Archive for the ‘CATO INSTITUTE’ Tag



I don’t know why you would quote anyone from Cato Institute.

Cato is a propaganda mill much like the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, or the Hoover Institution.

While designed to superficially resemble an academic institution, only one kind of viewpoint ever comes from Cato, as well as the other places.

They are financed by some of the most right-wing corporations and individuals in America.

And they serve to provide sinecures to retired professors or government officials who can contribute significantly to what are essentially boiler room operations.

Opinion on demand is provided on almost any issue of concern to America’s Right Wing.

Finally, the Constitution is used by every group wishing to stop progress in America.

It is itself a largely outdated document, full of concepts which have proved mistaken over time.

Any student of American history knows full well it has been ignored countless times when that was convenient for the establishment.

Indeed, for years, the very concept of the Bill of Rights was unenforceable because it was felt by people like Jefferson that a federal court could not pass judgment on state activities.

Still, the Court is a weak institution on the whole, generally not daring to go beyond the most timid interpretations.

Nations are, like all of nature, ever-evolving things. To remain rigidly married to words set down by a few rather provincial men two and a quarter centuries ago much resembles Catholic Church doctors arguing over nonsense.

Indeed, words themselves are constantly evolving in their meaning, something we experience keenly over the last half century and something which will only speed up in future.

Sticking to certain meanings of certain words in a certain document is a perfect formula for little social progress.

Indeed, the establishment uses the Constitution for exactly that purpose.

Genuine freedoms and important institutions only survive over the long term because of general good will and consent in any society, not because of a piece of parchment.



“Left wing rants” is a genuinely pejorative phrase. It is also inaccurate.

I am a classically-trained economist, rather traditional in his views, in my retirement also a teacher of micro-economics of which Milton Friedman would approve.

However, when it comes to the defense of human freedom and decency or attacking arrogance and pomposity, I like to think of people like Samuel Johnson or Graham Greene or George Orwell or Jonathon Swift (‘A Modest Proposal’). To my mind, there is no room for compromise in such matters: they are not simplistic matters of left- or right-wing, except to simplistic people or ideologues at places like the American Enterprise Institute.

What I write is well-written (I am a published author, former corporate chief economist and speechwriter, and once had a weekly metropolitan newspaper column), well-informed, but it is highly critical in defense of human rights, democratic values, and decency.

Calling my comments “rants” is the typical response of someone who does not have the same commitment to these values. It is a noun used a few times towards me by apologists for America’s murderous post-WWII rampage in the world or Israel’s ghastly record of abuse and brutality.

I suspect my views on both of these contemporary barbarisms click a switch somewhere back in your consciousness.

Of course, such descriptions as yours are used in an effort to reduce the person with whom you disagree, an old and genuinely puerile (since you love Latinisms) technique, one shared I am sorry to point out by those of a quietly tyrannical temperament everywhere and always.

I do take credit or blame for everything I write, hardly a shabby quality.

I do not rant, but you, my anonymous name-caller, do expose what I can only call a rather afraid-of-your-own-shadow quality.

That’s surely what you are doing by prefacing comments, somewhat in agreement, with name-calling.

It also is obvious in those countless typo-corrections of yours: they remind me of the nervous schoolboy looking down at his new wing-tip shoes to see if they are adequately shined, a young, desperate-to-please Richard Nixon with a sad smile and beads of sweat on his brow.



The Cato Institute is an American think-tank, which is the same thing as saying a well-financed propaganda mill posing as something of an academic institution.

The distinguishing fact comes down to purpose: outfits like Cato – whose biggest financial backer in the past was Koch Oil – have an agenda; academic institutions do not.

So I take every publication from these people with a grain of salt, something experience warrants.

“Whereas Jefferson trusted decentralization and wanted diffuse communities making political decisions, Hamilton looked to a strong central authority to guide the nation.”

This misrepresents and even distorts the differences between Hamilton and Jefferson. It is the kind of common view often found in local newspapers, but scholars should do better than that.

Jefferson definitely had a dark side, and there are views of his which border on what we might expect from Pol Pot.

He did not believe in industry. He believed in the sturdy yeoman farmer.

He of course spoke of liberty, but as the great Dr. Johnson pointed out it was outrageous for the “drivers of negroes” to speak of liberty.

Johnson also had Jefferson in mind when he called patriotism the last refuge of scoundrels.

Jefferson owned about two hundred slaves to his dying day, and never even wavered in embracing the institution. It was the way he had the leisure to follow his interests. He still managed to die a bankrupt, his tastes so outran his ability to earn.

Jefferson wrote bluntly in his Notes on Virginia about black inferiority, and he never recanted those views.

