Email from David Boaz on the threat to Cato's independence
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You may have heard about the lawsuit that Charles and David Koch have filed against the Cato Institute, in which they ask a Kansas court to give them majority control of Cato. You may even have heard from Koch spokespeople about the effort.
I want you to know: We believe this effort is a direct threat to the independence, nonpartisanship, and libertarianism of the Cato Institute. Koch control would gravely damage 35 years of hard work by our Board, officers, staff, and donors to build the Cato Institute’s brand and reputation and to make Cato, as George Will put it, “the foremost upholder of the idea of liberty in the nation that is the foremost upholder of the idea of liberty.” We intend to fight this threat. And we intend to win and to preserve our independence.
Let me note that we at Cato are immensely grateful for the support we received from Charles and David Koch up until a couple of years ago (about 4 percent of our budget in the past decade), and we admire their donations to many other libertarian causes as well. This dispute isn’t personal, we’re not trying to demonize the Kochs. We just don’t think a think tank can retain its credibility if it’s perceived to be — and is — literally owned by two highly visible individuals with a well-known political agenda and significant corporate interests. This takeover attempt is a threat to Cato, but it’s also generating bad publicity for every group that receives Koch funding. That’s why we appreciate people who are speaking up and urging a quick end to this takeover effort and a confirmation of Cato’s independence.
The first day the news of the lawsuit broke, Jonathan Adler laid the problem out pretty clearly at the Volokh Conspiracy:
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….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.
Don Boudreaux explains the importance of long-term research at independent think tanks. P. J. O’Rourke regrets that “good citizens with honest wealth who’ve put their money where their minds are” are in this case making such a big mistake. And my colleague Gene Healy notes that:
It comes down to one simple question:
Would a think tank that could accurately be described as a wholly owned subsidiary of Koch Industries ever be taken seriously in public-policy debates?
Those of us who work at the Cato Institute have invested many decades in creating the scholarship, the reputation, and indeed the beautiful building of the Cato Institute. We don’t want to see all those efforts undermined. That’s why we’re fighting to remain independent. And we appreciate the support we’ve gotten from so many friends in blog posts, newspaper articles, Facebook posts, and so on. We want a strong libertarian movement, as I know you do, and a strong movement needs strong, independent institutions.
“Nobody spends somebody else’s money as carefully as he spends his own. Nobody uses somebody else’s resources as carefully as he uses his own. So if you want efficiency and effectiveness, if you want knowledge to be properly utilized, you have to do it through the means of private property.”—Milton Friedman (via learnliberty)
And if he does not use it properly, who cares, it’s his money. But don’t play with mine.
“When liberals defend capitalism, they mean the system that free enterprise gives rise to. When people attack capitalism, they tend to mean the current state-subsidized, state-protected economic system where large corporations are in bed with government and use the state to enrich themselves at other people’s cost. No wonder both sides find these debates so frustrating — all too often, they’re not even talking about the same thing.”—
Letter from Access Now on new privacy invasion law in Canada
I received today this letter (and I signed):
Only a few weeks ago, Canada stood side by side with countries around the world in protest of ACTA. Now it’s time for the world to stand with Canada, whose citizens are facing an even more immediate threat.
Put yourself in their shoes: What if your government was considering a policy that would force ISPs to provide unrestricted access to your data to law enforcement at any time, for any reason, and without a warrant? What would you do if your country’s leaders were trying to rewire the Internet to support systems of constant digital surveillance? Canadians are facing these dangers in the form of Bill C-30, and Canadian Public Safety Minister Vic Toews (right) is bent on getting it passed despite strong opposition from the public.
When we asked you last week to identify the largest threats facing the internet today, the response was unequivocal: Stop online censorship, invasions of privacy, and digital surveillance (See the P.S.). C-30 is the embodiment of these fears, as it would create a closed and monitored internet. Stand up for the rights of Canadian citizens and call on the Canadian government to abandon C-30:
Democratic governments such as Canada’s should be setting an example of openness and respect for civil liberties for the world — not taking cues from repressive regimes like Syria and Iran. The good news is that support for C-30 is starting to waver, and we can deliver the knock-out punch.
Invasion of privacy. Perpetual online surveillance. You told us that these are your greatest concerns. Now is your chance to stop them: