something's rotten at cato

That’s the essential difference between an analyst and an activist: I can promise readers that what appears under my name—whether I get it right or wrong—represents my sincere best effort to figure out what would be good policy, not an attempt to supply a political actor with a talking point.  If I couldn’t make that promise, I’d have no right to expect people to take my work seriously.

--Julian Sanchez, in his "presignation letter" to the Cato Institute. 

I don't spend a lot of time paying close attention to the goings-on in policy wonk land these days, but I do know have known over the years people who touch on that world in various ways, including those that have received support from the Koch brothers for various academic and scholarly endeavors.

I have also generally dismissed blind criticism of the Kochs as being, well, kind of weak. All kinds of rich people spend all kinds of money in all sorts of ways to advance policies with which they agree. And it should come as no surprise that such benefactors would generally tend to benefit in some sort of material way from the policies they advocate, should they come to pass. Beyond that, I agree with what Mr. Sanchez notes elsewhere in his letter, that "of all the ways wealthy people use money to influence politics, openly sponsoring ideological advocacy seems by far the least pernicious."

But what the Kochs seem to be trying to pull at Cato right now stinks. I won't try to re-hash it; you can read the details at the links and decide for yourself. If the Kochs succeed in packing the board with people loyal to them, rather than to an honest analysis of policy (albeit analysis from a particular point of view), then one of the truly great American think tanks will become just another tool of a political party.

In other words, Cato will actually become the thing that its more hysterical critics have claimed it was all along. And that would be a shame, indeed.

UPDATE: Another unhappy wonk at Cato puts it even more succinctly

"Just because we support legalized prostitution doesn't mean we want to live it."

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