While the Cato Institute was instrumental in assisting me on my journey from conservatism to anarcho-capitalism, it should be acknowledged that it really is not a libertarian organization. Over the years, various members of the Ludwig von Mises Institute have criticized the Cato Institute for advocating positions that are clearly not libertarian and are in fact statist. At first, I thought that this was a case of petty bickering due to the Cato Institute’s shabby treatment of Murray Rothbard. However, their support of the “war on terror” and now the surveillance state shows that they are conservatives with libertarian leanings.
“NSA Surveillance in Perspective” by Cato Institute researchers Roger Pilon and Richard A. Epstein is an abomination. As I argued in “Statism from the Independent Institute“, libertarianism can accommodate a variety of views on issues. Libertarians tend to be non-dogmatic in temperament and there is no single organization that represents all libertarians. Thus, there has not arisen a litmus test to determine who is and who is not a libertarian. Indeed, there has always been and continues to be lively debates on many issues. This is as it should be. However, a big tent can only stretch so far before it is no longer a tent. Support for the surveillance state cannot be condoned by those committed to a free society. When one pens apologies for government actions that were the hallmark of the Warsaw Pact nations, one has crossed the line from libertarianism to statism.
The members of the Ludwig von Mises Institute have repeatedly stressed the importance of their physical location far away from Washington DC and warned of the dangers of proximity to the beltway. The Cato Institute demonstrates how an organization in which Murray Rothbard was a founding member lost its way when it moved from California into the belly of the beast.