The Cato Institute CEO talks about the libertarian think tank.
Question: What is the Cato Institute?
Edward Crane: I mean, among the major think tanks in American, Cato is third or fourth in terms of major media mentions. We are a serious effort to put libertarian ideas on the table of national debate. I think we do a pretty darn good job of doing that. We have more than a $20 million budget. We have 105 full-time employees, and the institute is able to put these ideas on the table of national debate. The problem, of course, is that the political process is so rigged, so oriented toward incumbents and toward the conservative liberal dichotomy that it’s very difficult to get these ideas implemented.
Question: What inspires your mission?
Edward Crane: To me, it’s just a wonderful opportunity to be able to say, “This is the way it should be, and what you’re doing is wrong.” And the worst thing, from my standpoint, would be to have to be in a situation where I felt that way but I couldn’t say so. I have a voice in this institute that is heard by the national public. And I think 30 to 40 percent of Americans are basically libertarian. I think polls show that. I mean, do you go to the Republican Party or the Democratic Party if you believe in civil liberties; if you are opposed to discrimination; if you believe that it’s wrong for the United States to be the world’s policeman; and we need some humility in dealing with other nations; and you believe in dynamic market capitalism? Where do you go? But I think about a third of Americans agree with that perspective, and so it’s frustrating. I think the campaign finance laws were designed to keep the major parties above competition. I think without those laws, you’d have a very strong Green Party that would be a real threat to the Democrats. And I think you’d have a small ‘l’ Libertarian Party, not as ideologically rigid as the current Libertarian Party is that would be a real threat to the Republicans. And it would attract a lot of independents, but it’s difficult.