Cato Institute

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The Cato Institute headquarters
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♫ We're not listening ♫
No, Cato, you fool.
—Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau in Return of the Pink Panther

The Cato Institute is a think tank in the United States with a libertarian perspective. It has published numerous articles and papers on issues like economics, liberty, politics, international relations, and the environment.

According to themselves, the philosophy of the institute is based on the principles of liberty and freedom. They think the current crop of conservatives are idiots. Due to its libertarian nature, it was critical of both President Barack Obama and his rival in 2008, John McCain.

The noted humorist P.J. O'Rourke is a fellow at Cato.[1]

Early history[edit]

The Cato Institute was originally headquartered in San Francisco, founded in 1977 with Kochtopus money and the ideological backing of Murray Rothbard. Early Cato projects included Inquiry magazine, an outreach to left-liberals concerned with civil liberties.

Cato's President Ed Crane and Murray Rothbard publicly fell out in 1980. The reasons are complex but mostly due to a clash between Rothbard's flamboyant anarchism versus Crane's desire to court Beltway respectability. By 1981, Cato under Crane's leadership purged Rothbard, relocated to Washington, D.C., discontinued Inquiry, and turned its attention to public policy research.

The "liberaltarian" purge[edit]

Brink Lindsey, Cato's former Vice President, coined the term "liberaltarian" during his tenure there. He wrote a number of articles on the term, claiming that the libertarian-conservative fusion was a hold-over from the Cold War and that libertarians in the 2000s had more in common with liberals than Bush-style conservatives. Lindsey attempted to court liberal Beltway types and another fellow, Will Wilkinson, hopped on board the liberaltarian bandwagon.

In 2010, both Lindsey and Wilkinson left Cato. Whether they were booted or left voluntarily or something else happened is still a matter of speculation, but the first rule of Lindsey and Wilkinson's new blogs is you do not mention "the liberaltarian purge."[2][3]

But Brink Lindsey had also been one of the libertarian movement's notorious "hawks" (if such a thing can even be said to exist in the first place) in 2001-2003, criticizing the Bush administration from the right for not going hard enough militarily after the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. In fact he blogged almost entirely on two issues: for war in the Middle East, and for free trade.[4] Those liberals who were attracted to a libertarian-liberal alliance were found on such blogs as MyDD and the Daily Kos, and were, by and large, Howard Dean supporters who were against the wars and globalization. Liberals and libertarians having more in common with each other in the age of Bush was fairly self-evident. What was bizarre was that Brink Lindsey of all people would advocate this alliance. Lindsey, however, proved to be a harbinger of the path later taken by Andrew Sullivan, John Cole, and finally Little Green Footballs. All three had been among the most noxious pro-war bloggers in the early 2000s.

Attempted Koch takeover[edit]

In 2012, the Koch brothers attempted what former president Ed Crane described as a "hostile takeover." The Koch brothers attempted to buy up the shares of the deceased former chairman William Niskanen, which would have given them a majority of the shares. However, Cato administration claimed that the shares belonged to Niskanen's widow. The Kochs sued for control of the shares, causing Crane to decry this move in a written statement:

Mr. Koch’s actions in Kansas court yesterday represent an effort by him to transform Cato from an independent, nonpartisan research organization into a political entity that might better support his partisan agenda. We view Mr. Koch's actions as an attempt at a hostile takeover, and intend to fight it vehemently in order to continue as an independent research organization, advocating for Individual liberty, limited government, free markets and peace.[5]

The lawsuit was settled soon thereafter, with a shakeup of the Cato board resulting. Crane was replaced by John Allison as president and David Koch remained, but Charles Koch did not.[6]

Political positions[edit]



See also[edit]

Some of their other "fellows"[edit]

External links[edit]