Cato Turns 40 … and Beyond

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As we celebrate our 40th year, I’d like to recap some of Cato’s accomplishments and tell you where we’re heading.

Cato has been a vigorous proponent of entitlement restraints, the right to bear arms, marriage equality, fundamental tax reform, downsizing government, property rights, drug legalization, school choice, free trade, immigration liberalization, criminal justice reform, and term limits. We have energetically resisted corporate welfare, campaign finance restrictions, government constraints on the Internet, global warming excesses, overarching executive power, infringements on civil liberties, the administrative state, imperial wars, dubious foreign entanglements, and unnecessary government secrecy.

Cato was the first to address Social Security’s financial problems and offer a private-investment alternative. José Piñera, co-chairman of Cato’s Project on Social Security Choice, was the architect of privatization in Chile. We’re still fighting for entitlement reform here, where the fiscal implications for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are dismal.

On the health care front, Cato’s efforts yielded Health Savings Accounts — a significant step toward free market health care. And we led the battle against Obamacare. The 2015 Supreme Court challenge was crafted by Cato’s director of health policy studies, Michael Cannon, who demonstrated Obamacare’s flawed structure and legal infirmities.

Our Center for Constitutional Studies, under Roger Pilon’s innovative leadership, has been a forceful advocate for a textual interpretation of the Constitution and a principled judicial engagement to bind the legislative and executive branches with the chains of the Constitution. Pilon and Ilya Shapiro, editor of the peerless Cato Supreme Court Review, compiled an amazing record of amicus briefs, with the Court favoring the party we supported in an overwhelming percentage of cases.

In 2014, we expanded our Center for the Study of Science, which challenges the pseudoscientific claims of climate-change alarmists. That same year, Cato’s Center for Monetary and Financial Alternatives got under way — aggressively responding to the threat of an undisciplined central bank and fiat money.

We recognize, of course, that reaching a young audience is essential. Our Libertarian Leadership Project will enable us to dramatically expand our online contact with young, tech-savvy friends of liberty — complementing our intern program and Cato University. We’ve also fostered high-quality education through the work of the late Andrew Coulson, who directed Cato’s Center for Educational Freedom. Coulson produced a three-part documentary that embraces freemarket reforms to make schools more innovative and responsive. School Inc. — A Personal Journey with Andrew Coulson is now available on PBS stations across the country.

Persuasion is key to our mission; and David Boaz’s latest book, The Libertarian Mind, is the perfect messenger — a scholarly but readable work that popularizes and legitimizes libertarianism. Indeed, Cato books are in every major college library and have sold tens of thousands of copies. Cato scholars also deliver hundreds of college lectures annually, presenting the libertarian alternative to the next generation.

In the economic arena, our experts analyze tax reform and budget proposals — unraveling them so they’re digestible. Cato’s “Fiscal Report Card on the Nation’s Governors” is widely quoted, and our Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies shaped the debates over Trade Promotion Authority and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Cato has also been a prominent defender of civil liberties — especially those related to government surveillance and privacy. Meanwhile, our Project on Criminal Justice has steered public opinion against police militarization and the drug war.

In addition, we’re emphasizing the moral and philosophical arguments for liberty. Online courses are available from our Libertarianism.org website. They’re aimed at young people but accessible to a large and growing audience, as is our CatoAudio app for iOS devices, which contains our daily podcast, archived policy forums, Classics of Liberty, the monthly CatoAudio magazine, and lots more.

A big focus of our 40th year has been finding ways to keep getting better and even more impactful. There is scope to be more connected and effective on Capitol Hill and in states, and in the academy, too, by hosting more visiting scholars. We also have great opportunities to expand the audience of our existing scholarship and research through the expanded use of technology and a broader array of content. We plan to strengthen our efforts to nurture young talent and the development of more organizations and initiatives across the liberty movement.

In short, Cato is an independent, nonpartisan source of intellectual ammunition to the public, government, educators, and the media. Ideas do matter. That’s the reason Cato is indispensable. As our 40th year draws to a close, we reaffirm our enduring commitment to the cause of human freedom.