Bruce Chapman

Cofounder and Chairman of the Board of Discovery Institute

Bruce Kerry Chapman is an author and former elected and appointed official who serves as Chairman of the Board of Discovery Institute, a public policy think tank he founded in Seattle in 1990/91. He also is a fellow in the institute’s Chapman Center on Citizen Leadership. In 2018, Mr. Chapman’s latest book appeared, entitled, Politicians: The Worst Kind of People to Run the Government, Except for All the Others. It critiques the growing power of “middlemen” in politics — bureaucracy, media, academics and special interests — and the loss of responsibility by the people’s elected representatives.

Born in Evanston, Illinois (December 1, 1940), Mr. Chapman attended public schools in Monmouth, Illinois and was graduated from Harvard College, with honors, in 1962.  At Harvard, he and George Gilder started a magazine, later moved to Washington, DC, called Advance:  A Journal of Republican Thought. In 1965/66 Mr. Chapman was an editorial writer at The New York Herald Tribune, writing on politics and the military draft. He authored (with George Gilder) The Party That Lost its Head (published 1966), an indictment of the 1964 Goldwater campaign’s abandonment of the civil rights issue and a call for “conservative answers” to public problems, rather than mere opposition to liberal policies.

Mr. Chapman’s book, The Wrong Man in Uniform, (1967), and its paperback successor (Our Unfair and Obsolete Draft), made a popular and influential case against conscription and for an all-volunteer military. In 1969, he authored the report of the Washington State Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Civil Disorders.

Mr. Chapman was an elected member of the Seattle City Council (1971-75), innovating on historic preservation and championing parks development.  As Secretary of State of the State of Washington (1975-81) he headed the state’s Bicentennial committee, promoted the teaching of civics and wrote a statistical report comparing the 50 states. He was an unsuccessful candidate for Governor in the Republican primary of 1980. Appointed by President Reagan as Director of the U.S. Census Bureau (1981-83), he later served on the White House Staff as Deputy Assistant to the President (1983-85), where, among other things, he promoted family policy initiatives. In 1985 he was nominated and confirmed as U. S. Ambassador to the United Nations Organizations in Vienna, where he served until 1988. He was a Hudson Institute fellow in 1989/90 in Indianapolis, before founding Discovery Institute in Seattle.

Mr. Chapman and his wife, Sarah, live in Seattle, where their two grown sons and their families also reside.


Politicians: Can’t Live With Them, Can’t Live Without Them

An Excerpt from Bruce Chapman's 'Politicians.'
When frustrated by election results, it’s useful to remember why it’s hard to live with politicians but even harder to live without them. Bruce K. Chapman reminds us that “a good political life, in the spirit of the Constitution, aims at a ‘more perfect union,’ not a perfect one.”

Dreading the Coming Gloom? Blame Congress For Not Making Daylight Saving Time Permanent

It’s already too late to fix the clock this year. Congress has failed to pass legislation to allow states to stay on permanent daylight saving time. On Nov. 3, we return to tiresome old Standard Time. Some people like that, but most don’t. Last spring the cause of permanent daylight saving time seemed bright. State after state asked Congress for permission to enact the change. California voters in a November, 2018, referendum supported it 60% to 40%. Floridians, led by Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott and House Rep. Vern Buchanan, were enthusiastic. Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Patty Murray of Washington joined Rubio to co-sponsor the Sunshine Protection Act of 2019. “Making Daylight Saving Time permanent is O.K. with me!” tweeted President Donald Trump.

We Need to Bring Back Real Debates in America

The televised Democratic presidential sound byte pageants will not be true debates by any realistic standard. They are reminiscent of the 2016 Republican primaries that started with 16 candidates preening on a platform and enduring “gotcha” questions by reporters/moderators trying to get themselves into the news story. Until the nominee field narrows, these shows are almost a parody of real debates in the Lincoln-Douglas or Oxford Union manner. That’s too bad. We need to bring back real debates in America, and not just among candidates. Name the issue (climate change, foreign interference in our elections, abortion, immigration, tariffs, privacy online, the future of artificial intelligence, the meaning of “free speech,” whatever): Americans are badly divided. Since media and politicians often operate in inward-looking communities, they tend to ignore or distort views that differ from their own. In this environment, mere calls for greater civility don’t work. What can work is facing issues straight on and together.

The Federal Bureaucracy in Check

Congress, despite many chances, has not been willing to take responsibility for checking “the administrative state,” as the aggrandizing bureaucratic power of federal agencies has come to be known. Arrival of a Democratic House makes it still less likely that Capitol Hill will resist the continued expansion of federal rules and regulations. As executive, President Trump has tried to slow Read More ›

Disappearing Access to Public Places and Officials

Overlooked perhaps in the cultural shift that we have been observing in recent months is the continuing decline of public access to the public’s officials — and, for that matter, to public spaces. The perpetrators of civil disorder are doing that to us. President Trump was criticized for saying that synagogues should hire armed guards, but the largely unreported reality ...

Caesar’s Wife and the Politics of Destruction

Senate Democrats wrote President Trump Wednesday asking him to withdraw Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination. It’s reminiscent of the old saying that in a position of public trust, one must be “like Caesar’s wife, above reproach.” Yet no one is above reproach. Neither was Caesar’s wife.

Make the Seattle City Council Great Again

This city used to build dams, now it just taxes
There seem to be cycles in city politics. Fifty years ago a small band of Young Republicans and Young Democrats came together in an unusual alliance to overturn the existing Seattle City Council. They called themselves CHECC: Choose an Effective City Council. It took a couple of elections, but they prevailed and it was then — in the 1970s — that formerly ...

Darwin, Marx, and Something Called Political “Science”

The materialist influence of 19th-century thinkers still chills 21st-century thinking. It is true in biology, economics, culture, and government. In much of  the popularization and misuse of the claims of natural science and in much of modern German philosophy, tendencies toward atheism and gnosticism (searching for hidden meanings) are found. So are economic determinism and a serene resolve to change human nature. It was considered foolish by many 19th- and early 20th-century intellectuals to believe in God or self-evident truths, but “advanced” to aspire to the perfectibility of man.


The Worst Kind of People to Run the Government, Except for All the Others
About the Book Americans love to trash their politicians as corrupt and self-interested, but they don’t agree on a solution. How can America attract good leaders to the thousands of elective offices in the land? In Polticians: The worst Kind of People to Run the Government, Except for All the Others, Bruce Chapman lays out a bold plan for the changes we need Read More ›