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Donald Devine

TFAS Senior Scholar


Donald Devine is senior scholar at The Fund for American Studies in Washington, D.C. He served as President Ronald Reagan’s civil service director during the president’s first term in office. During that time, The Washington Post labeled him “Reagan’s Terrible Swift Sword of the Civil Service” for cutting bureaucratic excesses and reducing billions in spending.

Before and after his government service, Devine was an academic, teaching 14 years as associate professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland and for a decade as a professor of Western civilization at Bellevue University. In the definitive work on Frank Meyer’s essays, Devine was listed as one of the dozen “leading lights” of the postwar fusionist reevaluation of conservative and libertarian thinking.

He is a columnist appearing regularly in The American Spectator, The Imaginative Conservative and Law & Liberty and is the author of 11 books, including his most recent, “Ronald Reagan’s Enduring Principles: How They Can Promote Political Success Today” and “The Enduring Tension: Capitalism and the Moral Order.”

Today, Devine writes and teaches young people, speaking about reviving the Constitution and what Reagan called the secret of its success: the way it harmonized freedom and tradition in its fragile balance called federalism.

To learn more about Devine’s lectures and seminars, please visit the links below:

To book Dr. Devine to speak to your campus or organization, please contact TFAS Special Events Director Jane Mack at jmack@TFAS.org.

Op-Eds by Dr. Donald Devine



It’s Time to End the Anti-Democracy Myth: Trump Must Reform the Insurrection Act

Anglo-American tradition long ago set the principle that law should be enforced locally — the idea that the county sheriff and able-bodied local private citizens were the prime institutions for maintaining public order. In England, service on what was called the “posse comitatus” was mandatory, and refusal to serve meant loss of citizenship. As power became more centralized, the posse remained a major colonial institution that kept order and controlled insurrection.

New Ways of War and Meeting the Human Challenge

The war in Ukraine has had one positive effect. It is waking up our defense establishment to the fact that we are still fighting the last (lost) wars. Success today demands recognizing that technology creates new problems that require human spirit more than artificial intelligence.

Are Straussians Fusionists?

Claremont Institute research fellow Glenn Ellmers has written an insider book delving into the hidden messages of the great philosopher Leo Strauss and his West Coast Straussian students, led by the late irascible debater and theorist Harry Jaffa. Ellmers challenges what most twentieth-century theorists thought they knew about Strauss, especially his most famous claim that knowledge comes either from Athens or Jerusalem—reason or revelation—but not both.

Promoting Everyday Freedom Requires Rewriting the Rule Books

What would you think about a Washington insider who was a partner in a big D.C. lobbyist law firm called Covington & Burling, the founder of a self-identified “nonpartisan” advocacy group called Common Good, and was a self-described “radical centrist,” whose main goal was to reform government administration to make it more effective? Your first impression would probably be wrong.

Apples and Oranges: Mixing Atheists, Agnostics and Nothings

The highly regarded Pew Research Center has released its latest analysis of the religious beliefs of Americans and consequently acquired its usual major media headlines. The Washington Post print version led: “Nones — nonreligious Americans — increasing in U.S.”

Does Economic Recession Loom in Our Future?

The first 2024 Wall Street Journal front page headline set a euphoric economic outlook for the coming new year: “Optimism Flows on Wall Street, Fueled by Economy, Rise of AI.” With the “S&P 500 within 0.6% of a record high,” what could go wrong?

Confronting the ‘Artificial Intelligence’ Backward-Looking Bureaucracy Trap

Former Secretary of State and White House national security administrator Henry Kissinger’s last service for his country was to warn his fellow Americans that substituting artificial intelligence for real human intelligence was “simply a mad race” toward “catastrophe.”

Was Reagan a New Dealer?

Just when Ronald Reagan seems to have survived a Nationalist Right charge that his philosophy was a kind of zombie Libertarianism, here comes Henry Olsen promoting his 2017 The Working Class Republican book theme saying that Reagan was a Franklin D. Roosevelt New Dealer.

Sorry, Republicans: Joe Biden Will Not Be the Democratic Nominee

Donald Trump’s pollster now brags that his candidate will win the election against Joe Biden in an “electoral landslide.” Even a recent Washington Post/ABC poll seemed to confirm it. But this assumes that Biden will be the Democratic nominee, and he will not. The Post/ABC survey found that Biden’s approval for managing the economy dropped to the lowest of his presidency, into the 30 percent range, with a 21-point advantage for Republicans.

The FBI’s Own History Exposes the Often-Rogue Agency

With Federal Bureau of Investigation whistleblowers regularly informing Congress about agency abuses, it is difficult to remember that the FBI was once a quiet little bureaucracy mainly confirming facts for U.S. Department of Justice legal decision-making. Today the FBI is involved in everything from national-security excesses to charges of playing politics to protect one president and indict another. Just now, an ex-FBI counterspy chief has pled guilty to laundering funds for a Russian billionaire.