Centers and Projects

The Cato Institute's nationally and internationally recognized Centers and Projects tackle a wide range of topics, including health care, education, environment and energy, foreign policy, and international human rights. Scholars in these Centers and Projects vigorously apply America's founding principles to key issues of the day, and are committed to countering the continued expansion of government beyond its constitutional constraints, and to confronting escalating attacks on individual rights.

Center for Constitutional Studies

Cato's Center for Constitutional Studies and its scholars take their inspiration from the struggle of America's founding and Civil War generations to secure liberty through constitutionally limited government. The Center's scholars address a wide range of constitutional and legal issues, especially by encouraging the judiciary to neither make nor ignore the law but rather to interpret and apply it through the natural rights tradition inherited from the Founders.

Scholars affiliated with the Center for Constitutional Studies, both resident and non-resident, conduct rigorous legal research on a wide range of subjects: constitutional theory and history, the Supreme Court, property rights, environmental law, and others. The Center publishes the annual Cato Supreme Court Review , released at its annual Constitution Day Conference, featuring leading legal scholars analyzing the most important decisions of the Court's recent term. Center scholars also write and commission books, monographs, articles, and op-eds; conduct forums on legal issues of the day; lecture and debate across the country; and file amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs with the Supreme Court, all aimed at encouraging a climate of ideas conducive to liberty through constitutionally limited government.

From October 2012 to June 2013, Cato was also one of the most successful amicus filers, with the Court siding with Cato 15 out of 18 times. For briefs supporting cert, the Court took 28 percent of cases in which Cato filed, compared to the Court’s typical average of taking only 1 percent of cases seeking review. Petitioners to the Supreme Court from all over the country now actively seek Cato’s support — so many that we often have to turn some away due to lack of resources.

  • Affiliated Scholars:

  • Roger Pilon, Vice President for Legal Affairs; B. Kenneth Simon Chair in Constitutional Studies; Director, Center for Constitutional Studies
  • Robert A. Levy, Chairman
  • Walter Olson, Senior Fellow
  • Ilya Shapiro, Senior Fellow in Constitutional Studies and Editor-in-Chief, Cato Supreme Court Review
  • Trevor Burrus, Research Fellow

Center for Educational Freedom

Cato's Center for Educational Freedom was founded on the principle that parents are best suited to make important decisions regarding the care and education of their children. The Center's scholars seek to shift the terms of public debate in favor of the fundamental right of parents and toward a future when state-run schools give way to a dynamic, independent system of schools competing to meet the needs of American children .

Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity

The Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity was established to promote a better understanding around the world of the benefits of market-liberal policy solutions to combat some of the most pressing problems faced by developing nations. In particular, the Center seeks to advance policies that protect human rights, extend the range of personal choice, and support the central role of economic freedom in ending world poverty. Scholars in the Center address a range of economic development issues including economic growth, international financial crises, the informal economy, policy reform, the effectiveness of official aid agencies, public pension privatization, the transition from socialism to the market, and globalization .

Every year, the Center works with the Fraser Institute in Canada and more than 70 think tanks around the world to produce the Economic Freedom of the World report, which seeks to measure the consistency of the institutions and policies of various countries with voluntary exchange and the other dimensions of economic freedom.

  • Advisory Board:

  • Anne Applebaum, columnist, Washington Post
  • Gurcharan Das, former CEO, Procter & Gamble, India
  • Arnold Harberger, professor of economics, University of California at Los Angeles
  • Fred Hu, chief economist, Goldman Sachs, Asia
  • Pedro-Pablo Kuczynski, former prime minister, Peru
  • Deepak Lal, professor of international development studies, University of California at Los Angeles
  • José Piñera, former minister of labor and social security, Chile

Center for Representative Government

Taking its inspiration from James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, the Cato Institute's Center for Representative Government is dedicated to promoting limited, representative government. Today, government offers many new threats to individual freedom and the virtues needed for its preservation. Unfortunately, career politicians, an ever-expanding government and massive regulatory constraints dominate American political life. The Center and its scholars are working through books, conferences, forums, op-eds, speeches, congressional testimony, and TV and radio appearances to bring the ideals of individual liberty, civil society, limited government and citizen legislators back to the forefront of American political life.

  • Affiliated Scholars:

  • John Samples, Director, Center for Representative Government
  • Patrick Basham, Adjunct Scholar, Center for Representative Government

Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies

By any reasonable measure, Americans are better off now than during comparable periods in the past, and expanding engagement in the global economy has played an important role in the ongoing, upward trend in American employment and living standards. To promote further progress for American workers and households, Congress and the administration should pursue policies that expand the freedom of Americans to participate in global markets.

Center for Trade Policy Studies scholars study a range of trade policy issues, including agriculture, manufacturing, immigration, and trade agreements. Center scholars also maintain an interactive web site that allows users to examine how Congress and its individual members have voted over the years on bills and amendments affecting the freedom of Americans to trade and invest in the global economy.


Center for the Study of Science

Federal government involvement in science, particularly physical science, grew during World War II through the Office of Scientific Research and Development, created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941. After the war the OSRD ended; but Vannevar Bush, who oversaw the Manhattan Project and the OSRD, strongly advocated the creation of a peacetime agency to fund and promote scientific R&D, as well as to heavily involve the federal government in research and educational funding for science activities in academia. The result was the establishment of the National Science Foundation, which was soon followed by the development of scientific programs in several cabinet departments. The ensuing government presence creates the potential for politicization by officials with policy goals. The Center for the Study of Science, established by the Cato Institute in 2012, is dedicated to exploring this process. The Cato Institute, which does not accept government funding, has the independence to shine light on this little-studied issue.

Downsizing the Federal Government

The federal government is running massive budget deficits, spending too much, and heading toward a financial crisis. Without a change of direction in Washington, average working families will be faced with huge tax increases and a lower standard of living.

Downsizing the Federal Government, a project of the Cato Institute, helps policymakers and the public understand where federal funds are being spent and how to reform each government department. Project scholars describe the failings of federal agencies and identifies specific programs to cut. They also discuss the systematic reasons why government programs are often obsolete, mismanaged, or otherwise dysfunctional.

Project on Criminal Justice

Cato's criminal justice scholars address a wide range of constitutional and legal issues — civil liberties, property rights, civil rights, criminal law and procedure, police tactics and misconduct, and the nanny state, to name just a few. Cato expects the judiciary to be the "bulwark" of our liberties, as James Madison put it, neither making up nor ignoring the law but interpreting and applying it through the natural rights tradition we inherited from the founding generation.

  • Affiliated Scholars:

  • Tim Lynch, Director of the Project on Criminal Justice

Project on Social Security Choice

Social Security is not sustainable without reform. Simply put, it cannot pay promised future benefits with current levels of taxation. Yet raising taxes or cutting benefits will only make a bad deal worse. However, allowing younger workers to privately invest their Social Security taxes through individual accounts will improve Social Security's rate of return; provide better retirement benefits; treat women, minorities, and low-income workers more fairly; and give workers real ownership and control of their retirement funds.