The Power of Words: Reflections on 1,000 Heritage Lectures,1980-2007

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The Power of Words: Reflections on 1,000 Heritage Lectures,1980-2007

December 17, 2007 About an hour read Download Report
Lee Edwards
Lee Edwards, Ph.D.
Former Distinguished Fellow in Conservative Thought
Lee Edwards is a leading historian of American conservatism and the author or editor of 25 books.

The Heritage Foundation believes, along with the British historian Paul Johnson, that words are "the essen­tial units on which a civilization rests." Like the former Czech president and playwright Vaclav Havel, we have faith in "the power of words to change history."

  • It was Havel's eloquent words as leader of the Civic Forum in the fall of 1989 that sparked the Velvet Revolution and caused the sudden eclipse of Communism in Czechoslovakia.
  • It was the calm yet resolute words of Nelson Man­dela calling for an end to apartheid and for free and open elections that convinced the white Afri­kaner government to accept the man they once labeled a terrorist as a national leader.
  • It was the blunt words of Ronald Reagan describ­ing the Soviet Union as an "evil empire" that stunned the Soviets and encouraged the dissi­dents in Poland and elsewhere in Eastern Europe to stand up to their Communist oppressors.

Believing as we do in the power of words, The Her­itage Foundation has produced a mighty river of them over the years. In 2006 alone, Heritage produced nearly half a million words with its 203 Backgrounders, Executive Memoranda, Legal Memoranda, Center for Data Analysis Reports, and Heritage Lectures. It generat­ed another 1.3 million words through the 1,354 tele­vision and radio appearances of its policy analysts.

Heritage is proud of all its words but takes special pride in one particular form--the Heritage Lecture, of which this is Number 1001.

The formal lecture has a long and honorable history in America and the United Kingdom, stretching back more than a century and a half, and was until fairly recently delivered on a college or university campus by a prominent academician or intellectual. John Henry Newman's much-admired work, The Idea of a University, was first a series of lectures that he delivered upon becoming rector of the newly founded Catholic University of Ireland. T. S. Eliot's illuminating work Christianity and Culture began as a group of lectures at Cam­bridge University.

Two of modern American conservatism's most influential works are Eric Voegelin's The New Science of Politics and Leo Strauss's Natural Right and History, both of which originated as lectures at the Universi­ty of Chicago. Milton Friedman's best-selling Capi­talism and Freedom grew out of his public policy lectures at the same institution.

It seemed as though universities, in the words of The Economist, would "establish a monopoly over the life of the mind" and extend their influence far beyond the groves of academe. By the early 1960s, it was generally accepted that universities would serve as the primary provider of ideas to political leaders and policymakers. President John F. Kennedy, for example, populated his administration with intel­lectuals like Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and Walter Ros­tow and made much of his Harvard connection.

But, paradoxically, universities began to concen­trate on the obscure and the arcane. They turned inward and leftward, writing for and talking only to themselves, caught up in a prolonged spasm of political correctness and deconstructionism. The ivory tower turned into a Tower of Babel.

Governments, especially those on the Right, began turning elsewhere for advice and counsel and found them in think tanks like the Institute of Eco­nomic Affairs in Britain and The Heritage Founda­tion in America. A significant service of Heritage was to provide a public forum for lectures by public officials, scholars, and policy experts on the leading issues of the day.

Over the past quarter of a century, Heritage has hosted U.S. Presidents; Secretaries of State and Defense; House Speakers and Senate Majority Lead­ers; prime ministers; Nobel Laureates; Vice Presi­dents and Supreme Court justices; conservatives, libertarians, and neoconservatives; dissidents and former political prisoners; generals and attorneys general; public intellectuals and best-selling authors. These men and women compose a panthe­on of the most influential conservatives in America in the last part of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st.

To be honest, not all 1,000 Heritage Lectures war­rant careful rereading, but the great majority of them had a measurable impact on public policy. It is my intention in this lecture to offer an overview of what I believe are the most important Heritage Lec­tures of the past 27 years--Heritage's greatest acous­tic hits, if you will--dividing them into talks by renowned scholars, by Heritage experts, and by national leaders, enlivened by the opinions of unconventional thinkers.

"The Conservative Movement: Then and Now"

It is no coincidence that the first formal Heritage lecture was delivered by conservatism's master of words, Russell Kirk, who stood before a micro­phone on June 4, 1980, and delivered a lecture on "The Conservative Movement: Then and Now."[1] Dr. Kirk began by stating that about three decades are required for a body of convictions "to be expressed, discussed, and at last incorporated into public poli­cy." Some 30 years having passed since the publica­tion of such seminal conservative works as F. A. Hayek's The Road to Serfdom, Richard Weaver's Ideas Have Consequences, and Kirk's own The Conservative Mind, Dr. Kirk asserted that the nation was now "entering upon a period of conservative policies."

Dr. Kirk uttered these confident words when the approval of conservative Ronald Reagan as the Republican presidential nominee was assured but his chances of victory over President Jimmy Cart­er in the general election were far from certain. Furthermore, few could foresee whether a Reagan Administration would be able to move the nation's policies to the Right after decades of the New Deal, the Great Society, and other experiments in governmental elephantiasis.

One who could see clearly into the future was Russell Kirk, who, ever the good conservative, uttered a note of caution. "We are not going to march to Zion," he said, "yet we may succeed in planting some trees in the Waste Land." He based his qualified optimism on the role of the younger conservatives who had studied and absorbed the lessons of the past 30 years. Aligning himself with the noted British politician Edmund Burke, Dr. Kirk said, "I attest the rising generation."

"Islam Through the Looking Glass"

Attesting to Heritage's ability to offer the timely commentary, the foundation's second lecture, in the late summer of 1980, was given by J. B. Kelly, a not­ed British historian and expert on the Middle East, who titled his talk "Islam Through the Looking Glass."[2] Kelly addressed the causes of the "dismal collapse" of the West's strategy in the Middle East, a region of vital economic and political interests then and now.

Professor Kelly, who taught at Oxford as well as the Universities of Michigan and Wisconsin, criti­cized those experts in and out of government who insisted for decades that "we [in the West] have nothing to fear from Islam." Anticipating the argu­ment of Harvard professor Samuel Huntington about the "clash of civilizations," Kelly insisted that the enmity of the Muslim Arab world for the Chris­tian West was real and deep-rooted.

While Western governments persisted in pro­claiming their faith in "the rationality of the regimes in power in the Gulf states," those same Gulf states demonstrated that their actions were motivated by rapacity--as with the rapid rise in oil prices--and by religious rancor toward the West. "The Arabs," Kelly said, "see the oil weapons as a gift sent from God to redress the balance between Christendom and Islam."

Because of the Western nations' willful self-delu­sion about Islam, Kelly said somberly, they have left themselves no alternative "but to project their mili­tary power into the Gulf region." He conceded the very great risks in such a policy: "An upsurge of Muslim fanaticism against the West," he said, "may be taken for granted." But the perils of inaction, he concluded, were "far more serious than the risks attendant upon resolute action."

The first two Heritage Lectures set a high standard for those that followed, but scholars such as F. A. Hayek, Julian Simon, George Nash, Marvin Olasky, Harvey Mansfield, John G. West, Anne Applebaum, and Hernando de Soto were equal to the challenge.

"Our Moral Heritage"

In his sole Heritage presentation, on November 29, 1982, Nobel Laureate Friedrich Hayek suggested that the "enormous framework" of human cooperation rests on the institutions of private property, on the family, and on the idea of honesty.[3] Libertarians were no doubt startled by Hayek's emphasis on the impor­tance of the family rather than the individual.

Rejecting the utilitarian explanation of ethics offered by his mentor Ludwig von Mises, Hayek argued that "we do not owe our morals to our intel­ligence." Rather, we owe them to the fact that certain groups accepted certain rules of conduct--the rules of private property, of honesty, and of the family-- that enabled these groups to prosper and multiply. It was, Hayek said, "a process of natural selection, analogous to the process of biological selection."

But how could such traditions prevail and be passed on from generation to generation, Hayek asked, if people had no rational understanding of them? His answer: supernatural sanctions. We owe our civilization, Hayek said, to beliefs that are not true in the same sense in which scientific facts are true "but are just as essential because it is due to our belief in them that we have been able to develop our modern civilization."

