Cato Events: “Forums Examine Harassment, Medical Privacy”

March/​April 2000 • Policy Report

December 3–4: The Cato Institute hosted a conference to explore the themes of sociologist James Nolan’s recent book, The Therapeutic State: Justifying Government at Century’s End. Nolan argues that therapy—curing a sick society—is replacing other traditional justifications for government, such as social contract, natural law, and utilitarianism. Among the participants were Russell Hardin of Stanford University, Jules Coleman of Yale Law School, Robert Royal of the Faith and Reason Institute, Stephan Burton of the National Institutes of Health, Charlotte Twight of Boise State University, Dennis Cauchon of USA Today, and William Galston of the University of Maryland. The seminar was directed and chaired by Cato’s Tom G. Palmer.

December 8: A panel of health and privacy experts discussed the Clinton administration’s proposed regulations to govern health care information at a Cato Policy Forum, “Medical Privacy Regulations: Will They Guard or Endanger Confidentiality?” Gary Claxton of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services laid out the administration’s plan. Ron Weich of the American Civil Liberties Union insisted that the plan is a “positive development” and an improvement on current regulations and congressional proposals that encroach on state protections of privacy, but he also warned that the regulations omit patient consent to the use of records for treatment, payment, or health care operations. Sue Blevins of the Institute for Health Freedom argued that patients should be allowed to reject the Clinton administration’s “Unique Health Identifier.” She cautioned that, if people feel their health care information isn’t being protected, they will lie or avoid seeing doctors. Solveig Singleton, Cato’s director of information studies, noted that government use of health care information is more dangerous than private use. She contended that we should be careful when restricting access to information in the private sector.

December 15: Are there ways to deal with the problem of sexual harassment without going to court? Discussing the theme of her book, What to Do When You Don’t Want to Call the Cops, Joan Kennedy Taylor argued at a Cato Book Forum that there are alternatives to reporting harassment to corporate or legal authorities. Lawsuits become life‐​changing events; all parties often come away with careers, reputations, and lives ruined. On the basis of research and interviews she has conducted over the last two decades, Taylor contended that women who have realistic expectations when entering predominantly male environments and learn to communicate their feelings clearly have done a good job of combating sexual harassment. J. H. Verkerke, director of the Program for Employment and Labor Law Studies at the University of Virginia, suggested that a negligence standard in sexual harassment law could reduce harassment in the workplace.

January 20: Several contributors to the Cato Institute book NATO’s Empty Victory: A Postmortem on the Balkan War gathered at a Cato Book Forum to discuss and update their chapters in the book. Ted Galen Carpenter, vice president for foreign policy and defense studies at Cato and editor of the book, argued that NATO’s victory isn’t much of a victory when the “collateral damage” to the congressional war power and strategic goals in Eastern Europe is considered. Jonathan Clarke, Cato fellow, argued that Europeans should have taken care of the problem on their own. Gary Dempsey, foreign policy analyst at Cato, argued that the war had a tremendous negative effect on Kosovo’s neighbors, which could have a troubling political fallout for America in the future.

January 31: The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue” policy allowing gays and lesbians to discreetly serve in the military “doesn’t work” and “should be repealed,” said Capt. Michelle M. Benecke (USA, Ret.) at a Cato Policy Forum broadcast by C-SPAN, “Should Gays and Lesbians Be Allowed to Serve Openly in the Military?” Benecke argued that the policy has increased harassment and has given a powerful tool to “snitches” and “bigots.” Lt. Col. Robert L. Maginnis (USN, Ret.) argued that a homosexual ban is necessary because open homosexuality “undercuts” the cohesion of military units. David P. Sheldon, a former Navy appellate defense attorney, argued that historically gays have served without harming unit cohesion and that the military leadership could help cut down on harassment.

This article originally appeared in the March/​April 2000 edition of Cato Policy Report.