Northern Illinois University Press

The Brookings Institution, 1916–1952

Expertise and the Public Interest in a Democratic Society

Donald T. Critchlow

The Brookings Institution is the nation's oldest and most prestigious "think tank." In tracing the institution's history during its early decades, Donald T. Critchlow explores not only the relationship between professional expertise and public policy but that between business and government as well. He examines such central issues as the elitist nature of expertise, and he challenges previous views of corporate-state linkages in modern America.

The image of the Brookings presented in this study is a multidimensional one: the institution is shown to have played both a positive and a negative role in relation to public policy. On the one hand, it contributed to the establishment of a modern budget system in the United States, the reform of Indian policy in the 1920s, the drafting of the National Industrial Recovery Act, and the founding of the United Nations. On the other hand, the institution's staff actively opposed many New Deal programs, as well as the Keynesian economics they associated with these programs, and they sometimes failed to analyze accurately the nature and depth of postwar economic problems.

Throughout the book Critchlow demonstrates the interaction between the choices of individual human beings and the direction of institutional and societal history. Thus there are vivid portraits of a number of the individuals whose personalities helped shape the development of the Brookings Institution—notably Robert S. Brookings, who founded the institution, and Harold G. Moulton, who served as its president from its inception until 1952. Animated by a distrust of popular democracy and by ideals of nonpartisanship and efficiency, these men selected the eminent social scientists who staffed the Brookings, and they determined the projects to be pursued. Their influence, Critchlow shows, was largely responsible for the independent role in public policy making played by the institution during its early history.

(1985) 261 pp., illus.
ISBN: 978-0-87580-103-2
cloth $35.50

Table of Contents

1 The "Think Tank" and Public Policy
2 Democracy, Efficiency, and the Founding of the IGR
3 Robert S. Brookings and His Vision of a Better Society
4 Harold G. Moulton: Efficiency, Economic Expertise, and the Founding of the Brookings Institution
5 Lewis Meriam, Expertise, and Indian Reform
6 The Institution in the New Deal: The Nonpartisan Ideal in the Liberal State
7 The Final Battle: Harry S. Truman and the Fair Deal
8 The Changing of the Guard

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ISBN: 978-0-87580-103-2
cloth $35.50