If you look at the present world, Hayek said, you will find that, with the exception of Communism, all the worldwide religions, whether "the monothe­istic creeds of the West" or the exotic religions of the East, support the principles of private property and the family. Communism, which is anti-property and anti-religion, has had its time and "is now declining rapidly." (Hayek said this at about the same time that President Reagan was predicting that Marxism- Leninism was headed for the ash heap of history.) Traditional morality, Professor Hayek summed up, "is vital to human survival."

The similarity between the "moral heritage" out­lined by the classical liberal Friedrich Hayek and the "custom and tradition" so often cited by the tra­ditional conservative Russell Kirk is striking, sug­gesting that conservatism constitutes a far larger philosophical tent than some radical libertarians care to admit.

"How Immigrants Affect Americans' Living Standard"

Immigration has long been a major and usually controversial issue for the United States, the land of immigrants. And so on May 30, 1984, University of Maryland Professor Julian Simon, a Heritage Senior Fellow, and Roger Conner, executive director of FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, engaged in a spirited debate on "How Immigrants Affect Americans' Living Standard."[4] The two aca­demics agreed on little--including the subject of the debate, with Simon talking mostly about the positive impact of legal immigrants and Conner focusing on the negative consequences of illegal immigration.

Simon began by saying that the current influx of immigrants has been exaggerated: The immigrants who arrived between 1901 and 1910 constituted 9.6 percent of the population, whereas between 1961 and 1970, immigrants constituted only 1.6 percent. In 1910, 14.6 percent of the population was foreign-born. In 1970, only 4.7 percent of the population was foreign-born. (By 2005, the percentage of Americans who are foreign born had risen to 12.4.)

In terms of costs and benefits, Simon said, the "most important economic benefit of immigrants in the long run is the boost they give to productivity." He quoted from his recent book that the main cost to native-born Americans was the extra money needed for additional schools and hospitals.

As to illegals and welfare, Simon said, illegals are heavier "net contributors" to the public coffers than legal immigrants. They draw less welfare because many of them are in the United States only tempo­rarily and without families and because they are afraid of applying for services for fear of being dis­covered and deported home. (As we know only too well, this is no longer the case.)

Simon said that the most dramatic argument against admitting immigrants is that they take jobs held by native-born Americans, thereby increasing unemployment. However, he said that he and Stephen Moore had done a study of immigration and unemployment which revealed that the nega­tive impact of immigrants on employment was "too small to be observable." Their explanation: "[I]mmi­grants not only take jobs, they make jobs."

Conner chose to focus on illegal immigration, stating that "it is totally out of control. Our borders are a sieve." What draws illegals is jobs, he said, and the fact (at the time) that it is not against the law for an employer to hire an immigrant whom he knows to be in the country illegally.

Arguing that it was imperative for the U.S. gov­ernment to take action without delay, Conner offered the following reforms: Increase the size of the Border Patrol and Immigration and Naturaliza­tion Service; enact a law stopping employers from hiring illegal immigrants; and establish a limit on legal immigration at the current level, to be reviewed every three years. (The 1986 immigration law included the first two of these reforms.)

Conner also made the point that illegal immigra­tion "encourages further illegality." For employers who have an illegal workforce, it is "a short step to entering the underground economy." For employ­ees, a recent exposé in Chicago found tens of thou­sands of illegals on the voting rolls.

Conner challenged Simon's assertion that popu­lation growth, including immigration, is "the main­spring of all economic progress in the last 5,000 years." He posited that technological progress is "the motor that makes it possible to pull the bigger trailer of population growth."

In their rebuttals, Simon stated that a critical element in the consideration of how many immi­grants should be allowed is the time horizon. In the short run, additional immigrants will not nor­mally be of economic benefit; but if the time hori­zon is extended for months, years, or even decades, "more immigrants are good for the stan­dard of living."

Simon insisted that his and other studies showed that when tax contributions at all levels of govern­ment are computed, these tax payments "vastly exceed the cost of the services used by a factor of perhaps, five, ten, or more." The evidence that ille­gals, even more so than legal immigrants, pay more into the public coffers than they take out, he said, "is overwhelming."

Conner was not persuaded by Simon's pro-immi­gration arguments, asserting that (1) unlimited and illegal immigration to the U.S. "creates an environ­ment that actively discourages automation and innovation," (2) unemployment could be 2 percent lower if "illegals were not taking so many jobs from Americans," and (3) the number of illegals is far greater and increasing more rapidly than Simon and others are willing to admit. Though some employ­ers may derive short-term economic benefit from hiring "cheap, docile, illegal alien labor," Conner said, American society must bear the burden and pay the price--a price that "includes lower wages for American workers, higher unemployment, and increasing social service costs."

"Is the American Experience Conservative?"

In September 1987, the conservative historian George H. Nash addressed the question, "Is the American Experience Conservative?"[5] After a brief overview of U.S. history, Dr. Nash posited the arresting idea that there are at present in America two contrasting modernities, one new and one old.

At the heart of the "new modernity," or modern­ism, he said, is a sense of relativism, negation, and despair. It denies the existence of universal truths. It is contemptuous of middle-class culture, preaching liberation from such constraints as traditional morality, artistic convention, and rationality itself. The new modernity is "haunted," Nash said, by the conviction that life has no ultimate meaning and God is dead--if He ever existed. This form of modernity is the province of America's most distin­guished intellectuals, who are in charge of our insti­tutions of higher learning and the mass media, including Hollywood and book publishing.

In contrast, the "old modernity" asserts that there are universal truths such as religious liberty, human equality, and property rights. Based on the Ameri­can founding, the "old" modernity is optimistic, tends to be rationalistic, and offers liberation from the barriers of class, race, national origin, and arbi­trary government. It easily engages in the rhetoric of upward mobility and achievement, of liberty, and of free market capitalism. The ideals of the old moder­nity, Nash said, "have become the property of the conservatives."

Nash dismissed the suggestion that there is some dialectical process by which the old modernity will inexorably give birth to the new. Nor is it true that the American way of life is inherently and irremedi­ably flawed and must be replaced. The core reason, he said, is that from the beginning, America has evolved "within a context of Christian religious belief" which has given our nation and its develop­ment a remarkable constancy.

While America is indisputably a modern nation, it is also a conservative nation rooted in what Rus­sell Kirk called the "permanent things"--spiritual things and the institutions that sustain them. If the old modernity is not to succumb to the relativism and anti-religious nihilism of the new, Nash con­cluded, it will have to draw on "transcendent, pre-modern sources--on religious faith--to infuse our lives with meaning."

"Reclaiming Compassion"

In mid-December 1989, Professor Marvin Olasky of the University of Texas at Austin gave a lecture titled "Reclaiming Compassion: A Christmas Medita­tion."[6] Professor Olasky, a Bradley Resident Scholar at Heritage, pointed out how, for the first 150 years of the Republic, Americans personally fulfilled their Judeo-Christian responsibility to help those in need.

In 17th century New England, for example, it was common for families to share the care of the destitute. Some would share their homes for parts of the year; others would pitch in for food costs; still others would provide clothing and medical care. Such charity demonstrated, Olasky said, "how thor­oughly American society was impregnated with the idea of personal involvement."

But while the charity was warm-hearted, it was also hard-headed. A clear distinction was made between the needy and the idle. Regarding the lat­ter, the famous preacher Cotton Mather was very direct: "Find employment for them. Find 'em work; set 'em to work; keep 'em to work." These early American Christians understood that good inten­tions can do more harm than good by making the recipients of charity dependent upon it.

Tragically, this is what happened as individuals and groups, caught up in the "social gospel" of the late 19th century, turned over the problem of the poor and the disadvantaged to government, which solemnly promised to care for everyone. As early as 1891, a University of Pennsylvania academic warned that governmental aid "can only demoralize where it means to help." And so it happened: The billions and trillions of dollars spent by the federal government from the mid-60s on created an under­class dependent on welfare.

In his lecture, Professor Olasky called for a return to traditional Christian compassion, and a turning away from "government-coerced" compas­sion. He acknowledged that such a change in phi­losophy would not be easy. The primary burden in reclaiming compassion from the liberals, he said, "will be on tens of millions of people throughout this country." They will need to make a massive commitment not of money but of individual effort. "Conservative compassion," Olasky said, requires good men and women willing to give generously of their time and attention and moral force.

