M. Stanton Evans died last week at the age of 80, and the Capital Research Center mourns the loss. He was tied to CRC – and countless other conservative groups – in many ways. For example, our president, Terry Scanlon, has long served on the board of Stan’s nonprofit, the Education and Research Institute, and two of our staff, vice president Scott Walter and senior fellow Martin Morse Wooster, are graduates of the National Journalism Center that Stan founded in 1977.
Stan is a shining example of what one smart, dedicated man can accomplish in America’s rich civil society. He was a nonprofit entrepreneur many times over. Most famously, he wrote the Sharon Statement that was crafted at William F. Buckley’s estate in 1960, which launched the group Young Americans for Freedom (YAF). But Stan was also a leader at the American Conservative Union (ACU), serving as chairman of its board from 1971 to 1977. During that time he helped to invent the ACU’s annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), now in its fifth decade and one of the largest conservative gatherings in the country, and he also helped launch some 35 state conservative unions.
Stan’s principles kept him from being a mere partisan, as Republican President Richard Nixon discovered when Stan became one of his first critics from the right in 1970, and as Nixon’s successor, Gerald Ford, discovered when Stan and the state conservative unions supported the upstart Ronald Reagan against the Republican incumbent in 1976.
Stan’s philosophy began to develop when he was an undergraduate at Yale, which graduated him magna cum laude in 1955. He was already reading conservative and libertarian thinkers like Frank Chodorov, and he went on to do graduate work in economics at New York University under Ludwig von Mises. Throughout his career, Stan’s philosophy was “fusionist,” that is to say, he believed the traditionalist and libertarian strands of conservatism were naturally connected. As he put it,
The idea that there is some sort of huge conflict between religious values and liberty is a misstatement of the whole problem. The two are inseparable … if there are no moral axioms, why should there be any freedom?
Stan left the most thorough account of his philosophy in his classic book The Theme Is Freedom: Religion, Politics, and the American Tradition (Regnery, 1996). To the end of his life, he continued writing, and his most recent work was Stalin’s Secret Agents: The Subversion of Roosevelt’s Government (Threshold, 2012).
He was perhaps best known, however, for his endless string of witticisms, delivered in perfect deadpan. Let us conclude this tribute to his legacy with a few of his best:
“Liberals don’t care what you do, as long as it’s compulsory.”
“Tobacco is my favorite leafy vegetable.”
“I never liked Nixon until Watergate.”
“The trouble with conservatives is that too many of them come to Washington thinking they are going to drain the swamp, only to discover that Washington is a hot tub.”