The Cato Institute, well known among our readers, was founded in 1974 by economist Murray Rothbard, businessman and entrepreneur Charles Koch, and libertarian leader Ed Crane who remained the president of Cato until October of last year.
Cato’s mission really is one of a libertarian mind, namely to research and increase public understanding of the benefit of public policies that are based on the principles of individual liberty, limited government, and free markets. Cato owes its name to Cato’s Letters, a series of essays published in 18th-century England that presented a vision of society free from excessive government power. Those essays played a role in inspiring the architects of the American Revolution. Those simple, timeless principles of that revolution, individual liberty, limited government, and free markets turn out to be even more powerful in today’s world of global markets and unprecedented access to information than Jefferson or Madison could have imagined.
We see Cato’s commitment to defending liberty in many places on the public policy front. Frequently today one of the major party’s positions may be one that is antithetical to liberty. Time and time again Cato is on the frontline defending the cause with clearly thought reasoned work. Their commitment often pits them against some in both parties and yet scholars at Cato never lose sight of what they are fighting for.
Further, Cato’s non-interventionist foreign policy views and strong support for individual and civil liberties have frequently led Cato scholars to criticize those in power, both conservative and liberal. For example, Cato scholars opposed President George H. W. Bush’s 1991 Gulf War operations, President Bill Clinton’s interventions in Haiti and Kosovo, and President George W. Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq. As a response to the September 11 attacks Cato scholars supported the removal of al Qaeda and the Taliban regime from power, but were against an indefinite and open-ended military occupation of Afghanistan.
Cato also strives to reach out and educate young people. They hold numerous programs, presentations, and panels throughout the years and especially during the summer when there are so many interns in the DC area. Another major thing Cato does to reach out to young people is Cato University. This is Cato’s premier educational event of the year. This annual program brings together faculty and students from across the country and, often, from around the globe–all sharing a commitment to liberty and learning more about it. Scholars such as Dr. Tom Palmer and public servants like Senator Rand Paul are frequent speakers.
In short Cato strives to advance the ideas that social and economic freedom are not just the best policy for a free people, they are the indispensable framework for the future.
Michael LaCroix is an intern with America’s Future Foundation and a rising senior at Grand Valley State University.
Started in 1980 as the Center for the Study of Market Process, the Mercatus Center at George Mason University is a market-oriented research, education, and outreach think tank dedicated to bridging the gap between academic ideas and real world problems. Since its founding the Mercatus Center has been a source of innovative ideas and scholarship seeking to further the true nature of free markets.
The Mercatus Center supports graduate students at George Mason’s school of economics many of whom are now among the most creative scholars in their fields working at the intersection of economics and problems solving to advance liberty. They strive to develop and produce knowledge and an understanding of the institutions that affect the liberty to prosper and to find sustainable solutions that overcome the barriers preventing individuals from living free, prosperous, peaceful, liberty-driven lives. Their research draws from a distinct tradition in political economy and from a rich body of ideas developed by names very familiar to the liberty movement, such as Hayek, Buchanan, Ostrom, and more recently Vernon Smith.
Early on the Center recognized both the theoretical and philosophical insights of the Austrian School and also saw immense value and potential in the Chicago School, which emphasized empirical rigor and case studies. Working to blend these two schools has been a core mission of the Center for decades. Shortly after making a major move the Center took on the task of applying that blend of economics to bridge the gap between academic research and public policy problems by offering seminars on economics and public policy for congressional staff. These occasional seminars revealed a growing demand for economic education in DC and in 1999 it formally launched its “Capitol Hill Campus” to recreate the college classroom experience on Capitol Hill by bringing faculty and academic research to congressional staff and to make academics aware of the need for relevant economic analysis of pressing public policy issues.
As the Center learned more about the type of research and education that was needed to help public policy makers work through challenges, Mercatus added even more leading scholars and to its ranks. As Mercatus recognizes a gap in the world of public policy that can be filled by economic scholarship, new research programs are added, whether they be on the economics of regulation, entrepreneurship in Sub-Saharan Africa, government transparency, policymaking after crises like Hurricane Katrina, the collapse of the financial sector, or the role of government spending in the economy.
As decision makers increasingly turn to economics to understand and address public policy challenges, the Mercatus Center is committed to making sure well trained economists are there to answer the questions or even ask the questions that no one is asking and help search for the answer. Whether through books, journal articles, association meetings, blogs, the media, policy publications, congressional testimony, or classroom instruction Mercatus faculty and students are working to advance knowledge about the institutions that underpin a free and prosperous society, and bring that knowledge to the public policy makers charged with maintaining those institutions for future generations.
Michael LaCroix is an intern with America’s Future Foundation and a student at Grand Valley State University
The Capital Research Center was founded in 1984 to promote a better understanding of charity and philanthropy, especially in the context of supporting a free society. They understand that the principles of individual liberty, a free market economy, and limited constitutional government are the cornerstones of American society and the foundation of private enterprise, economic growth, and wealth creation. These principles also open the door wide for generous donors to support organizations that fight for and support these same principles.
Unfortunately many donors reject these principles and many of the organizations these donors support are calling for an expansion of the welfare state, further regulation and restriction on the economy, and even greater restraint on individual freedoms. They continue to argue that this expanded government is responsible for everything from the environment and education to healthcare and the elderly. This disconnect between the principles of a free society and the donors behind these antithetical organizations is exactly where the CRC comes in.
The CRC focus specifically on “the politics of nonprofits.” They consider the goals and activities of liberal left-leaning special interest groups and critically analyze the impact they have on politics and society by researching their sources of funding and profiling major donors. They take seriously their mission to inform donors of their rights, alert them to bad examples of nonprofit activism and advocacy, and defend donors who understand the principles at the foundation of a free and flourishing society and strive to defend it through their generous gifts. Scott Walter, the executive vice-president of CRC had this to say about CRC’s vision beyond the classic talking points of the liberty movement.
“CRC’s niche is focusing on the nonprofit sector, like labor unions, where very little attention is paid. Labor unions are hugely influential and have massive budgets. The NEA, for example, has a budget specifically for political activists that is bigger than the RNC and DNC combined. They hold incredibly influential power and yet almost no one knows about it.”
CRC releases a number of publications each month that address different aspects of politics and social life including: Green Watch, Organizational Trends, Foundation Watch, and Labor Watch. In this month’s edition of Organizational Trends James Simpson draws out a massive yet fairly undetected strategy that the left is currently deploying through organizations such as Organizing for Action and the Lone Star Project in order to turn deep red states like Texas to blue in an attempt to essentially monopolize future presidential elections.
Though Governor Perry has called such goals “pipe dreams,” Senator Ted Cruz has much graver warnings for the GOP if it doesn’t wake up to these very real threats. “In not too many years, Texas could switch from being Republican to all Democrat…If that happens, no Republican will ever again win the White House…If Texas is bright blue, you can’t get to 270 electoral votes. The Republican Party would cease to exist.” The CRC strives to educate people and especially donors to the dangers that these organizations pose to our founding principles, the principles and foundations of a free society.
Looking forward with the hope that many young professionals today will be capable of giving generously in the future I asked Scott for one final bit of wisdom. Seeing as many of our readers are young professionals in the liberty movement, Scott has this offered this bit, “Develop the habit of giving early. Arthur Brooks has written about this several times. Developing the habit of unselfishness giving early on lays a foundation for smarter giving later on in life.” This ‘smarter giving’ is what can really make a difference in individual lives in the long run.
Michael LaCroix is an intern at America’s Future Foundation and a rising senior at Grand Valley State University in Michigan.
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