"Many lives can be saved," Olasky later wrote in his book The Tragedy of American Compassion, based on his Heritage lecture, "if we recapture the vision that changed lives...when our concept of compas­sion was not so corrupt." The impact of the Heritage lecture and the book was significant: The historic welfare reform of the mid-1990s and the faith-based initiative of President George W. Bush owe much to Marvin Olasky's pioneering research.

"Political Correctness and the Suicide of the Intellect"

That Harvard Professor Harvey Mansfield, Jr., is an unconventional conservative was demonstrated in his June 1991 lecture, "Political Correctness and the Suicide of the Intellect."[7] Professor Mansfield began by decrying PC and the related question of affirmative action, saying that "affirmative action is the only government program that's ashamed of itself"--it does not name its beneficiaries for fear of hurting the candidate's pride.

He mocked the use of the politically correct "he or she" in speech or composition, pointing out that it draws attention to rather than away from the sex­ual difference. It is an attempt, Mansfield said, to "create an atmosphere of self-censorship."

Next, he made a distinction between free speech and free expression. Free speech, he said, is "neces­sarily associated with reason." By contrast, free expression is self-centered, culminating in the right to offend. The ACLU doctrine of identifying free speech with free expression, Professor Mansfield said, leads to this practice: "Do your worst, because you're not free unless you can carry freedom to an extreme."

Mansfield also differentiated between free speech and academic freedom. The purpose of free speech is to make democratic government possible. The purpose of academic freedom is to further inquiry, and inquiry, he argued, means being open-minded to what is new and is reflected in a desire to learn.

Therefore, "giving and taking offense is espe­cially inappropriate to a campus. It's perhaps part of politics," he said, "but certainly not part of inquiry." Mansfield went so far as to declare that there should be "no right to protest at universities. There should be, on the contrary, a duty to listen." Academic freedom, he asserted, is more wide-ranging than free speech, but it also requires greater decorum.

Separating himself from many conservatives, Professor Mansfield expressed strong skepticism about a core curriculum and a canon of great books, describing the term "canon" as "tenden­tious." He called the great books approach "arbi­trary and authoritative." Which books should be termed great, Mansfield argued, should not be decided by a local board of censors or "by any government" but by "common consent of the educated over generations and across national boundaries."

Professor Mansfield concluded by warning that "PC at the universities is the suicide of the intellect." It should be resisted and confronted lest it produce an education without foundations and based on mere assertions. The right education founded on intrepid questioning and self-criticism is "a noble thing," Mansfield said. Only the West has institutions of self-criticism called universities. The cause of the univer­sity is the highest there is. "[I]t is up to us," he said, "to give it more power--the power to teach, the power to learn, and the power to question."

"God and Politics"

It is not true, remarked John G. West, Jr., in a March 1997 Heritage lecture titled "God and Poli­tics: Lessons from America's Past," that conflict over religion in politics is a new thing in America.[8] Dur­ing the first decades of the 19th century, the nation was embroiled in a bitter debate about "how far reli­gious people should go in promoting a social and cultural agenda."

As it turned out, the 19th century Christian reformers were remarkably successful in bringing about social change. Professor West offered five les­sons that he gleaned from their success:

  • Stop looking to the government for solutions to all of our problems. If irreligion and immorality dominated society--as they did in the first part of the 19th century--it was the responsibility of Christians themselves to form "private associa­tions to combat these evils--to convert people and to promote virtue." And that is precisely what happened.
  • Cultivate the common moral ground. It does not diminish the Bible or its authority, West said, to appeal to the natural moral law, because that law also comes from God.
  • Setting priorities is important. Christians as Christians ought to limit their political activities to those issues where "a clear moral principle was at stake." They should not attempt to con­trol the administration of civil government in things that are merely secular.
  • Integrity is important. Professor West offered as a model Jeremiah Evarts, a 19th century lawyer, journalist, and missionary leader who was active on such issues as slavery and alcohol abuse. Even most opponents of Evarts respected him. He was a powerful example of how one can stand up strongly for what one believes to be right and still do it in a Christian manner, avoid­ing the "twin wrongs of self-righteousness and cowardly compromise."
  • Prudence is important. Idealism in politics, West said, especially idealism born of religious convictions, is "a two-edged sword." It can pro­duce necessary reforms such as abolition of the slave trade and efforts to save people from sub­stance abuse, but it can also lead to extremism. "Idealists aim for the sky," West said, and when they don't reach it, they can become disillu­sioned, bitter, and even radical."

Unless religious idealists have a firm grasp of the idea of prudence, West warned, they can become overzealous and even politically destabilizing. What is needed to counteract this tendency is a heavy dose of realism. We should remember, Professor West concluded, that politics is the realm of the pos­sible, not the perfect, and prudence is a virtue just like justice and mercy.

"Gulag: Understanding the Magnitude of What Happened"

In June 2003, shortly after the 50th anniversary of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin's death, the award-winning historian Anne Applebaum lectured on "Gulag: Understanding the Magnitude of What Happened."[9] Although Lenin built the first Soviet concentration camps in 1918, it was Stalin who sys­tematically constructed the infamous Gulag Archi­pelago between 1929 and 1953.

There were at least 476 camp systems, each one made up of hundreds, even thousands of individual camps or lagpunkts, sometimes spread out over thousands of square miles of otherwise empty tundra. Some 18 million people passed through these camps. Another 6 or 7 million people were deported, not to camps but to exile villages.

In sum, said Applebaum, the number of people imprisoned in Stalin's Soviet Union was as high as 25 million--about 15 percent of the population. Nearly one-fourth of the Gulag's prisoners died dur­ing the World War II years.

The purpose of the Gulag was twofold: economic and political. The camp prisoners were involved in every aspect of the Soviet economy for a quarter of a century. There was not a single industry, according to Applebaum, that did not employ prisoners who built roads and railroads, power plants and chemi­cal factories, and manufactured weapons, furniture, and even children's toys. And there is no question that the camps severely distorted the Soviet econo­my. With so much available cheap labor, the nation took far longer than it should have to become mechanized and modernized.

The camps were also a political instrument, calculated to terrorize and subjugate the popula­tion. The prisoners were described as "enemies" and forbidden to use the word "comrade." Such measures, Applebaum explained, contributed to the dehumanization of prisoners in the eyes of camp guards and bureaucrats who found it easy not to treat the prisoners as fellow citizens or even as human beings.

To this day, the Russian people do not want to talk about the Gulag. There is in Russia "no national monument or place of mourning" about it. There have been no trials about the crimes of the Commu­nists, no truth or reconciliation commissions, no government inquiries, no public debate. Apple­baum explained that there are several reasons for the deliberate silence.

  • Life is difficult in Russia today, and most Rus­sians spend their time and energy trying to cope, not examining the past.
  • The memory of the camps is confused by the presence of many other atrocities--war, famine, and collectivization. Why, therefore, should camp survivors get special treatment?
  • There is also the question of pride. Many Rus­sians consider the collapse of the Soviet Union "a personal blow." Perhaps the old system was bad, they concede, but at least the USSR was powerful.
  • Finally, Applebaum pointed out, former Com­munists have no interest in discussing the past, which tarnishes and diminishes them and dam­ages their image as so-called reformers.

The failure to acknowledge or repent affects Rus­sian politics and society. Would the Russians have conducted a war against Chechnya if they remem­bered that Stalin had accused the Chechens of col­laboration with the Germans during World War II and sent every Chechen man, woman, and child to the deserts of Central Asia? The Russian failure to look at the past, Applebaum said, explains the Rus­sian insensitivity to the prevalence of censorship and the heavy presence of the secret police.

No less disturbing is the failure of Western intel­lectuals to acknowledge the full measure of Stalin's crimes. It is a fact that the camps of Stalin, America's ally during World War II, expanded as the camps of Hitler, our enemy, were liberated. As Applebaum put it, "all too few want to admit that we defeated one mass murderer on the help of another."

The emergence of new terrorist threats to West­ern civilization, Applebaum concluded, "make[s] the study of the old communist threats to Western civilization all the more relevant."

"Is Economic Freedom for Everyone?"

While capitalism produces wealth and prosperi­ty for most in the West, it is not working so well in much of the rest of the world. Is this because the West is more democratic and entrepreneurial and that its workers work harder and longer than those in the Third World? Or is it because the West has a legal system that enables entrepreneurs of every size and shape to use their wealth--and the developing world does not?