Indeed, when the slaves of Haiti rebelled against the French, Jefferson supported the French, and strongly. He assisted Napoleon in his efforts to re-conquer the poor slaves.

Jefferson was totally inconsistent on liberty versus centralism also. He put in place an embargo against Britain that bankrupted hundreds of small businesses and merchants in New England. He used very heavy-handed measures. There was an atmosphere for a while that smelled of Stalinism.

And there was the bitter irony that in an earlier embargo when he was not in office and building Monticello, he bought British-made custom windows for his dream house, deliberately breaking the embargo. The legitimacy of rules for Jefferson very much depended upon whether they hurt his interests or the interests of others.

Jefferson also exceeded his then-understood Constitutional authority by purchasing the Louisiana territory from his friend Napoleon. He knew this himself, but never hesitated because it was what he wanted.

The dark and anti-liberty side of Jefferson’s character is displayed in his vicious vendetta against Aaron Burr, a man he hated because he almost won the presidency instead of Jefferson, the inadequate election rules of the time making it possible for a man who ran nominally for vice-president to be elected as president.

Jefferson was a vicious dirty fighter too. His hiring – while working in the cabinet of George Washington – of two attack writers, Freneau and Callendar (on the government payroll), to make ugly attacks against Washington’s government showed a very dark side of his character.

He ended falling out with both of these men. One of them then proceeded to uncover the story of Jefferson’s use of his slave, Sally Hemmings, as mistress. The girl would have been about thirteen-years old when Jefferson first hit on her. The writer ended up dead in very questionable circumstances.

Jefferson, despite his pretenses to modernity was actually in many ways backward. Hamilton was not only his intellectual superior but was a man of such modern temperament that had he been permitted to time-travel to the present, he would have fairly quickly taken in what had happened and he would devour the details. Jefferson would have been in a state of shock and indeed would be repelled by much of contemporary society: it goes almost entirely against his honest-yeoman fantasy.

Hamilton contributed more to the early United States than perhaps any other figure. From central-banking concepts to decimal coinage and a whole lot more. He was urban and progressive and open to new things, and he had been Washington’s indispensable man, writing most of his speeches, suggesting strategies.

Again, a dark episode of Jefferson’s career includes having one of his associates visit Hamilton in private at the time Hamilton was involved in an affair with a scheming woman to threaten him with exposure if the Jeffersonians did not get their way on a certain issue. Quite contemptible actually.



“Truth may enter the world by many doors, but she is never escorted by force.”

Rex, your opening aphorism is excellent, but it seems to me you need to apply it more widely yourself.

It’s not very honest to write such lines and use them only for selected applications.

It applies, for example, in spades to Afghanistan, but you’d never know that from some of your past comments on events there.

And it applies again to a school-yard bully prime minister, and again you’d never know that from some of your reflections on him.


I know the Cato Institute well and met many of its senior people some years back.

Their most important supporter at the time I spent a day at their offices in Washington was Koch Oil.

Believe me, this is a glorified propaganda mill disguised as a dispassionate think tank. Their ‘fellows’ are the intellectual equivalent of guys in white lab coats on television commercials holding clipboards posing as doctors to sell headache remedies.

The formula is a favorite one in the United States where outfits like Heritage Foundation function exactly the same way.

Not that some of them still can’t say a true thing once in a while, much like Rex himself, but the trend in all their work is in one direction only – towards an American libertarianism, really a rather far out variety of conservatism.

Anyone who quotes them as an authority on any issue, without appropriately qualifying their status, is either naive or dishonest.


There is mud here on both sides.

The fact is that, to an overwhelming degree, the world’s scientists agree that a form of global warming is underway.

Of course there are other opinions, but the impressiveness of the ranks on the warming side is something amateurs dare go against at their peril.

The most fascinating confirmation comes from the Pentagon, where nothing but the best and most expensive and most practical science is listened to. They issued an important report, some while back, identifying global warming as one of the most important long-term threats to the security of the United States.

The real question, whether human activity is causing the warming, is not answered. There are many excellent minds who believe it, but the facts are not conclusive.

So what society faces – before we get conclusive evidence, if we ever do – is a very high-stakes gamble. Change our technologies and behaviors as though the proposition were true, or don’t change and risk possible catastrophic results.

I’m not sure of the answer myself, and my lack of faith in humanity’s capacity to behave rationally suggests we will risk the catastrophe.

In the end, perhaps it does not matter. When our planet of apes passes, eventually another species will arise to take our place. After all, the dinosaurs lasted on the order of a hundred million years. Our half million or so is less than a blink of the cosmic eye.

Perhaps by then our robots will have inherited our place in the universe, as they most certainly will do eventually. They’ll be better adapted to survive and thrive and even travel to the stars.

So maybe there isn’t so much to get hot and bothered about.