The ‘progressive’ think-tank Per Capita was launched a year ago today. It’s off to a fairly slow start. Many blogs which are mainly hobbies for their contributor(s), including this one, have produced far material in the last twelve months than has Per Capita. And most of what Per Capita has produced are newspaper opinion pieces, which take only slightly longer than a substantive blog post to write.
Unusually for a think-tank, they don’t seem to have any published research. The closest thing I could find was a ‘Dear Prime Minister’ (lefties love open letters) publication called ‘Memo to a Progressive Prime Minister’, but this is more of a manifesto with endnotes than a traditional think-tank research paper.
Presumably the research is still coming – there is a page on their website promising it – but so far they are lacking what gives think-tanks credibility and profile. With most of the social democratic talent either with secure university jobs or in one of the hundreds of government staffer jobs currently available to them, perhaps Per Capita is struggling to find people to do their research.
If they can lift their output, the manifesto provides some support for commenter John of Newtown’s suggestion last week that Per Capita was a ‘progressive fusionist’ institution. There are market-based policy suggestions in the manifesto, including a national water market and even a proposal for students to sell shares in their future income stream (the CIS was there first on that one, of course). At the same time, there are calls for ‘public investment’, but investment based on proper analysis of costs and benefits.
All that is a significant improvement on much other ‘progressive’ thinking, and from a liberal ‘fusionist’ perspective on really-existing conservatism, which too easily ends up as National Party agragrian socialism, particularly on issues like water. I hope Per Capita succeeds. But for the moment it looks like they are finding out how hard it is to run a think-tank.