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Season 4 - Episode 5
Helping to shape public policy

Edwin J. Feulner is the founder and former president of The Heritage Foundation, the largest conservative think tank in the United States. Among the many other hats he has worn over the years, he is a former President of the Mont Pelerin Society and was its long-time Treasurer. He is the author of nine books, most recently The American Spirit: Celebrating the Virtues and Values that Make Us Great (2012), with Brian Tracy.

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“What good is a think tank if it’s not relevant to the policy process?” asks Ed Feulner in this incisive interview. In the 1970s, at a time when the primary outputs of think tanks were books, he got his colleagues to start producing short policy papers that passed the “briefcase test”: short and relevant enough to get put into a lawmaker’s briefcase so it might actually get read before an important vote.

Many think tanks, both conservative and liberal, have since emulated this practice. They have also poached Heritage staff over the years, which Feulner thinks is just fine. Speaking of one notable liberal institution, he says, “We learned a lot from Brookings, and I think they learned some things from us, and that’s good. If it sharpens the debate of ideas, if it makes people better-educated across the political spectrum, that’s all to the good.”

But Feulner does find today’s bitter partisanship distressing, and calls for a renewed respect for the facts combined with healthy debate over the conclusions to be drawn from those facts. He also warns against the echo chamber effect, saying, “I don’t read just one newspaper a day, I read as many as I can, and with different opinions, and try to read columnists and editorials with which I know I’m going to disagree, just to make sure that my arguments are sharp.”

From discussions of some of Heritage’s biggest hits, such as welfare reform in the 1990s, to race relations in the United States, to the future of totalitarian regimes, to his early entrepreneurial efforts growing a garden with $10 his father loaned him for seeds, Ed Feulner never strays far from his message of freedom, personal responsibility, and equal opportunity for all.

Links of interest
Edwin Feulner | The Heritage Foundation | The American Spirit: Celebrating the Virtues and Values that Make Us Great

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