A few of you are strong economic libertarians.  A few of you are strong social libertarians.  I maintain many libertarian positions as do most of the rest of us here, and I have always found Cato’s web page worth the read.  I think all of us should read this:

and this:

Some of us will also find this worthy as background material, because it centers on the kind of important philosophical matters Cato raises that could indeed be silenced:

Partisan Democrats may think Cato is already a tool of Republicans, so I would not bother to recommend these articles at PL.   I think that any of you here from “left” to “right” who have ever gone to Volokh or to Libertarianism 101 recognize the difference.  When we argue policy, we may line up with the “platform” of one party far more than another, but political parties live first for self perpetuation by getting elected, which means raising money and votes, not to have true discussions of why policies make sense from a philosophical perspective.  We have some well established strains of political philosophy.  Libertarianism is one of them.  I want Cato to survive.

12 Responses

  1. Fascinating post, Mark–I had no idea about the machinations behind the scenes. While I’ve never been a fan of the CATO Institute, I did respect their independence from partisan politics, and since we started ATiM I’ve been reading Libertarianism 101 fairly regularly and The Volokh Conspiracy on occasion. I think the Koch brothers taking over CATO would be a huge loss for independent analysis and research on political policy, and turn it into little more than another Heritage Foundation.

    Thanks for putting this post (and the earlier Syria one) together!


  2. There is an irony laden lesson in there on intellectual independence somewhere but it’s too late on a Friday night to find it.

    A couple of cliches do come to mind:

    The one who pays the piper calls the tune.


    Lay down with dogs and you get up with fleas.


  3. mark, (ditto michi) thanks for this and your Syria post. I have not yet read the baseline link, but I noted that some comments on the volokh thread supported letting Cato die. I’m still digesting this, but it does seem to present some interesting questions that might change after the legal issues are decided.


  4. I read a relevant article by Ezra Klein here.

    Here’s the essential text from Ezra:

    “That’s because Cato is, well, “the foremost advocate for small-government principles in American life.” It advocates those principles when Democrats are in power, and when Republicans are in power. When I read Cato’s take on a policy question, I can trust that it is informed by more than partisan convenience. The same can’t be said for other think tanks in town.

    “The Heritage Foundation, for instance, is a conservative think tank that professes to pursue goals similar to Cato’s. Where Cato’s motto is “individual liberty, free markets, and peace,” Heritage’s mission is the advancement of “conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.”

    “In practice, however, whatever the Republican Party wants, so does Heritage. In 1989, Heritage helped develop the idea of universal health care delivered by the private sector through an individual mandate. In the early 1990s, it helped Senate Republicans build that concept into a legislative alternative to President Bill Clinton’s proposed reforms. In the early 2000s, Heritage worked with then-Governor Mitt Romney to implement the plan in Massachusetts. Then, when Obama won office and Democrats adopted Heritage’s idea, Heritage promptly fell into step with the Republican Party and turned ferociously against it.”



  5. Thanks for the link to Ezra, bb. His view that Cato is unique is even stronger than my notion that it is valuable.

    ‘Goose and Okie, your compliments are welcome, indeed. And Okie got me to look at the comments at Volokh, which were quite pointed.


  6. The monetization of thought has been with us for some time. This is just a continuation of the trend.

    To me it was only a matter of time before the Kochs decided to exert influence over the institute their money helped start. Sad, perhaps, but inevitable.


  7. To me it was only a matter of time before the Kochs decided to exert influence over the institute their money helped start. Sad, perhaps, but inevitable.

    I don’t think I’d ever even heard of the Kochs until they started Americans for Prosperity. . . but your perspective doesn’t surprise me, MsJS. I am surprised, given how successful in their own realms CATO and AFP are, that they’d even want to create the suspicion that the CATO would become yet another partisan “think tank”. It’s not like AFP really needs help with “research”, since the Heritage Foundation already exists.


