The Heritage Foundation at 25
The Heritage Foundation threw a black-tie dinner this week at the Washington Sheraton for 1,700 of its closest friends. That's a lot of friends, but then again, the Heritage Foundation has earned its reputation and its place through 25 years of hard work and imaginative leadership. The occasion celebrated the founding of the organization a quarter of a century back - with a $250,000 check from Joseph Coors - back when it was just 20 staffers housed in a row house on Capitol Hill. Heritage surely has come a long way since then. This is a noteworthy milestone for a remarkable institution.
The rise of conservatism in Washington and the rise of the Heritage Foundation are linked together like strands of DNA. At the time of its founding, Richard Nixon had recently declared, "We are all Keynesians now," and if you looked around Washington, you would have been hard pressed to find many dissenters. The Republicans were the party of wage and price controls, affirmative action, detente and the opening to China. The Democrats, by contrast, were liberal.
But there were some dissenters, mainly scattered in the offices of conservative members of Congress. They realized that they were hopelessly outmatched by well-organized liberal forces and their only hope for advancing a conservative agenda on Capitol Hill or even slowing the march of the liberal agenda would be to match the liberal organization in the battlefield of ideas.
With the election of Ronald Reagan it emerged just how significant Heritage's contribution, under the guidance of Ed Feulner, would be. The Heritage Foundation's "Mandate for Leadership" saw its first edition, and the policy prescriptions contained therein suddenly found a way to the White House. Since then, the papers, books, conferences have come fast and furious, as those of us in the ideas business well know. As Michael Kinsley once remarked (not a fan, but accurate on this point nonetheless), "Get on the Heritage Foundation mailing list and you/ll never be lonely. …