Bader Up: A new leader at CEI
The incoming president of the Washington-based Competitive Enterprise Institute told Human Events his new assignment begins with the New Year and that he is looking forward to a full-on leadership role.
“I will be managing the entire portfolio,” said Lawson R. Bader, who is leaving the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, Fairfax, Va., where as the vice-president his job focused mainly on development and fundraising. He was also the go-to emcee for the center’s various functions and ceremonies through the years.
Fundraising is important, but this new job means Bader can return to being an operator again, he said.
“Through humor, individuality and rigorous policy analysis, CEI unashamedly promotes and defends classical liberal economic perspectives,” he said. “Being intellectually consistent and correct matters more to CEI than being blindly dogmatic that’s a rare commodity in D.C. these days,” he said
Bader succeeds Fred L. Smith Jr., who founded CEI in 1984. Smith said, “We took a lot of time with this. We carefully planned how the succession should occur and thought deeply about what the right successor would look like. Lawson jumped off the page at us in his dedication, accomplishments and vision for our organization.”
Smith will work closely with Bader for six months, before taking a six-month sabbatical, he said. After he returns, Smith will become the director of one of CEI’s centers, The Center for Advancing Capitalism. “It will free up Fred to be the policy guru that he so thoroughly enjoys,” Bader said.
Born in the nation’s capital, Bader said he was raised in California and studied at and graduated from Wheaton College (Ill.). His masters degree is from Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University.
At Wheaton, Bader founded a College Libertarian club and competed on campus with College Republicans and College Democrats. “Wheaton is a fairly conservative, religiously conservative school, so by the same token you have a fairly active College Republican group—I was one of those, who enjoyed the fact that there were College Libertarians and College Democrats, maybe that was my one way of rebellion,” he said. “Kind of a strange way of rebelling, I’ll admit.”
The new CEI leader said he was always more comfortable with the political discourse than the political wrangling on campus. “I was interested more in the exchange of ideas than holding a sign and saying: ‘Rah, rah, go out and vote for somebody.’”
Bader has been working continuously in Washington since 1987. The first job the new CEI leader took in the federal village was on Capitol Hill working on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.
“It was one of those great jobs,” he said. “The partisan differences are minimal because most people aren’t anti-veterans.” The conflict he did see was between how the House and the Senate approach the same problems.
After six months on the Hill, Bader said he decided he wanted to do something else, so in that way it was the critical job because it was at that time that he recognized what he did not want to do.
“At the time, I was thinking about being an elected official and going down that road,” he said. “It was that job that convinced me that I did not want to be ‘that guy,’” he said. “I realized I would like to be around ‘those guys,’ but not necessarily in that hot seat.”
Bader has been at the Mercatus Center, a university source for market-oriented ideas, for 16 years. One program he started was Capitol Hill Campus, where he taught economics to congressional staffers.
Bader is married with two children, one a senior in high school and the other a freshman in high school, he said.
When his son, the senior, mentioned that he wanted to major in economics, Bader said he was thrilled and told his son he should look at the program at George Mason.
“My son said: ‘Yeah, right, 25 miles from home? I don’t think so.’”