On September 29, 2006, Hernando de Soto, president of the Peru-based Institute for Liberty and Democracy and one of the world's most innovative economists, addressed the question, "Is Economic Freedom for Everyone?"[10] He appeared under the auspices of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Free­dom and with the blessing of Lady Thatcher, who said that de Soto's latest book The Mystery of Capital could start "a new, enormously beneficial revolution for it addresses...the lack of a rule of law that upholds private property and provides a framework of enterprise" in most Third World and ex-Commu­nist countries.

De Soto began by asking a basic question: How do you start a market economy in a nation that has never known freedom or choice or profit and loss or a rule of law? Rather than going to Adam Smith, de Soto and his Institute colleagues went to Darwin to learn where life was born, where organic evolu­tion began--in "warm little ponds" not unlike the "little platoons" of the 18th century British politi­cian Edmund Burke.

They studied the American experience and learned that we began our economic revolution around 1811 when we created the first business organizations without the authorization of govern­ment or Congress. But it was not until the end of the 19th century that anybody in the United States could form a company to bring people together in a productive enterprise.

De Soto discovered that while many countries had a market economy, they did not have the enter­prises that allow people to organize different spe­cialties to deal with the "swirling mass of information in the market." And key to the creation and maintenance of enterprises was a rule of law.

While people throughout the world are organized in business organizations, most of them are in the "extra-legal" or "informal" sector. In the United States and other Western countries, businesses are legal and formal, with such requisite characteristics as shares of stock and asset shielding. When the United States and other Western European countries began creating companies, de Soto said, they created the devices "that allow you to process information and make sense out of huge, unruly markets."

So his answer to the question "Are we all ready for economic freedom?" is "yes," provided you real­ize it is more difficult and more sophisticated than anyone thought. The process has to be document­ed. It has to be taught. "Once we realize that it is not only about macroeconomic rules," de Soto said, but about culture and science and law and how people can get organized even in the most backward parts of the world, "we will be closer" to freedom for all.


During the past 25 years, Heritage analysts have proposed concrete solutions to the most pressing issues of the day--from runaway entitlements to the war on terrorism--based on five core conservative ideas: limited government, the free market, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense. Because of the exigencies of time and space, I had to limit myself to presenting a hand­ful of the dozens of outstanding policy proposals.

"Affordable Health Care for All Americans"

Stuart Butler, Vice President for Domestic and Economic Policy Studies, is Heritage's principal expert in how to roll back the welfare state. In Octo­ber 1989 and again in March 1993, Butler discussed health care in America and the Heritage approach: a national health plan--but a national health plan with a difference.[11]

Is such an idea really conservative? Butler rea­soned that if an overwhelming majority of Ameri­cans were emphatic that all citizens have a right to a basic good or service, conservatives should respond with something other than a resounding "Nyet!" If conservatives did not engage in the policy debate on a major issue like health care, he said, they would leave the field open to the liberals.

The Heritage plan, Butler explained, was based on the foundations of a market economy and con­sumer choice, including competition, private con­tracts, and market prices. The plan would create a system that would not increase government "either in scale or degree of intrusion." It would afford indi­viduals the right to choose what kind of health cov­erage they want, who is going to provide it, and what the services should be.

He conceded that there was a risk that once you engaged in the debate, your proposal might be co-opted and your proposal incorporated into an unac­ceptable plan, but he said that if conservatives were not prepared to take risks in addressing big issues like health care, they "shouldn't be in the business of policy and trying to effect change."

Rather than the current system with its built-in inflation and enormous gaps in coverage, Butler said, the Heritage health care plan would create a system providing not only coverage to all, but also "a powerful set of incentives for the health care industry to be as efficient and consumer sensitive as possible." The Heritage approach, he concluded, would create a national health system that combines universal health care with a degree of quality, access, and budget control unavailable in other national health systems around the world.

"Strategies for Welfare Reform"

In 1992, Senior Policy Analyst Robert Rector deliv­ered a devastating critique of the federal government's seemingly perpetual "war on poverty."[12] He caused slack jaws throughout Washington by estimating that the government had spent $3.5 trillion in constant 1990 dollars in welfare spending since the onset of President Johnson's War on Poverty in 1965. The result after nearly three decades of federal bounty: 30 million Americans still lived in poverty.

Rector stated that the real problem with welfare is not merely rapidly expanding cost, absorbing over 4 percent of the national economy, but that welfare "actually harms rather than helps the poor." The prolific spending has led to a dramatic increase in "behavioral poverty"--the creation of a gigantic welfare constituency.

The solution, Rector argued, was not the expen­diture of more billions or even trillions of dollars but comprehensive welfare reform with the follow­ing elements:

  • Reduce benefits, especially Aid to Families with Dependent Children payments;
  • Require work in return for benefits--workfare instead of welfare;
  • Require responsible behavior by those who receive benefits;
  • Enforce education requirements;
  • Initiate experiments such as bonuses to AFDC mothers who marry, leave AFDC, and remain off the welfare rolls;
  • Provide tax credits or vouchers for medical cov­erage to all working families; and
  • Provide tax relief to all families with children.

Members of Congress recognized the wisdom of Rector's suggestions and incorporated several of them in the historic welfare reform legislation of 1996.

"Spreading Freedom Around the World"

From its founding, the Heritage Foundation has placed a heavy emphasis on the importance of implementing the right foreign policy to protect American interests and meet American responsibil­ities. Kim Holmes, Vice President and Director of Heritage's Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Insti­tute for International Studies, is widely recognized as one of Washington's premier foreign and defense policy analysts.

In May 1994, he discussed freedom and power in the post-Cold War era, warning that while "the twi­light struggle" with Communism lasted about 70 years, the West's struggle with nationalism, Islamic fundamentalism, and other illiberal movements based on culture and religion "could last much longer."[13] A decade later, a year after the United States successfully invaded Iraq and removed Saddam Hussein, Holmes revisited the subject, stating that the "enemies of free­dom are testing our will." We must, he said, stay the course in the war on terrorism.[14]

In April 2006, in a lecture on "Spreading Free­dom Around the World," Holmes described Ameri­can leadership as "the catalyst" for the march of freedom in the past 30 years.[15] Citing a Freedom House survey, he pointed out that in 1975, there were only 40 politically free nations, while in 2006, the number had more than doubled to 89.

Backlashes to freedom should come as a surprise to no one, Holmes said, for there is always a back­lash when you try to change the status quo. He mentioned resistance in the Middle East (Hamas); in Latin America (the stridently anti-American Ven­ezuelan President Hugo Chávez); and in Russia, where President Vladimir Putin "is backsliding on democracy."

Holmes also offered guidelines for spreading freedom around the world:

  • Be clear about what you mean by a "freedom agenda"--i.e., self-government that respects the rule of law, human and civil rights, religious freedom, and economic freedom;
  • Distinguish between near- and long-term goals-- "we cannot accomplish everything overnight";
  • Face the challenges in the Middle East;
  • Drastically improve U.S. public diplomacy;
  • Support free trade and free markets; and
  • "[G]et serious about Russia and China" because they have joined forces to undermine America's freedom agenda around the world.

He concluded, echoing his remarks of a decade earlier, that we must not withdraw from Iraq. "If we were to pull out tomorrow," Holmes said, "there is no chance at all of either democracy or security in the Middle East."

"The Coming Crisis in Long-Term Care"

It would be difficult to name an issue of major concern to Washington policymakers that a Heri­tage analyst has not addressed. In April 2000, for example, Dr. Robert E. Moffit, Director of Heritage's Center for Health Policy Studies, chaired a discus­sion, "How to Cope with the Coming Crisis in Long-Term Care."[16] Moffit is a veteran of Washing­ton's health care wars: His careful analysis of Presi­dent Clinton's 1993 plan to nationalize the country's health care system, for example, was instrumental in securing the Clinton plan's defeat.

Richard Teske, president of a health care policy firm and who served in the Department of Health and Human Services during the Reagan Administra­tion, advocated a market-oriented consumer choice approach. A centralized government entitlement program, he said, could not cope with the looming financing shortfall. Long-term care costs, he estimat­ed, would quadruple in less than 30 years, becoming the largest single item in the federal budget.

