In the 1970s, John M. Olin, one of the country’s leading industrialists, decided to devote his fortune to saving American free enterprise. Over the next three decades, the John M. Olin Foundation funded the conservative movement as it emerged from the intellectual ghetto and occupied the halls of power. The foundation spent hundreds of millions of dollars fostering what its longtime president William E. Simon called the “counterintelligentsia” to offset liberal dominance of university faculties and the mainstream media and to make conservatism a significant cultural force. Among the counterintellectuals the foundation identified and supported at key stages of their careers were Charles Murray during his early work on welfare reform, Allan Bloom as he wrote The Closing of the American Mind, and Francis Fukuyama as he was developing his “End of History” thesis.
Using exclusive access to the John M. Olin Foundation’s leading personalities as well as its extensive archives, John J. Miller tells the story of an intriguing man and his unique philanthropic vision. He gives fascinating insights into the foundation’s role in helping the CIA fund anti-Communist organizations during the Cold War and its extensive help to Irving Kristol and others as they moved from left to right to found the neoconservative movement. He tells of the foundation’s early and critical role in building institutions such as the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation, which served to transform conservative ideas into national policies. A Gift of Freedom shows how John M. Olin’s “venture capital fund for the conservative movement” helped develop one of the leading forces in American politics and culture.