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The Washington Beltway: Sinkhole for Donors’ Funds

Written by Gary North on March 1, 2014

I turned 72 in February. I want to make a few comments on the history of the American Right, while I still have my wits about me.

I have spent my life on the fringes of academia. I earned a Ph.D., but I never went into full-time teaching. Well, not quite never. In the fall of 1979, I taught a course on the free market at a little-known Baptist college in North Carolina. At the end of the semester, I left North Carolina, moved to Texas, and did it in such a way that I avoided something in the range of $25,000 in state income taxes (1979 dollars). I never got paid personally for my teaching. I had the money paid to my foundation, the Institute for Christian Economics, from which I never drew a salary. I also taught a night school course in economics for two weeks at an Oregon community college in the spring of 1974. These schools were surely on the fringes of academia.

I came into the conservative movement in 1956 in response to a lecture by the anti-Communist Australian physician, Fred Schwarz. I was taught civics in 1958-59 in high school by the man who was probably the most conservative high school teacher in the state of California, and probably on the entire West Coast: Wayne Roy. He was legendary in the district.

I was the part of the Goldwater for Vice President movement in 1960. There were not many of us, especially in California.

I started reading The Freeman in 1957, a little over a year after it began publication. I started reading National Review in 1959, when I went off to college.


I have watched more money from conservatives go down the drain over the last 50 years than you can imagine. I have watched the same mistakes being made, over and over, all with enthusiastic financial support from donors. I have seen a few things that worked, and I have seen a lot of things that did not work. Still, in the overall sweep of life, most things don’t work. But when there is a pattern to that which doesn’t work, and when that pattern fails, again and again, to gain traction, I figure it’s time to sound a warning.

Here is the warning: if an organization is inside the Washington Beltway, do not send any money. It doesn’t need any money. It has enough donors who are doing that, donors who are terminally naïve, and will keep sending the money.

I’m not speaking here of lobbying organizations. I understand that lobbying organizations have to be inside the Beltway, or else close to it. I am also not speaking of public interest legal organizations that are trying to roll back the juggernaut federal court system and federal bureaucracy (administrative law). I am speaking here of what are euphemistically called think tanks.

The problem with most ideological think tanks is simple to describe: they are trying to gain political leverage. The closer they are to Washington DC, the more they are trying to gain this leverage at the top of the pyramid of power, or at least the visible pyramid of power. (There are three geographical pyramids of power in the United States, but there has never been a book or a documentary on two of them.) The farther away that think tanks are from Washington DC, the more dependent they are on developing philosophical principles that are not dependent upon the leverage provided by proximity to the federal government.

(For the rest of my article, click the link.)

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7 thoughts on “The Washington Beltway: Sinkhole for Donors’ Funds

  1. Elizabeth Murray says:

    What are the names of the Think Tanks? I get so many "Contribute letters and emails" that it's overwhelming.
    Some I've never heard of and who knows whether they're scams or not.

  2. These are the reasons that I left the Republican party and became an independent. They haven't change in 60 years or more. They are about as vital as vanilla pudding. They are happy to come in second in a two horse race. See my blog at http://cranky-conservative.blogspot.com I'm 75, still have my senses, and continue to fight the good fight as best I can.

  3. WhiteFalcon says:

    DC is a sinkhole period. There are no saving graces there. There is little good there. We woud be better off to just get rid of the whole darned place.

  4. WhiteFalcon says:

    Me to.

  5. William A carpenter says:

    Gary North article is right on, at 74 I feel the same way about the beltway mailings and survives. This Saturday I was able to put about ten of them in my wood stove for fuel. What bothers me the most is there is no feedback from us in fly over country. We are past the melting point for our country, 2014 election has to be won by Republicans, or there will be no hope at all for 2016, but in their beltway all they care about is their campaign chests. I don't even think they care about the party, only about their position in Washington.
    We have to convince them stop this fight in the party between conservatives and moderates, we can't win by appealing to everyone, we can only overcome by uniting the whole party into a conservative base to stop all this destroying each other. These mailings are turning everyone off, we need more grass roots involvement

  6. I just really wish the funds would go to where the are supposed to go. Financial support from donors shouldn't be wasted and should be used appropriately.