A Rare Think Factory Shuns Links with Uncle
by Richard Corrigan
Washington Post, 18 October 1964
Washington - Across from the dazzling new Washington Hilton Hotel stands a gracious old three-stpry Georgian mansion in which overpowering ideas and pipe smoke float in approximately equal portions.
While the new hotel represents an apex of opulence in our society, the Institute for Policy Studies at 1900 Florida Avenue NW concerns itself with even more difficult goals: world peace and racial peace, to name two.
But the atmosphere in which the Institute functions does not appear at all troubled. Resident scholars lean back in leather chairs, occasionally consulting weighty books from spacious shelves, and only the clatter of a typewriter disturbs the autumn afternoon.
Yet if the Institute has the appearance of a typical ivory tower, its directors insist that that is not its purpose or its promise. They see their Institute, which is a year old this month, becoming a major force in the definition and attainment of America's future.
The Institute for Policy Studies was founded by two young New Frontiersmen, Richard J. Barnet and Marcus Raskin. It serves as a research headquarters, a neutral meeting place for scholars and government officials and a teaching facility.
Research is done individually by resident and visiting fellows. The Institute itself does not designate the topics or the outcome and - what its founders consider the Institute's great distinction - neither does the government. No government research contracts are accepted, under terms of the Institute's charter.
Research is very difficult to do when it has been assigned by the government, said the 35-year-old Barnet. They're setting the terms of reference.
A graduate of Harvard Law School, Barnet has worked at Harvard's Russian Research Center and as deputy director of the office of political research in the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.
It seems to us that what was needed was a facility that would be close enough to (official) Washington, Barnet said, but would also be independent.
In this way, he explained, scholars could try their ideas out on government officials, see at close range some of the particular problems the bureaucrat or administrator works under, yet still not be restricted by a government contract.
We are deliberately broad in our fields, Barnet said. We don't want to rule out any particular program. The Institute's work, he said, is pretty much generated by the fellows themselves.
He feels that the government, by contrast, operates on limited lines in assigning research work and on fragmented lines in carrying it out; that is, that many hands often end up stirring a very small stew.
And there is no uniform viewpoint in any sense among the members of the Institute, Barnet said. Paul Goodman, a visiting fellow at the Institute, added, We do nothing but argue up here.
Besides Barnet and Raskin, the Institute's other fellows are Christopher Jencks, formerly an editor of the New Republic; Milton Kotler, a political scientists who was a research fellow at the University of Chicago; Donald Michael, former director of the Peace Institute here; and historian Arthur Waskow, who was on the staff of the Peace Research Institute.
Visiting fellows this year are David T. Bazelon, attorney and author of 'The Paper Economy'; and Goodman, a philosopher and writer ('Growing Up Absurd', etc.).
Then there is a long list of Washington-based associate fellows which includes Beri Bernhard, former staff director of the Civil Rights Commission; C. Clyde Ferguson, dean of Howard University's Law School; and I.F. Stone, who publishes a newsletter.
Three universities - Illinois, Cornell and Antioch - are associated with the Institute, trading students for lecturers. The Institute hopes to associate with about six others eventually and is especially courting small colleges that have denied government research plums. There are four students at the Institute this semester and eight more are scheduled to arrive next spring.
Most of the Institute's financial support comes from various foundations, which either contribute to a general fund or finance specific research work. The Ford Foundation, for instance, backed a study of Alliance for Progress economics and the Presbyterian Board of Missions has underwritten a study on what to do with Mississippi.
Along with all this research, there are semiweekly seminars around a big first-floor table. At these informal affairs, the residents take on visitors from government departments, Capitol Hill, area universities and elsewhere.
Participants in a series of seminars on edication, for instance, included US Commissioner of Education Francis Keppel, Assistant Secretary of Labor Patrick Moynihan and Representatives John Brademas (D-Ind.) and Albert Quie (R-Minn.), both members of the House Education and Labor Committee.
Basically, then, the Institute tries - in Barnet's words - to bring together people who have an idea of how things might be. Raskin added: Any university faculty would be proud of the talent in this town and said that the Institute hopes to draw some of it in and build a very, very first-rate educational institution
And how has the Institute fared in its first year? Co-director Raskin, a pipe-smoking 30-year-old Chicago lawyer who was on President Kennedy's disarmament staff, said: The first year here has proved the dream in reality more congruent than seemed possible.
In short, he thinks the Institute is a going institution.