Writing in Philanthropy Magazine, John J. Miller highlights three new organizations that are applying lessons from the The Federalist Society's success in the law to the fields of business, medicine, and foreign and defense policy. Those non-profits are, respectively, the Adam Smith Society, the Benjamin Rush Society, and the Alexander Hamilton Society. Miller writes:
Three years ago, a group of center-right academics and policy leaders gathered at Princeton University to discuss defense policy and foreign affairs. One presidential administration was coming to an end, and a new one, with different beliefs and commitments, was preparing to take power. Toward the end of their long day, after weighty panels on war and commerce, the participants turned to that familiar final-session topic: Where do we go from here?
“A bunch of the professors were saying that even though their faculties were dominated by liberals, the students were much more balanced in their views and many of them were open to conservative ideas,” says Gary Schmitt of the American Enterprise Institute. “It dawned on me that law school students faced a similar situation 30 years ago--and that a few of them did something about it.”
Schmitt made a suggestion. What about starting a brand-new organization, modeled on the law school approach, but devoted to international relations?
“I just put the idea on the table and proposed that it was worth thinking about,” says Schmitt. “It’s one of the most successful organizations of its type.” He pauses. “You know,” he continues, “the Federalist Society.”
Since its founding in 1982, the Federalist Society has transformed the legal profession at every level, from introductory classes at law schools all the way to the marbled chambers of the United States Supreme Court. . . . Yet it started out small and developed almost by accident. In the early 1980s, energized by the election of Ronald Reagan, a handful of law school students at the University of Chicago, Yale, Harvard, and Stanford bristled at the liberalism of their professors. Their ranks included Spencer Abraham, Steven Calabresi, David McIntosh, and Lee Liberman Otis (who would go on to become, respectively, a Senator from Michigan and Secretary of Energy, a professor of law at Northwestern, a Congressman from Indiana, and a vice president at the Federalist Society). . . .
Within months, the Federalist Society was raising money and starting chapters. It also hired Eugene Meyer as executive director--a job that Meyer now has held for almost three decades. “When people ask me to explain our success, I always go back to one thing: our dedication to ideas,” says Meyer. . . .
“All in all, the Federalist Society has been one of the best investments the foundation ever made,” wrote the staff of the John M. Olin Foundation in a report to its trustees in 2003, shortly before the foundation finished spending its corpus and closed its doors.