The Corner

Koch v. Cato

As some readers may know, I’ve blogged quite extensively on the Koch-Cato conflict.  Here is the post outlining my basic position, which is that a Koch takeover of Cato, however well-intentioned, will necessarily diminish the Institute’s credibility and compromise Cato’s ability to advance individual liberty.  This is true whether or not the Kochs are within their legal rights to take such actions and whether or not they have better ideas as to how Cato should be run than current Cato President Ed Crane.  As I wrote last Friday:

 

Whatever the merits of the Kochs’ claim, I cannot understand how their actions can, in any way, advance the cause of individual liberty to which they’ve devoted substantial sums and personal efforts over the years.  Even assuming their legal claim has merit, a legal victory will permanently injure the Cato Institute’s reputation.

Many libertarian-leaning organizations receive money from the Kochs and their foundations and are attacked on this basis.  Such attacks can be deflected, as financial support is not the same thing as control.  But if the Koch brothers themselves represent the controlling majority of an organization’s board, that organization is, by definition, a Koch-run enterprise.  Progressive activists and journalists will have a field day with this.  They will forevermore characterize the Cato Institute as “Koch-controlled” — and, as a legal matter, they will be correct.  No efforts to re-establish the Institute’s credibility or independence will overcome this fact.

The Koch brothers may well have legitimate concerns about how the Cato Institute is managed.  I don’t know.  They may have good ideas about how to make the Institute more effective.  Again, I don’t know.  From my perspective, it seems that Cato’s work nicely complements the efforts of more activist organizations the Kochs support, but I may not see the whole picture.  That’s not the point. Even if one assumes that the Kochs have better ideas for how Cato should direct its resources, know more about how to advance individual liberty, and are correct that the Institute is too “ subject to the personal preferences of individual officers or directors,” any benefit from whatever changes they could make will be outweighed to the permanent damage to Cato’s reputation caused by turning it into a de facto Koch subsidiary.  In short, they will have destroyed the Cato Institute to save it.

I elaborate on some of the arguments in this post.  I also posted the perspective of the Cato Institute’s Jerry Taylor and an additional roundup of commentary.

Jonathan H. Adler — Mr. Adler is an NRO contributing editor and the inaugural Johan Verheij Memorial Professor of Law at Case Western Reserve University School of Law. His latest book is Marijuana Federalism: Uncle Sam and Mary Jane.

Most Popular

White House

Trump’s Disgraceful Endgame

President Trump said the other day that he’d leave office if he loses the vote of the Electoral College on December 14. This is not the kind of assurance presidents of the United States typically need to make, but it was noteworthy given Trump’s disgraceful conduct since losing his bid for reelection to ... Read More
White House

Trump’s Disgraceful Endgame

President Trump said the other day that he’d leave office if he loses the vote of the Electoral College on December 14. This is not the kind of assurance presidents of the United States typically need to make, but it was noteworthy given Trump’s disgraceful conduct since losing his bid for reelection to ... Read More
Film & TV

Wonder Drug Cures All Problems

I’ve just discovered a film that has changed my life. Give it a chance, and it’ll change yours, too. The film is Another Round, by the sly Dane Thomas Vinterberg (The Celebration), and it heralds the discovery of a miraculous substance by four friends, all of them high-school teachers in Denmark, on the ... Read More
Film & TV

Wonder Drug Cures All Problems

I’ve just discovered a film that has changed my life. Give it a chance, and it’ll change yours, too. The film is Another Round, by the sly Dane Thomas Vinterberg (The Celebration), and it heralds the discovery of a miraculous substance by four friends, all of them high-school teachers in Denmark, on the ... Read More

Watching Les Watchmen

The best science fiction — and some of the most terrifying science fiction — has a short literary shelf life, because it does not stay fiction for long. In the much-admired HBO series Watchmen, which is set not in a dystopian future but in a reimagined present, the police have begun wearing masks in order to ... Read More

Watching Les Watchmen

The best science fiction — and some of the most terrifying science fiction — has a short literary shelf life, because it does not stay fiction for long. In the much-admired HBO series Watchmen, which is set not in a dystopian future but in a reimagined present, the police have begun wearing masks in order to ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Silent Victims of This Pandemic

We all know this pandemic has taken many lives, and we are well-versed in all its impacts on our health. We also know about the victims who died of COVID, as they are reported daily. But today I would like to take a moment to make a list of the other victims of this pandemic. This incomplete list doesn’t take ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Silent Victims of This Pandemic

We all know this pandemic has taken many lives, and we are well-versed in all its impacts on our health. We also know about the victims who died of COVID, as they are reported daily. But today I would like to take a moment to make a list of the other victims of this pandemic. This incomplete list doesn’t take ... Read More