enterprise Institute

  • Payroll tax deferral ends with a whimper
  • Federal judge blocks rule that turns away refugees because of late tax returns
  • The IRS abandons its lawless effort to deny rebate payments to prisoners
  • Counting unemployment as taxable income is no tax law quirk
  • Tax cuts for the 90 percent: Make permanent the expanded charitable deduction
  • Democrats’ new agenda is to aid the affluent
  • Biden … has repeatedly vowed that tax increases would affect only those households making more than $400,000 a year, which is to say the top 1.8% of all households.
  • The shocking events at the Capitol last week were the culmination of four years of antagonism between the mainstream media and President Trump.  Capitol riot was Trumpism’s essence on display
  • There is such a thing as being on the stupid side of history—and there’s a mad rush to be on it.
  • WTH is Russia doing cyberattacking the United States? David Sanger on the SolarWinds hack and the future of American cyber security

Useful? Interesting? Informative? Predictive? How do the views from around 2,000 US think tanks, plus all available data from other sources including public opinion, get translated into US policies? Give these sites and other think tanks an occasional scan. You may find, if you do, that some of what you read today will show up in the months that follow as news items and policy changes.



Xeno, a futurist songwriter, has focused on a single lifelong goal he once saw on a bumper sticker: Save the Humans.

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