Stephen A. Moses, president of the Center for Long-Term Care Financing, proposed long-term care insurance as the best way to encourage families to "pull together, pool their resources, and help each other to insure fully or pay privately for long-term care." With most of the burden of long-term care expenses covered by private insurance, Moses said, and much of the remainder financed by a line of credit on estates, "only a small remnant of people will be dependent on public welfare for care."

In July 2001, Baker Spring, F. M. Kirby Research Fellow in National Security Policy and Heritage's leading expert on missile defense, ana­lyzed "How the ABM Treaty Obstructs Missile Defense."[17] So powerful were Spring's tightly rea­soned arguments--which he had been reiterating for years--that in December 2001, President George W. Bush announced America's withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, to take effect in June 2002. Withdrawal resulted in the Bush Administration stepping up its efforts to build an effective missile defense system.

"Thinking for the Long War"

One year after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Senior Research Fellow for National Secu­rity Affairs Peter Brookes discussed the status of homeland security, beginning with the flat assertion that "The country is now in a state of war and secur­ing our homeland is--and will continue to be--a new national calling."[18] After reviewing what had been done in the past year, Brookes outlined a plan for future action, including better intelligence and information sharing, consolidation of first-respond­er programs, the development of a national health surveillance network, expansion of the role of the National Guard, and the establishment of standing committees on homeland security in Congress.

Some five years later, James Jay Carafano, Heri­tage's Senior Research Fellow for National Security and Homeland Security, assessed American think­ing about homeland security and gave it only a pass­ing grade.[19] He said that the nation must "consider more deeply" the requirements for fighting Islamic terrorism, including more comprehensive assess­ments by Congress of national defense and home­land security.

Carafano said that the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), which requires the Pentagon every four years to provide Congress with a comprehen­sive assessment of the nation's defenses, offers les­sons for a similar review of homeland security. It is important, he stated, to understand that strategic assessments are not "a substitute for political deci­sion-making." After all the analysis is done, hard choices have to be debated and made.

The best time for such assessments, Carafano suggested, is in the first year of a President's term in order to help set the direction for an Administra­tion's defense strategy. It is important, he said, that a strategic assessment not be expected to address all of the nation's national security instruments at the same time and in the same document. For example, in addition to an examination of traditional nation­al security programs, Congress needs a compre­hensive review of such things as public diplomacy, foreign assistance programs, the intelligence com­munity, the defense industrial base, and the use of space for national security.

Carafano called for a Quadrennial Security Review, or QSR. The QSR, he said, should be con­ducted well before the midpoint of the next Ad­ministration and should be conducted on an interagency basis with the Department of Home­land Security as coordinator. In the long term, he concluded, "sound strategic thinking" is perhaps the most important tool America can bring to bear in fighting and winning "the long war" against Is­lamic terrorism.

"Public Policy in the Age of Entitlements"

In March 2006, William W. Beach, Director of the Center for Data Analysis, declared that a specter was haunting Washington: "the specter of runaway entitlements."[20] We might be on the verge of a future, he said, in which politics is dominated by generational differences and even more by differ­ences in income.

Noting the high price of failure to reform--the unfunded amount of America's old-age programs is $12.8 trillion--Beach suggested several steps that could be taken:

  • Slow the growth of future benefits to a pace that keeps them equal to today's benefits after adjusting for inflation;
  • Raise retirement income by allowing workers to place a portion of their payroll taxes now devoted to retirement income into a personal savings/investment retirement account; and
  • Require that all personal retirement accounts include an annuity at least equivalent to the Social Security benefits forgone by the worker.

Beach expressed skepticism that the Senate, mired in parochial interests, could deal with such a formidable challenge--in which case, he said, the specter haunting all of America is "the continued failure of Congress, especially the Senate, to grasp the gravity of this crisis." We could witness the slide of our political system, Beach warned, into a "paral­ysis of policymaking not seen since our Civil War."

"The Evolving Al-Qaeda Threat"

Heritage is fortunate to have one of Washington's foremost experts on the Middle East in Research Fel­low James Phillips, who in February 2006 discussed "The Evolving Al-Qaeda Threat."[21] Phillips began with the basics: Al-Qaeda is "a transitional Sunni Islamist terrorist network operating in over 60 coun­tries." Although it has suffered serious losses in per­sonnel and finances, it remains "determined and capable of launching spectacular mega-terrorist attacks against the United States"--the chief obstacle to its plans to build a global Islamic state.

Phillips listed four crucial fronts in the war against al-Qaeda: Pakistan and Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Europe, adding that "some of al-Qaeda's most dangerous members are believed to be European Muslims." He cited the growing threat of WMD (weapons of mass destruction) terrorism, saying that al-Qaeda continues to seek nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons of mass destruc­tion to inflict extensive casualties.

The American vision of the global struggle against terrorism, Phillips said, has evolved signifi­cantly since the September 11, 2001, attacks. In a widely overlooked speech in October 2005, Presi­dent Bush redefined the enemy as "Islamic terror­ism" rather than the more generic "terrorism." It was an acknowledgment that "bin Ladenism" will out­last Osama bin Laden. To defeat al-Qaeda, Phillips said, the U.S. and its allies must not only destroy al-Qaeda's leadership, but also destroy its ability to recruit members by discrediting its violent ideology.

To discredit al-Qaeda, Phillips said, Muslims must be convinced that al-Qaeda's revolutionary program is unrealistic, that it imposes intolerable costs on Mus­lims, and that there is a better way to practice authen­tic Islam. The United States, he said, must put as much effort into the ideological struggle "as it did dur­ing the Cold War." Redefining the enemy as Islamic terrorism will help Muslims to see al-Qaeda for what it is: "a ruthless effort to impose a totalitarian dictator­ship masked in religious symbols."

"Rebuilding the Reagan Coalition"

In November 2006, three weeks after the con­gressional elections in which the Democrats regained control of Congress, Edwin Meese III, Her­itage's Ronald Reagan Distinguished Fellow in Pub­lic Policy, asked, "Can We Rebuild the Reagan Coalition?"[22] His forthright answer was "yes" if "we look at how the Reagan coalition was built" and how it was sustained.

Meese recalled that 1980 was the year that con­servatism became a national governing philosophy leading to the end of the Cold War, the economic revival of America, and the restoration of the self-confidence of the American people. It is important to remember, he said, that during the Reagan years, Republicans were in the majority in the Senate for only six years and never held a majority in the House of Representatives.

Yet Reagan kept smiling, stuck to his principles, and accomplished several political miracles. His leadership was based on the following elements:

  • Vision. "Ronald Reagan had a very distinct vision of where America ought to be going."
  • Communication. Ronald Reagan communi­cated the vision in personal terms so that peo­ple could see how it affected them personally.
  • Integrity. Ronald Reagan maintained his own integrity and that of his Administration by bas­ing actions on a "bedrock set of principles."
  • Courage. In his handling of the air traffic con­trollers strike (firing those who did not return to work within 48 hours) and the Reykjavik summit (where he refused to give up the Stra­tegic Defense Initiative), President Reagan stood by his principles despite widespread criticism.
  • Persistence. As a result of his persistence re­garding nuclear weapons, President Reagan persuaded Mikhail Gorbachev to sign the Inter­mediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty--the first time in world history that a whole class of nu­clear weapons had been eliminated.
  • Unity. Ronald Reagan was able to unite the con­servative movement by saying that "nobody who disagrees with him on one point but agrees on other points ought to be cast out simply because they did not agree with him on everything."

Why did Republicans lose the 2006 elections? Meese asked. Because too many of them, particular­ly the leadership in both houses, essentially aban­doned the conservative principles on which they had run for office. The challenge to Heritage and other think tanks in Washington and across the country, he said, is to translate the conservative vision into relevant legislation, communicate the vision to the American people, and provide the leadership that will make conservative values a real­ity from the White House to the court house. Echo­ing Ronald Reagan, Meese said, "America's best days are yet ahead."


The nation's leaders have often used The Heri­tage Foundation as a public platform to announce a new policy or reiterate an old one.

Reagan Challenges Gorbachev

On November 30, 1987, on the eve of his meeting with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, President Reagan explained that while he was proud of the INF treaty, which eliminated the entire class of U.S. and Soviet intermediate range missiles, he intended to press the Soviets on the issue of human rights--"in many ways [the] pri­mary" issue.[23] He challenged Gorbachev, the author of glasnost, to allow freedom of worship for all: Protestants, Jews, Catholics, Orthodox, and followers of Islam.

