I made reference yesterday to a think-tank called the Institute of Ideas.
Ideas being dangerous things, maybe it's a good thing for them to be kept in an institution. How one wishes that some of Tony Blair's ideas had merely been sent to an institute with a self-addressed envelope enclosed rather than inflicted on the wider world.
I've been thinking about think-tanks recently, which I suppose qualifies as a form of meta-thinking. They seem to have proliferated in recent years and are widely treated as authoritative by the media.
But before considering think-tanks in general, I took a closer look at the Institute of Ideas. The abbreviation is 'IoI', which is almost indistinguishable from 'lol'.
And 'lol' I did when I looked at their website.
They organise "conferences, discussions and salons".
Have you ever attended a 'salon'? No, me neither. I even get my hair cut at a traditional barbers rather than a salon, although some heated debate takes place there: whether Town will be relegated this year, the price of houses in the village, that kind of thing.
But I rather fancy reclining on a chaise longue in a Georgian town house, wearing a velvet smoking jacket and removing the Du Maurier cigarette from my lips to give a devestating critique of Marx's epistemology.
The Institute also organises "open and robust debate, in which ideas can be interrogated."
How the fuck do you interrogate an idea?
"For the benefit of the tape, you say your name is Liberty. But since Liberty is impossible without Equality, you cannot have acted alone. We'll get Equality sooner or later, so if you value your freedom, start talking."
It also "challenges irrational social panics."
Don't you just hate those irrational social panics?
Give me a rational panic any day.
It is committed to "civil liberties, with no ifs and buts."
What the hell does that mean?
I've been committed to civil liberties all my life but only the most extreme and demented libertarian would argue for unrestricted freedom of speech and action.
The Institute is closely involved with the Pfizer Debating Matters Forum for 6th Form students.
Not, you will note, the Bertrand Russell or Albert Einstein or John Rawls Debating Matters Forum.
No, that's Pfizer, the world's largest pharmaceuticals company, manufacturer of Viagra.
So do the 6th formers debate the ethics of the pharmaceutical industry? Might they discuss the $7 billion damages claim brought against Pfizer by the Nigerian Government for the alleged deaths of children in drugs trials? Or this month's claims that hundreds of Americans have suffered serious side-effects from Pfizer's anti-smoking drug, which airline pilots have been banned from taking?
No, that's one of my sillier ideas.
The reason I got thinking about think-tanks was that recently the media reported with a straight face that one of them had discovered that poor teaching could lead to students doing less well in their exams.
How much thinking did it take to come up with that one?
Yet these obscure and unaccountable organisations get shed-loads of money thrown at them.
I'm thinking of starting one myself. It will be more lucrative than blogging and will take up only about five minutes a day.
I shall announce that dry summers are more likely to result in a hosepipe ban.
That jumping from high buildings can cause death or serious injury.
On one of my lazier days, I might announce that my research has revealed that the sun rises in the east.
And with the right sponsorship deals I might even be able to trouser some free Viagra.
A free packet goes to the first of you to say "You think-tanker!"