American Enterprise Institute

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The American Enterprise Institute (or American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research) is a nonpartisan think-tank that publishes research articles, books and magazine editorials on subject matters ranging from foreign policy, economics, and national defense to political and social issues. Founded by William Baroody, (1916 - 1980), its current chairman is Bruce Kovner. The American Enterprise Institute has supplied over 20 scholars for the administration of George W. Bush, including Richard Perle, Michael Ledeen, David Frum, and John Bolton. Some of its members are have liberal leanings, including Ben Wattenberg and Norman Ornstein. It hosts neoconservatives Irving Kristol and Richard Perle.


In 1954, Baroody, a statistician who had worked for the government and for the Chamber of Commerce became executive vice-president of the American Enterprise Association; it was a small public policy research organization had been founded by Lewis Herold Brown in 1943.

As the sons of immigrants Baroody saw America as a land of opportunity, and at the Chamber of Commerce he learned that "competition of ideas is fundamental to a free society." He rejected the statism of the New Deal, fearing the growth of governmental regulation and bureaucracy and the centralization of power in Washington. He soon signed up young, brilliant conservative economists including Milton Friedman, Gottfried Haberler, Paul W. McCracken, and Glenn Campbell. In 1962, Baroody became president of the association and changed its name to the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research..

Patient and low-keyed, Baroody had a knack for bringing together people with ideas. As William F. Buckley wrote, "he combined a gentleness of manner with a resolution of purpose and a conciliator's good nature." As head of AEI, Baroody helped to bring conservative ideas into the national public policy debate and helped achieve a new level of acceptance for views that had not previously been taken seriously by government and the media.

Baroody held family values and religion to be particularly important issues and made them the focus of studies at his institute. He believed that the debate on the legitimacy of the free enterprise system was about more than economics, and as a result, AEI paid more attention to religious thought and political theory than did comparable research centers more concerned with economics.

AEI, a tax exempt charitable institution, grew in size and influence under Baroody's leadership. He was a systematic fund-raiser, growing his budget from $115,000 in 1954 to $266,000 in 1960, thanks to corporate donors such as Allen Bradley, General Electric and Eli Lilly, as well as the Pew and Scaife families, among many others. By the late 1970s he had an annual budget of $8 million and about 125 staff employees. He provided ideas needed by such national conservative leaders as Barry Goldwater, Richard M. Nixon, and Gerald R. Ford. He brought tot the AEI such powerful figures as Melvin Laird, Bryce Harlow, Arthur Burns, Herbert Stein, Jeane Kirkpatrick, and Ben Wattenberg. AEI scholars strongly supported free markets; opposed Communism; they favored market solutions instead of the use of government power. By 1980 AEI was the conservative counterpart of the older, more liberal Brookings Institution. Both provided staging points for new ideas and resting points for politicians out of office. Robert H. Bork praised AEI because it helped conservatives like himself who were “intellectually isolated, even beleaguered, on their own campuses.”

While many pundits were bemoaning American decline in the late 1970s, Baroody held was optimistic. Liberal scholar James MacGregor Burns credited Ronald Reagan’s victory in 1980 in part to the success of conservative efforts "to build their intellectual case and to use invigorated and broadened conservative ideas as vehicles to political power." AEI scholars who served in the Reagan administration included Murray Weidenbaum (chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers), Jeane Kirkpatrick (ambassador to the United Nations), James Miller (chairman of the Federal Trade Commission), and David Gergen (director of communications).

Reagan's eulogy proclaimed, "One of Bill Baroody's greatest accomplishments was in building an institution that said, 'Here is a place where you can develop your ideas,' that said to others, 'Here is a place you can turn to for advice,' that said to all of us who were concerned about our country's future, 'You are not alone.' "

In 1978, Baroody was succeeded as president of AEI by his son William J. Baroody, Jr., and became chairman of AEI's development committee, a post he retained until his death.

Further reading

  • Abelson, Donald E. A Capitol Idea: Think Tanks and US Foreign Policy‎ (2006) 367 pages

Notable Scholars & Fellows

Paul Wolfowitz
Joshua Muravchik
Fred Thompson
Ben Wattenberg
Douglas Besharov
David Frum
Newt Gingrich
Irving Kristol
Jeane Kirkpatrick
Michael Ledeen
Philip I. Levy
Michael Novak
Norman Ornstein [1]
Richard Perle
Sarath Rajapatirana
Joel Schwartz
John Yoo
Dan Blumenthal
John Bolton
Lynne Cheney
Frederick Kagan
Robert A. Goldwin
Ayaan Hirsi Ali

See also

External links