A man of vision

Culture & the Family

Jonathan Small | March 12, 2022

A man of vision

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 opportunities 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 President

Jonathan Small


Jonathan Small, C.P.A., serves as President and joined the staff in December of 2010. Previously, Jonathan served as a budget analyst for the Oklahoma Office of State Finance, as a fiscal policy analyst and research analyst for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and as director of government affairs for the Oklahoma Insurance Department. Small’s work includes co-authoring “Economics 101” with Dr. Arthur Laffer and Dr. Wayne Winegarden, and his policy expertise has been referenced by The Oklahoman, the Tulsa World, National Review, the L.A. Times, The Hill, the Wall Street Journal and the Huffington Post. His weekly column “Free Market Friday” is published by the Journal Record and syndicated in 27 markets. A recipient of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s prestigious Private Sector Member of the Year award, Small is nationally recognized for his work to promote free markets, limited government and innovative public policy reforms. Jonathan holds a B.A. in Accounting from the University of Central Oklahoma and is a Certified Public Accountant.

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