Reagan also discussed the war in Afghanistan, which, he pointed out, was costing the cash-strapped Soviet Union between $5 billion and $6 billion a year. He suggested that it was time for the Soviets, "who pride themselves on recogniz­ing objective reality," to bite the bullet and with­draw from Afghanistan. And so they did two years later.

"Why Black Americans Should Look to Conservative Policies"

For today's liberals, a black conservative is as much an oxymoron as Russell Kirk's idea of a con­servative mind was to the liberals of 50 years ago. But in June 1987, Clarence Thomas, then chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commis­sion and now an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, lectured on "Why Black Americans Should Look to Conservative Policies."[24]

Thomas stated that black Americans would move naturally toward conservatism when they are treated by conservatives as "a diverse group with differing interests" and when conservatives stop treating blacks with condescension and timidity. "There need be no ideological concessions," he said, "just a major attitudinal change."

Thomas went on to discuss the emphasis of the Founders on the connection between natural law and constitutional government. The thesis of natu­ral law, he said, is that human nature provides the key to how men ought to live their lives. He quoted John Quincy Adams that "our political way of life is by the laws of nature [and] of nature's God, and of course presupposes the existence of God and...a rule of right and wrong, of just and unjust, binding upon man, preceding all institutions of human soci­ety and of government."

This approach, Thomas said, "allows us to reas­sert the primacy of the individual and establishes our inherent equality as a God-given right." This principled approach, he said, would make it clear to blacks that "conservatives are not hostile to their interests but aggressively supportive."

"The Washington Establishment vs. the American People"

In August 1990, Representative Newt Ging­rich, then Minority Whip in the House of Repre­sentatives, talked about the profound disconnect between Washington and the rest of the country in a lecture titled "The Washington Establishment vs. the American People."[25] Often described as "the man with a thousand ideas," Gingrich this day offered just five.

  • Honesty and integrity are at the heart of a free society. We should punish wrongdoers in poli­tics and government and pass reform laws to clear up the election and lobbying systems.
  • Every citizen has the right to be physically safe. National security and personal security are both foundations of a decent country.
  • A healthy economy creating American jobs by competing successfully in the world market is a key domestic policy--and it is the only welfare program that will work. We must fight for tax cuts, he said, to increase savings, investment and take-home pay.
  • We must replace the false compassion of our bureaucratic welfare state with a truly caring humanitarian approach based on common sense. We must decentralize power and pro­grams away from Washington.
  • For two generations, the government has been more important than the family in setting our national tax policy. We need new management, he said, not new taxes.

These five tasks--integrity, safety, jobs, new-model government, and pro-family tax policy--rep­resent, Gingrich said, a very big challenge that can only be accomplished by "a citizens movement" that will force Washington, the state capitals, the county courthouses, and city halls to change their ways and "launch a successful 21st century America."

"Defining a Conservative Foreign Policy"

For those on the Right and the Left who ask, with varying degrees of sincerity, "What is a conser­vative foreign policy?" Jeane Kirkpatrick, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, offered a clear answer to a Heritage audience in February 1993.[26]

A conservative approach to foreign policy, she said, will "reflect conservative values, attitudes, and methods" that "include a respect for history, for experience, and for the stubborn, unpredictable variability of human beings." She continued:

The conservative brings to reflection about policy--foreign and domestic--an irreducible respect for individual freedom, a suspicion of government that distinguishes him (or her) from liberals, and an irreducible commitment to citizenship that distinguishes him from lib­ertarians. The conservative understands that the tensions between individualism and patri­otism, between self-love and love of country, between realism and idealism, are permanent.

Because conservatives do not expect a revolu­tion in human nature they do not expect that the future will be very different than the past in basic ways. A contemporary American conser­vative will be as skeptical as the American founding fathers about the probability of a fu­ture free of the problems that have dogged past generations. He will therefore be skeptical of schemes that promise what the U.N. Charter promises, to free mankind from the age-old scourge of war. But he will be willing to join in prudent efforts to control aggression.

A conservative approach to foreign policy es­chews utopianism. It accepts the human capac­ity for evil as for good; for indifference as well as empathy; for selfishness as well as generosity. A conservative approach to policy takes account of complexity and conflict without seeking to deny them, and recognizes there are real costs of membership in communities.

Above all, conservatives worry about growth in the size and powers of government and about the problems of holding government responsible.

"Strategic Imperatives in East Asia"

In March 1998, Donald Rumsfeld, the once and future Secretary of Defense, delivered the annual B.C. Lee Lecture in which he outlined a U. S. policy toward East Asia based on "far-sighted American leadership and good common sense"--two quali­ties, he said, not always in evidence in Washington, D.C.[27] Searching his memory, Rumsfeld turned to a speech in which, nearly a quarter of a century earlier, President Gerald Ford had made the following points regarding relations between America and Asia:

  • "American strength" is basic to any stable bal­ance of power in the Pacific.
  • "Partnership with Japan" is a pillar of our strategy.
  • A major premise of a Pacific doctrine is the "normalization of relations with China."
  • A key principle is "our continuing stake in the stability and security of Southeast Asia."
  • America remains committed "to peace and security on the Korean peninsula."
  • Peace in Asia requires "a structure of economic cooperation."

Rumsfeld focused on three nations in the area: China, Japan, and Korea. While China is the "poten­tial Asian colossus" of the future, he commented, the present economic colossus is Japan, the world's second-largest economy and a global leader in tech­nology. South Korea, he stated, was more than a key U.S. ally. The two Koreas, he said, present the world's most dramatic example of why, in the clash of ideologies between Communism and freedom, "Communism simply cannot compete."

By reason of its rising economic power and stra­tegic location, Rumsfeld said, "Asia must be in the top tier" of America's priorities. Asia, he summa­rized, is "the dynamic, vital, often troubled but enormously promising center of changes" that are dramatically reshaping the world.

The Clare Boothe Luce Awards

The Heritage Foundation's highest honor is the Clare Boothe Luce Award, named for the brilliant playwright, author, Congresswoman, and presiden­tial adviser who was one of the wisest trustees ever to serve on the Heritage board of trustees. There have been 21 recipients of the Luce Award, none more deserving than William F. Buckley Jr., found­ing editor of National Review and polymath extraor­dinaire, and Nobel Laureate in Economics Milton Friedman and his wife Rose, his close collaborator in all things written and published.

Presenting the Friedmans with the Luce Award in September 1998, Ed Feulner recalled historian Daniel J. Boorstin's observation that great discoveries that change the course of history are often negative.[28] Feulner proceeded to enumerate some of the "nots" that Milton and Rose Friedman had contributed to economic theory. They demonstrated that Lord Key­nes was not the center of the economic universe and that his theories about consumption and spending could not be confirmed. They further showed that Keynesians did not correctly understand the relation between money and inflation or the relation between employment and inflation and did not understand the value of the "multiplier" effect.

As the Friedmans wrote in the classic Capitalism and Freedom, "The central defect of these [statist reforms] is that they seek through government to force people to act against their own immediate interests to promote a supposedly general interest."

Feulner pointed out that the Luce Award is a medallion with two images--the Liberty Bell, repre­senting freedom, and a compass, representing the courses one is free to choose. The images symbol­ized the core truth that Milton Friedman summed up this way: "The really important ethical problems are those that face an individual in a free society-- what he should do with his freedom."

In accepting the 1999 Luce Award, William F. Buckley Jr. discussed the essential role of "Heritage" in the roots of American order and the no less essen­tial role of The Heritage Foundation in preserving that order.[29] He declared that we should comfort ourselves that "right reason will prevail, that our heritage will survive," and offered two injunctions.

  • The first was from George Washington in a let­ter to a Hebrew congregation: "May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy."
  • The second was from another American President, Ronald Reagan, who closed his second inaugural address by describing what he called "the Ameri­can sound." It is, he said, "hopeful, big-hearted, idealistic--daring, decent, and fair. We sing it still," he said. "We raise our voices to the God who is the author of this most tender music."

We hear that sound, Buckley said, and respond that the attritions notwithstanding, our heritage is there. "To the end of its preservation," he said, "with reverence and gratitude, we dedicate ourselves."