  8. Perhaps the amount of concern over the future of Cato means that if the Koch’s succeed with their nefarious plan, there will be an opening for someone to take over the original Cato mission. Markets abhor a vacuum, and all that.


  9. Are the Koch brothers bad actors? Do the make a secret of their beliefs and goals?


  10. More on this from Reason, which is also funded by the Koch brothers.

    I don’t know enough about the details to have an opinion, but I would think it’s cut an dry in the original agreement. Either the shares go back to the brothers or they can be passed along.


  11. So my first thought was…well where is the Green Hornet in all of thsi? I find this actually quite interesting in that the party line (meaning what you hear when they are mentioned on TV/Radio/etc) is that CATO is a right-wing/right-leaning/ocassionally libertarian think tank – I almost never hear libertarian first or by itself. The Koch’s are conservative/right-wing/far right. They are the evil doers that invented the Tea Party and fund the noxious far right causes and are trying to be presidential puppetmasters.

    TMW asked – Are the Koch brothers bad actors? Do the make a secret of their beliefs and goals? Not having done a lot of research on them, I would have said ‘sort of’. As a conservative, I don’t particularly have issues with conservative think tanks. However, after some Wiki reading (I know it’s not the be all end all for research but I am at work), it appears to me that the two brothers are actually more libertarian than anybody I have heard give them credit for. Here is a bio synopsis. Where is it that they are not libertarian enough for those here that are libertarian leaning?

    Libertarian VP candidate, Supports policies that promote individual liberty and free market principles. He supports gay marriage and stem-cell research. He is against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and was against the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Koch is skeptical about anthropogenic Global Warming, and thinks a warmer planet would be good because “[t]he Earth will be able to support enormously more people because a far greater land area will be available to produce food”. He opposed the Iraq war, Since 2000, David H. Koch Charitable Foundation have pledged or contributed more than $750 million to further cancer research, enhance medical centers, support educational institutions, sustain arts and cultural institutions, and conduct public policy studies. In July 2008, Koch pledged $100 million over 10 years to renovate the New York State Theater in the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (now called the David H. Koch Theater), and has pledged $10 million to renovate the outdoor fountains at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Koch contributed $7 million to the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) show Nova, and is a contributor to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., including a $20 million gift to the American Museum of Natural History, creating the David H. Koch Dinosaur Wing and a contribution of $15 million to the National Museum of Natural History to create the new David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins, which opened on the museum’s 100th anniversary of its location on the National Mall on March 17, 2010. Koch also financed the construction of Deerfield Academy’s $68 million Koch Center for mathematics, science and technology, and was named the first and only Lifetime Trustee. Koch gave $10 million to the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory where he was honored with the Double Helix Medal for Corporate Leadership for supporting research that, “improves the health of people everywhere.”

    Koch provides financial support for a number of public policy and charitable organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Institute for Humane Studies and the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Koch’s largest contribution, a $20 million donation to the ACLU to defeat the Bush Patriot Act “appears to be substantially more than the Kochs have contributed to all political candidates combined for at least the last 15 years” according to Reason magazine editor Radley Balko. Koch’s business philosophy, Market-Based Management (MBM), is described in his 2007 book. He disliked George W. Bush’s presidency. His favorite presidents are George Washington, Grover Cleveland, and Calvin Coolidge. He told the National Journal that his “overall concept is to minimize the role of government and to maximize the role of private economy and to maximize personal freedoms.” Today, he worries about too much governmental regulation, writing, “We could be facing the greatest loss of liberty and prosperity since the 1930s.” Koch funds and supports civil rights, civil liberties, libertarian, and free-enterprise policy and advocacy organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans for Prosperity and the Cato Institute, which he co-founded with Edward H. Crane and Murray Rothbard in 1977. Koch’s largest contribution, a $20 million donation to the ACLU to defeat the Bush Patriot Act “appears to be substantially more than the Kochs have contributed to all political candidates combined for at least the last 15 years” according to Reason magazine editor Radley Balko.


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