Friday, March 11, 2022

"A man of vision": OCPA mourns passing of founder, Dr. David Brown

A man of vision
By Jonathan Small

What can one man do? If the man is Dr. David Brown, founder of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, the answer is, “A lot.” Thanks to Dr. Brown’s vision and tenacity, many Oklahomans today enjoy greater opportunity and a better quality of life.

A successful orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Brown lived the American Dream. But he knew it had to be defended if others were to do the same, which is why he was active in public policy for many years, including service on the board of trustees of the Heritage Foundation, a leading national free-market think tank. At one Heritage board meeting, a peer from South Carolina mentioned his home state was creating a state-level think tank that would mirror the Heritage Foundation’s work. Dr. Brown concluded Oklahoma should do the same. 

That was the birth of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, which launched in 1993. Its survival in those early years was due in large part to Dr. Brown’s focus and financial support—along with that of his wife, Ann, who was also all-in. They shepherded the organization until it became financially self-sustaining.

When OCPA was founded, Democrats held the Oklahoma governorship and the Oklahoma Legislature by margins of 35-13 in the Senate and 67-34 in the House.

Admittedly, those Oklahoma Democrats were not as liberal as Washington D.C. Democrats or today’s “progressive” Democratic Party. But they were more liberal than some revisionists would have you believe. To cite just one example, the Democratic-controlled Legislature drained the state’s Rainy Day Fund two minutes before adjourning in 1993, even though there was no fiscal emergency. Such fiscal mismanagement was routine.

Under Dr. Brown’s leadership, OCPA worked to change the political conversation. The organization advocated for what he called “Truth North” – limited government, restrained taxation, and economic liberty. It took many years to achieve OCPA’s early goals, but progress has been steady.

Oklahoma became a right-to-work state. The workers’ compensation system was reformed to lower business costs. The personal income tax has been reduced from 7 percent to the current rate of 4.75 percent and, as predicted, economic growth has ensued. School choice, nonexistent in 1993, is now provided through charter schools and limited private-school choice programs with significant expansion currently being debated.

The cumulative result of those policy changes is an Oklahoma where people keep more of their money and are freer to pursue new opportunities. Without Dr. Brown and his vision, things might have been very different.

I hope all freedom-loving Oklahomans join me in wishing heartfelt condolences to Dr. Brown’s family upon his passing. His life is proof that one man can make a very big difference in our state.

Jonathan Small serves as president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.


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