"Building Hope for the Years Ahead" in the Middle East

To preserve our heritage, we are obliged fre­quently to look beyond our borders. The Middle East is one of the most intractable global problems, and in December 2002, Secretary of State Colin Powell announced "The U.S.-Middle East Partner­ship Initiative: Building Hope for the Years Ahead."[30] He said that the initiative was intended to improve the daily lives of the people of the Middle East and to help them "face the future with hope." It rested on three pillars:

  • The U.S. would engage with public and private-sector groups to bridge the jobs gap with eco­nomic reform, business investment, and pri­vate-sector development.
  • It would partner with community leaders to close the freedom gap with projects to strengthen civil society, expand political partici­pation, and "lift the voices of women."
  • It would work with parents and educators to bridge the knowledge gap with better schools and more opportunities for higher education.

Among the practical steps were the establishment of Enterprise Funds to begin investing in promising new businesses and beginning negotiations on a free trade agreement with Morocco modeled on the FTA with Jordan. Through the U.S.-Middle East Partner­ship Initiative, Powell said, America was "adding hope to the U.S.-Middle East agenda."

"International Support for Iraqi Democracy"

At Heritage, as in America at large, Iraq continues to be a dominant issue. In December 2005, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice delivered a progress report on "International Support for Iraqi Democracy."[31] She said there are three complementary tracks that the U.S. and its allies are following in Iraq.

  • On the security track, the U.S. is working together with the Iraqis to clear areas from enemy control, hold the territory controlled by the democratic Iraqi government, and build the capacity of Iraq's security forces to defend the rule of law. As of 2005, some 30 nations were contributing over 22,000 soldiers to the secu­rity effort.
  • On the economic track, the U.S. is helping the Iraqi people to restore their infrastructure, re­form their old statist economy, and build the in­stitutions that sustain economic liberty. Almost 40 countries and international organizations have pledged $13.5 billion in Iraqi assistance. The Paris Club of international creditors for­gave 80 percent of the $40 billion of Iraqi debt held by Club members. The World Bank and the U.N. established the International Recon­struction Fund Facility for Iraq, which re­ceived $1 billion from 25 countries.
  • On the political track, the U.S. is helping the Iraqi people to isolate enemies from supporters, engage citizens "who would choose the path of politics over the course of violence," and build democratic institutions.

A major lesson from Iraq, concluded Rice, is that "when America leads with principle in the world, freedom's cause grows stronger," as it did when President Reagan supported freedom in Latin Amer­ica. "We are seeing this today," she said, "as the world awakens to the promise of a free Iraq."

"The Battle Over America's Self-Meaning"

Heritage has ever been aware of the importance of culture, as evidenced by its statement of purpose, and one of America's most perceptive cultural commenta­tors--Midge Decter--has been a member of Heri­tage's board of trustees for a quarter of a century. In September 2005, Decter lectured on "The Never-End­ing War: The Battle Over America's Self-Meaning."[32]

She stated that the Culture War had not started in the 1960s with the violent birth of the radical counterculture but more than a century earlier in the 1830s. It was in July 1839 that John D. Rock­efeller, the greatest of the 19th century entrepre­neurs, was born, ushering in an age of industry, innovation, and expansion that made America the envy of the world.

The preeminent writers and thinkers of the day--a self-constituted intellectual and cultural elite--dubbed Rockefeller and his colleagues "Rob­ber Barons," a shibboleth that has stuck through the decades. This cultural elite, Decter said, grew as the country grew and increased the potential number of targets. In the 1920s, there was added to the Robber Barons the cultural myth of a figure called Babbitt, a provincial Middle Western small businessman who knows nothing beyond his small restricted world.

Another significant feature of this high-culture snobbery, Decter said, was "political radicalism" or socialism. The inclination to find grievous fault with the U.S. and to gravitate to the idea of a society governed by a powerful elite found favor among the artists and intellectuals who were hostile to busi­nessmen and disdainful of the bourgeoisie.

The final members of the modern cultural elite were the academicians, whose numbers exploded with the exponential growth of the American col­lege and university in the post-World War II period.

It has been the case for a century and a half, Decter concluded, that the arbiters of culture have refused to bless the American system, both its gov­ernment and its economy. "The country went one way, and its privileged aristocracy and thinkers and artists went another."

Fortunately, she said, there has been the emer­gence of a conservative counterculture, but it is far too soon to celebrate its achievements. "We are as yet too embattled--and in my opinion too caught up in the tides and turnings of electoral politics--to arrive at any judgment about the permanence of our successes."

"Renewing Our Commitment to Limited Government"

Among the congressional champions of freedom, none does battle more effectively than Representa­tive Mike Pence of Indiana, former chairman of the Republican Study Committee in the House of Rep­resentatives. In April 2004, Pence lectured on "Renewing Our Commitment to Limited Govern­ment," warning that Republicans were "veering off course into the dangerous and uncharted waters of big government republicanism."[33]

He cited as examples the No Child Left Behind Act and the Medicare prescription drug bill, which he and 24 other House conservatives opposed de­spite enormous pressure from the House Republican leadership and the White House. The prescription drug bill passed by just one vote. Pence believes that he and his colleagues did the right thing: "[S]ome­times a small group of people can take a stand, be defeated, and still make a difference."

He said it was time for conservatives to renew their commitment to fiscal discipline and to what "we know to be true about the nature of govern­ment": The government that governs least governs best; as government expands, freedom contracts; and government should never do for a man what he can and should do for himself.

"Iraq and the War on Terrorism"

In January 2006 and again in April 2007, Vice President Richard Cheney forthrightly discussed the Iraq War and the measures taken by the Bush Administration to end the conflict there.[34]

In his 2006 lecture, the Vice President stated that he and President Bush firmly believed that "the victo­ry of freedom in Afghanistan and Iraq will be an inspi­ration to democratic reformers in other lands." As the people of the Middle East experience new hope, progress, and control over their own lives, Cheney predicted, "we will see the power of freedom to change our world" and remove a terrible threat "from the lives of our children and our grandchildren."

In his 2007 talk, the Vice President defended the Administration's use of the phrase "Global War on Terrorism," criticized by some in the news media and in Congress. Who can deny that the struggle is global, he asked, that it is a war in which one side will win and the other will lose, or that we are confronted by terrorists "who wear no uniform, who reject the rules of warfare, and who target the innocent for indiscriminate slaughter"? He insisted that the American forces in Iraq deserve American's support so that they can finish the job and "return home to an America made saf­er by their courage."

The Vice President acknowledged that the course chosen was not an easy one, but it was the right one so that millions of Iraqis will be spared the same fate as that suffered by the Vietnamese in the 1970s. America, he said, "will not again play out those old scenes of abandonment, and retreat, and regret." This cause, he said, is bigger than the quarrels of party and the agendas of politicians. This cause, he said, is the cause of freedom.

"America's Unbreakable Commitment"

On Veterans Day, November 2003, President George W. Bush talked to a Heritage audience about the urgent need to turn back the terrorist threat, terming it America's "unbreakable commitment."[35] He recalled what one American veteran said about his service during World War II: "I feel like I played my part in turning this from a century of darkness into a century of light."

The President said that America's mission in Iraq and Afghanistan was clear to the American military and to the nation's enemies. It was to secure the freedom of the 50 million people of Iraq; to help democracy, peace, and justice rise in a troubled and violent region; to fight America's terrorist enemies in "the heart and center of their power" so that "we do not face those enemies in the heart of America"; and to fight for the security of America and the advance of freedom.

Bush recalled Harry Truman's firm stand when he said, in the face of a Soviet threat in the summer of 1948, that "we stay in Berlin, period," and Presi­dent Reagan's challenge in the same city 40 years lat­er when he said to the Soviet leadership, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

As in the past, the will and resolve of America are being tested in Afghanistan and in Iraq, Bush said. "Again the world is watching. Again, we will be steadfast. We will finish the mission we have begun, period."

"The Hegemony of Ideas"

At the center of The Heritage Foundation is its longtime president, Ed Feulner, who in Heritage Lecture No. 999, delivered in February 2007, warned that it is possible to win the war of ideas-- as conservatives have done in many fields--but still fail to change the way the world works.[36] "Ideas are not self-implementing or self-sustaining," he said. "They must be linked to action." He proceeded to suggest how the right ideas can be translated into laws that "not only block the road to serfdom, but clear the path to freedom."

