Kochs vs. Cato

Something else that’s been going on while we’ve been making merry over Rushbo (who is down nine advertisers now) — the Koch Brothers have gone to court to gain control of Cato Institute. The Kochs have lavished big bucks on Cato over the years, and now they want to collect. Jane Mayer writes,

Clearly, many libertarians who have long been funded by the Kochs genuinely believe that their cause is about promoting individual liberty and peace by reducing the role of the government—in other words, lofty, laudable goals, not just some hackish partisan political agenda. Suddenly, however, they are confronted with the news that the Koch brothers, who control half the seats on Cato’s board, have, as the Cato Chairman Bob Levy told the Washington Post, been choosing “Koch operatives,” their goal being to align the institute more closely with the Republican Party.

Indeed, several eye-opening insider accounts appeared over the weekend, suggesting that what Charles Koch, the C.E.O. of Koch Industries, essentially wants is to transform Cato into an “ammo” shop, manufacturing whatever ordnance it takes stop President Obama from getting re-elected next November.

Alex Pareene:

The Kochs have sued for the right to buy the shares in Cato held by the widow of co-founder William Niskanen. Their aim is basically to make Cato into another arm of their explicitly partisan messaging machine, along with Americans for Prosperity. To that end, they have already attempted to install some ridiculous Republican Party hacks on Cato’s board of directors — hacks like John “Hind Rocket” Hinderacker, the attorney and “Powerline” blogger with no history of support for “liberty” to speak of. Current Cato peopleAle are upset. Some have preemptively resigned, even. (Well, announced an intention to resign upon the completion of the Koch takeover, anyway.)

Regarding the original Toolie award winner — see Paul Krugman.

Alex Pareene argues that we should care about this development, because in the past Cato has sometimes broken with the Republican Party line on some issues. That may be, but they are also the institution that is still hosting a policy paper on insurance insurance. And Krugman remembers,

Cato is, among other things, a place that had something called the Project on Social Security Privatization, which it renamed the Project on Social Security Choice when it turned out that “privatization” polled badly — and tried to purge its records, to make it look as if they had never used the word privatization.

I say let ’em take over Cato, and Reason magazine as well, and any other “libertarian” institution they’ve been keeping afloat with their money all these years. Go ahead and strip away the veneer of “independence” that was a sham, anyway. Libertarianism has been little but a mouthpiece for the plutocracy for years. It’s time to flush them out in the open and reveal them to be the tools that they are.

11 thoughts on “Kochs vs. Cato

  1. Yes, because if there’s one thing we’ve all noticed over the decades, it’s the fierce independence that Cato’s shown in the face of Conservatism.


    And pity poor Cato!
    What are the odds of the think tank that loves corporate buy-outs, now objecting to them when they’re the ones that are being bought out?
    Karma is a MFer!!!!

    And poor, poor, misunderstood, John “Heinie Rocket” Hinderacker:
    ‘It must be very strange to be John Hinderacker.
    A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius, he can’t get anyone to notice. He is like a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time, and who unveils one masterpiece after another to a reception that, when not bored, is hostile.’

    I hope the end result of all this is an epic Koch-tastrophe!!!

  2. Libertarians do seem to have a gigantic blind spot when it comes to corporate power. They basically define liberty as the opposite of government, so they fail to see that government is not the only big powerful institution that is capable of fucking up their lives.

  3. I guess I am a bit surprised that one can buy shares in a think tank. (Well, OK, not a libertarian think tank.)

    Life would be so easy if one’s thought were controlled by major shareholders. And here we are, poor independent-minded suckers, doing all our own thinking like we always have. Don’t know about you all, but I’m exhausted! Perhaps I could sell shares of my brain to much smarter people, like Tina Fey or Madeleine Albright, and let them do all my thinking for me.

  4. Stephen – boy, are you right. Take your choice – controlled by, say, 5 corporations or controlled by government. At least I can have a say in who sits in government.

    That said, it’s interesting that the fossils (Koch’s etc.) find it necessary to ‘hide’ behind titles like Americans for Prosperity, the Cato Institute, or, Social Security Choice (rather than privatization.) (Wonder if there are still people out here who had enough smarts to rename Newt’s Contract for America, Contract on America.)

    joanr16 – I too am exhausted.

  5. On my blog I once asked, sardonically, if you can pay a libertarian to become a communist. If not, why not? If so, then for how much? My point was that money is not the only value. (See http://paradox-point.blogspot.com/2011/10/does-money-exist.html)(And look at the end of section 7, “Antiplutic Norms”.)

    The libertarians at Cato are now confronted with a similar question. I admit that the distance between libertarianism and plutocracy is less than that between libertarianism and communism, but not all that much less.

  6. Joan,
    “Perhaps I could sell shares of my brain to much smarter people… and let them do all my thinking for me.”

    This is exactly what the run-of-the-mill Indepenedents/Conservatives have done – to people they think are smarter than they are:

    They’re not any smarter – just more unscrupulous and greedy.

  7. I keep thinking that the only reason this is getting so much media attention is that Cato has always afforded mainstream media types an easy, lazy way to get a “nonpartisan” quote from the right on any subject. If Cato goes “partisan,” journos will have to work harder! Wahhh!!!

  8. Hear hear!

    Let the libertarians form their own institutions now and try to get the money from sources unblemished by the Kochs, Scaifes, etc.

    Thanks for the reporting!


  9. How appropriate – a libertarian organization is ‘privatized’ by the Koch Brothers to further the advance of big money over all sources of information. This should (but won’t) cause some libertarians to rethink the oppressive role of big money and how a robust central government is the only entity that can resist them.

    Cato will be absorbed as an subsidiary of Koch Industries and libertarians will somehow make it the fault of government overreach. *sigh*

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