November/December 2013

Progress Report on the Cato Institute

After my first year as president it seems appropriate to give you an update on Cato’s progress. The good news is we are definitely headed in an upward trajectory.

The clearest evidence of our positive direction is the increased financial support from our Sponsors. Operating contributions for the fiscal year to date are up very significantly. Admittedly, this is in comparison to a weak period last year due to the internal dispute at that time, but it shows the fundamental commitment to Cato from our Sponsors. Thank you!

Still, our operating budget is only $22 million per year. This is the largest budget of a libertarian organization, but it is a drop in the bucket compared to the multi-billion dollars spent by statists. It is easy to come up with a long list of areas where we could invest more to spread the libertarian message.

While still a minority group, the libertarian community is growing rapidly. The growth is particularly obvious among college students, but also many adult conservatives are moving toward libertarian positions on social issues such as gay marriage and the drug war. Cato was recognized as the most efficient think tank in the United States in a study done by the Center for Global Development. Over the last year, this productivity is illustrated by 2,058 print/news story mentions, 821 op-eds, and 363 major broadcast appearances.

We trained over 100 interns, had 207 participants in Cato University and had 130 students in the Cato/Institute for Humane Studies summer seminars. Cato held 21 conferences, 49 policy forums, 40 book forums, 10 congressional testimonies, and 23 Capitol Hill briefings. Cato’s websites were visited over 13 million times. This included more than 2 million downloads of our research and analysis.

Our constitutional studies group won 15 of the 18 Supreme Court cases where we filed amicus briefs. This was the best percentage success rate of all other organizations. This outstanding result demonstrates the effectiveness of Cato’s work today, but that impact is the cumulative effect of more than 30 years of intellectual debate.

In recent years, Cato scholar Chris Edwards has argued that federal government workers are substantially overpaid relative to private-sector workers. His efforts helped to create a loose freeze in federal pay increases, which has saved taxpayers over $90 billion. Cato was also visible in the debate for a rational immigration strategy based on attracting the brightest and hardest working to America, while requiring individuals to fully understand the principles that have made America great before becoming citizens.

We just conducted the most in-depth conference any organization has held on NSA spying on U.S. citizens and the need to protect your right to privacy. Big brother is watching you. We are watching him. Michael Cannon has been one of the most visible and intellectual opponents of Obamacare. He has helped organize three new court cases that pose a serious additional challenge to this destructive legislation. We fight on.

Mike Tanner published an updated report on welfare which highlighted the fact that in 32 states welfare recipients can make more on welfare than holding a full-time minimum wage job.

We continue to fight “tooth and nail” to spread the ideas of liberty throughout the planet — all within the context of creating a free and prosperous society at home founded on the principles of individual liberty, free markets, limited government, and peace. The Cato brand has risen while some of our fellow “think tanks” have drifted toward partisan politics on both sides of the political spectrum. We have enhanced our reputation for objective, quality research on important public policy issues.

We have also instituted some cultural changes internally at Cato, reflecting the increased scale and complexity of our work laying the foundation for future growth. Our internal support and policy teams have done an excellent job dealing with these changes and yet increasing productivity.

We have a number of exciting projects in the works, including creating a balance sheet and income statement for the U.S. government as if it were a business (it is not pretty), establishing a Center for Monetary Studies to fight for sound money, working on a PBS special on education reform, and much more.

I believe that conservatives and progressives are both lost intellectually. They hold logically inconsistent positions on the role of government. Libertarianism is the only integrated political philosophy, and we are the modern defenders of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. As government continues to grow and the U.S. faces serious long-term financial problems, the fight for a free society must be pursued with all of our energy. While it is an uphill battle, we can win because our ideas are right and our policies promote human well-being.

John Allison is the President and CEO of the Cato Institute.