Promoting Its Ideas, the Manhattan Institute Has Nudged New York Rightward

AMID THE POWERFUL conformist currents of midtown Manhattan, there is something unexpected about Myron Magnet’s sideburns — bushy white whiskers that billow out from his bespectacled face like something out of Dickens.

The New York Times, May 12, 1997, by Janny Scott

THEY BEGAN as an accident, he insists. He was studying at Cambridge University, living in a Tudor cottage with an unlighted wash basin in his room. One day, he noticed the overgrowth on his jowls. He says he figured, “What the hell?”

But that was 30 years ago, a visitor points out, puzzled.

Mr. Magnet shifts in his high-backed leather chair. Then he answers, slowly: “I value the past very much. I think it has an awful lot to teach the present. So I suppose it is a homage to the past.”

Mr. Magnet is a member of the heterogeneous group of conservatives who make up the Manhattan Institute, a think tank that has pulled off the improbable feat of helping change the course of the country’s most liberal big city. The institute has done as much as any group in recent years to challenge the rules by which New York was governed, and Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani has done as much as any politician to move its ideas from the margin to the mainstream.

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