Dozens of North Texans gathered together in a packed bar on the evening of March 1st to mark the launch of North Texas’s newest public policy think-tank, Lone Star Policy Institute. Perhaps, it was the appearance of Kevin Williamson from National Review that packed the house. The energy in the room said this was not merely a crowd to hear a speaker; but, the launch of something dynamic.
Lone Star Policy Institute’s history is a short one. Just months ago, Michael Wood and Doug McCullough met at the National Review Institute Regional Fellows Program held in Dallas. In their first conversation, Wood mentioned to McCullough that he wanted to start a North Texas think-tank that would focus on city and state policy issues from a free-market perspective. Wood may have meant someday but that detail was lost on McCullough. With that said, the Marine vet and the impetuous civilian we’re off to launching a think-tank within a matter of weeks.
Neither Wood nor McCullough come from a public policy background. Wood is a Marine vet and private equity administrator. McCullough is a partner in a corporate law firm and the founder of an organization call Texas Young Professionals. One could understand questioning their desire to get into the public policy world. But, the two men share a desire to build a next-generation public policy think tank that focuses on personal freedom and economic liberty.
“I felt like Texas needed a new think tank that would focus on state and local issues affecting our biggest cities. For everything that is right with Texas, there’s a lot of mismanagement, and ignorance about local matters, where a lot of public policy has a direct impact on peoples’ lives. I think that as we increasingly urbanize as a state and deal with the problems that come from that, Texas can lead the nation on coming up with studies and solutions. I’d like for reformers in places like Chicago or Los Angeles to say “Dallas had this problem and here’s how they solved it” or “Houston improved this public service without raising taxes this way” said Wood.
As directors of a new policy think tank, Wood and McCullough are frequently asked how they will be different from existing public policy institutions. “First, our primary focus will be on local issues, rather than national and international policy issues. We generally think decisions should be made at the most local level possible. Sometimes this even translates into freedom from public policy. By that, I meant that somethings just ought not be subject to regulation at all. Second, we will distinguish ourselves by educating younger generations on the merits of free market economics and personal freedom. We are committed to doing meaningful public policy research and analysis. However, we also plan to evangelize the younger generation on ideas of personal freedom. Because of this, we will probably be a little bit more unconventional than existing “conservative” think-tanks,” says McCullough.
As a non-partisan organization Lone Star Policy Institute is trying to shun political labels, but present ideas for their own sake.
“The right label for Michael and me is “classical liberal” But, few people use or understand that term these days. “Personally, my influences are Friedrich Hayek and other free market economists, as well as writers like William F. Buckley, Jr. I became politically aware during the Reagan administration. The younger generation did not live through that experience so I think it’s more important to talk about ideas rather than appealing to the authority of Reagan, Buckley, Jack Kemp or others whom gen-xers and baby boomers would identify and understand,” said McCullough.
Lone Star Policy Institute began publishing short policy pieces in January of this year and publicly launched on March 1st. Their future is ahead of them. But based on the launch event, they are off to a fast start.