  • We must breathe new life into what Edmund Burke called the "little platoons" of civil society: our families, neighborhoods, churches, and vol­untary associations.
  • We must reinvigorate what America's founders called "republican virtue"--traits such as hon­esty, respect, for law, fairness, and self-reliance.
  • We must reiterate the essential point that, in Hayek's words, "liberty and responsibility are inseparable."
  • We must reach beyond the economic realm to historians, political philosophers, businessmen, artists, and religious leaders to build the "critical intellectual mass" necessary for a "philosophy of freedom" that is relevant to our times.
  • We must work not just to roll back the welfare state but to transcend the welfare state.

Feulner concluded on a typically optimistic note: "I believe with all my mind, heart, and soul that it can be done."

"Freedom and the Future"

One of America's and the Heritage Foundation's best friends is former British Prime Minister Marga­ret Thatcher, who in March 1991 lectured on "Free­dom and the Future."[37] Demonstrating wisdom, the ability to foresee what others cannot, she proposed a blueprint that included the expansion of NATO to include the countries of Eastern Europe (which did in fact take place); the promotion of free trade as the best guarantor of global prosperity (as indeed it is); a warning about any "false political mission" of the European Community; and a commitment by the West to stability and peace in the Middle East.

It is America's destiny, supported by faithful friends like Britain, Thatcher said, to advance the reign of freedom and free enterprise throughout the world. Quoting Lincoln, she said: "Let us strive on to finish the work we are in." What other response could Heritage give to Lady Thatcher's ringing call than, "We shall do our best, knowing that the work will never be truly finished"?

Lee Edwards, Ph.D., is Distinguished Fellow in Conservative Thought in the B. Kenneth Simon Center for American Studies at The Heritage Foundation.

[1]Russell Kirk, "The Conservative Movement: Then and Now," Heritage Foundation Lecture No. 1, 1980.

[2]J. B. Kelly, "Islam Through the Looking Glass," Heritage Foundation Lecture No. 2, 1980.

[3]F. A. Hayek, "Our Moral Heritage," Heritage Foundation Lecture No. 24, 1983.

[4]"How Immigrants Affect Americans' Living Standard: A Debate Between Julian Simon and Roger Conner," Heritage Foundation Lecture No. 39, May 30, 1984.

[5]George H. Nash, "Is the American Experience Conservative?" Heritage Foundation Lecture No. 136, November 21, 1987, at

[6]Marvin Olasky, "Reclaiming Compassion: A Christmas Meditation," Heritage Foundation Lecture No. 228, December 10, 1989, at

[7]Harvey C. Mansfield, Jr., "Political Correctness and the Suicide of the Intellect," Heritage Foundation Lecture No. 337, June 26, 1991, at

[8]John G. West, Jr., "God and Politics: Lessons from America's Past," Heritage Foundation Lecture No. 583, March 25, 1997, at

[9]Anne Applebaum, "Gulag: Understanding the Magnitude of What Happened," Heritage Foundation Lecture No. 800, October 16, 2003 (delivered June 24, 2003), at

[10]Hernando de Soto, "Is Economic Freedom for Everyone?" Heritage Foundation Lecture No. 977, November 17, 2006 (delivered September 29, 2006), at

[11]Stuart M. Butler, "Assuring Affordable Health Care for All Americans," Heritage Foundation Lecture No. 218, October 1, 1989 (delivered October 2, 1989), at, and "Why Conservatives Need a National Health Plan," Heritage Foundation Lecture No. 442, March 22, 2003 (delivered November 5, 2002), at

[12]Robert Rector, "Strategies for Welfare Reform," Heritage Foundation Lecture No. 378, May 1, 1992 (delivered April 9, 1992), at, and "The Paradox of Poverty: How We Spent $3.5 Trillion Without Changing the Poverty Rate," Heritage Foundation Lecture No. 410, September 3, 1992, at

[13]Kim R. Holmes, "The New Twilight Struggle: Freedom and Power in the Post-Cold War Era," Heritage Foundation Lecture No. 490, May 30, 1994 (delivered April 29, 1994), at

[14]Kim R. Holmes, "Threats and Opportunities in the World," Heritage Foundation Lecture No. 833, May 4, 2004 (delivered April 17, 2004), at

[15]Kim R. Holmes, "Spreading Freedom Around the World," Heritage Foundation Lecture No. 937, April 26, 2006 (delivered April 5, 2006), at

[16]Robert E. Moffit, Richard Teske, and Stephen Moses, "How to Cope with the Coming Crisis in Long-Term Care," Heritage Foundation Lecture No. 658, April 27, 2000, at

[17] Baker Spring, "How the ABM Treaty Obstructs Missile Defense," Heritage Foundation Lecture No. 712, July 10, 2001 (delivered June 28, 2001), at

[18] Peter Brookes, "Promise and Progress: Homeland Security One Year Post-911," Heritage Foundation Lecture No. 764, October 11, 2002 (delivered September 18, 2002), at

[19] James Jay Carafano, "Thinking for the Long War: Strategic Planning and Review for the Department of Homeland Security," Heritage Foundation Lecture No. 1008, March 28, 2007 (delivered March 20, 2007), at

[20] William W. Beach, "Public Policy in the Age of Entitlements," Heritage Foundation Lecture No. 931, March 27, 2006 (delivered March 1, 2006), at

[21] James Phillips, "The Evolving Al-Qaeda Threat," Heritage Foundation Lecture No. 928, March 17, 2006 (delivered February 16, 2006), at

[22]Edwin Meese III, "Rebuilding the Reagan Coalition," Heritage Foundation Lecture No. 988, January 31, 2007 (delivered November 30, 2006), at

[23]The Honorable Ronald Reagan, "On the Eve of My Meeting with Gorbachev," Heritage Foundation Lecture No. 141, December 16, 1987 (delivered November 30, 1987), at

[24]Clarence Thomas, "Why Black Americans Should Look to Conservative Policies," Heritage Foundation Lecture No. 119, August 1, 1987 (delivered June 18, 1987), at

[25]Representative Newt Gingrich, "The Washington Establishment vs. The American People: A Report from the Budget Summit," Heritage Foundation Lecture No. 279, delivered August 22, 1990, at

[26]Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, "Defining a Conservative Foreign Policy," Heritage Foundation Lecture No. 458, August 25, 1993 (delivered February 25, 1993), at

[27]Donald Rumsfeld, "Strategic Imperatives in East Asia," Heritage Foundation Lecture No. 605, The B. C. Lee Lectures, March 3, 1998, at

[28]Edwin J. Feulner, "Feulner on Friedman: A Tribute," Heritage Foundation WebMemo No. 1266, November 29, 2006, at

[29]William F. Buckley Jr., "Heritage," Heritage Foundation Leadership for America Lecture No. 16, October 20, 1999.

[30]The Honorable Colin L. Powell, "The U.S.-Middle East Partnership Initiative: Building Hope for the Years Ahead," Heritage Foundation Lecture No. 772, December 17, 2002 (delivered (December 12, 2002), at

[31]The Honorable Condoleezza Rice, "International Support for Iraqi Democracy," Heritage Foundation Lecture No. 916, December 16, 2005 (delivered December 13, 2005), at

[32]Midge Decter, "The Never-Ending War: The Battle Over America's Self-Meaning," Heritage Foundation Lecture No. 910, The Lehrman Lectures on Restoring America's National Identity, November 21, 2005 (delivered September 13, 2005), at

[33]The Honorable Mike Pence, "Renewing Our Commitment to Limited Government," Heritage Foundation Lecture No. 839, June 7, 2004 (delivered April 30, 2004), at

[34]The Honorable Richard B. Cheney, "Iraq and the War on Terrorism," Heritage Foundation Lecture No. January 6, 2006 (delivered January 4, 2006), at, and "Remarks by the Vice President to The Heritage Foundation," Heritage Foundation WebMemo, no number, April 13, 2007, at

[35]The Honorable George W. Bush, "Turning Back the Terrorist Threat: America's Unbreakable Commitment," Heritage Foundation Lecture No. 809, November 19, 2003 (delivered November 11, 2003), at

[36]Edwin J. Feulner, "The Hegemony of Ideas," Heritage Foundation Lecture No. 999, May 3, 2007 (delivered February 20, 2007), at

[37] The Right Honorable Margaret Thatcher, "Freedom and the Future," Heritage Foundation Lecture No. 304, March 8, 2001, at


Lee Edwards
Lee Edwards, Ph.D.

Former Distinguished Fellow in Conservative Thought