Cato relocated to Washington, D.C., in 1981, settling initially in a historic house on Capitol Hill. The institute moved to its current location on Massachusetts Avenue in 1993. Cato Institute was named the fifth-ranked think tank in the world for 2009 in a study of think tanks by James G. McGann, PhD of the University of Pennsylvania, based on a criterion of excellence in "producing rigorous and relevant research, publications and programs in one or more substantive areas of research".
By 2011, the Cato Institute had a budget of $39 million and was "one of the largest think tanks in Washington.
The Cato Institute publishes numerous policy studies, briefing papers, periodicals, and books. Journals include the Cato Journal
(since 1981) and Regulation (acquired in 1990). Other periodicals include Cato's Letter,Cato Supreme Court Review, and Cato Policy Report. Cato published Inquiry Magazine from 1977 to 1982 (before transferring it to the Libertarian Review Foundation) and Literature of Liberty from 1978 to 1979 (before transferring it to the Institute for Humane Studies). Additionally, Cato publishes numerous white papers on a wide variety of policy topics. Some notable examples include Drug Decriminalization in Portugal: Lessons for Creating Fair and Successful Drug Policies(2009) by Glenn Greenwald and Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Policy Raids in America(2006) by Radley Balko.
The Cato Daily Podcast, hosted by Caleb O. Brown, allows Cato Institute scholars and other commenters to discuss relevant news and libertarian thought in a conversational, informal manner.
Power Problems, hosted by John Glaser, is a bi-weekly podcast offering a skeptical take on U.S. foreign policy, and discussion of today's big questions in international security with guests from across the political spectrum.
Cato Events offers listeners a chance to stay up-to-date on a wide range of essential contemporary issues through presentations by leading national authorities.
Cato Audio covers important policy debates in Washington.
Cato Out Loud, provides the most notable of Cato's print publications in an audio format.
Free Thoughts, hosted by Aaron Ross Powell and Trevor Burrus, is a weekly show about politics and liberty, featuring conversations with top scholars, philosophers, historians, economists, and public policy experts.
Building Tomorrow, hosted by Paul Matzko, explores the ways technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship are creating a freer, wealthier, and more peaceful world.
Pop & Locke, hosted by Landry Ayres and Natalie Dowzicky, explores the intersection of political ideas and pop culture.
Portraits of Liberty, hosted by Paul Meany, investigates the lives and philosophies of thinkers throughout history who argued in favor of a freer world.
The Pursuit, hosted by Tess Terrible, Landry Ayres, and Natalie Dowzicky, is a podcast about government action and individual liberty.
Liberty Chronicles, hosted by Dr. Anthony Comegna, combines innovative libertarian thinking about history with specialist interviews, primary and secondary sources, and answers to listener questions.
Excursions Into Libertarian Thought, hosted by George H. Smith, explores the history of libertarian ideas.
Classics of Liberty, hosted by Caleb O.Brown, relives classic works and speeches of classical liberals
In addition to maintaining its own website in English and Spanish, Cato maintains websites focused on particular topics:
"Downsizing the Federal Government" contains essays on the size of the U.S. federal government and recommendations for decreasing various programs.
Cato Unbound, a web-only publication that features a monthly open debate among four people. The conversation begins with one lead essay, followed by three response essays by separate people. After that, all four participants can write as many responses and counter-responses as they want for the duration of that month.
PoliceMisconduct.net contains reports and stories from Cato's National Police Misconduct Reporting Project and the National Police Misconduct News Feed.
The Cato Institute hosts conferences throughout the year. Topics include monetary policy, the U.S. Constitution, poverty and social welfare, technology and privacy, financial regulation, and civic culture.
Libertarianism, classical liberalism, and conservatism
Many Cato scholars have advocated support for civil liberties, liberal immigration policies, drug liberalization, and the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell and laws restricting consensual sexual activity. The Cato Institute officially resists being labeled as part of the conservative movement because "'conservative' smacks of an unwillingness to change, of a desire to preserve the status quo".
On the other hand, Cato has strong ties to the political philosophy of classical liberalism. According to executive vice president David Boaz, libertarians are classical liberals who strongly emphasize the individual right to liberty. He argues that, as the term "liberalism" became increasingly associated with government intervention in the economy and social-welfare programs, some classical liberals abandoned the old term and began to call themselves "libertarians". Officially, Cato admits that the term "classical liberal" comes close to the mark of labeling its position, but fails to capture the contemporary vibrancy of the ideas of freedom. According to Cato's mission statement, the Jeffersonian philosophy that animates Cato's work has increasingly come to be called 'libertarianism' or 'market liberalism.' It combines an appreciation for entrepreneurship, the market process, and lower taxes with strict respect for civil liberties and skepticism about the benefits of both the welfare state and foreign military adventurism.
In 2006, Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos proposed the term "Libertarian Democrat" to describe his particular liberal position, suggesting that libertarians should be allies of the Democratic Party. Replying, Cato vice president for research Brink Lindsey agreed that libertarians and liberals should view each other as natural ideological allies, and noted continuing differences between mainstream liberal views on economic policy and Cato's "Jeffersonian philosophy".
Some Cato scholars disagree with conservatives on neo-conservative foreign policy, albeit that this has not always been uniform.[failed verification]
John A. Allison IV speaking at the 2014 International Students for Liberty Conference (ISFLC)
The relationship between Cato and the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) improved with the nomination of Cato's new president John A. Allison IV in 2012. He is a former ARI board member and is reported to be an "ardent devotee" of Rand who has promoted reading her books to colleges nationwide. In March 2015, Allison retired as president, remaining on the board, and was succeeded by Peter Goettler.
Cato positions on political issues and policies
The Cato Institute advocates policies that advance "individual liberty, limited government, free markets, and peace". They are libertarian in their policy positions, typically advocating diminished government intervention in domestic, social, and economic policies and decreased military and political intervention worldwide. Cato was cited by columnist Ezra Klein as nonpartisan, saying that it is "the foremost advocate for small-government principles in American life" and it "advocates those principles when Democrats are in power, and when Republicans are in power"; and Eric Lichtblau called Cato "one of the country's most widely cited research organizations." Nina Eastman reported in 1995 that "on any given day, House Majority Whip Tom DeLay of Texas might be visiting for lunch. Or Cato staffers might be plotting strategy with House Majority Leader Dick Armey, another Texan, and his staff."
Cato has published strong criticisms of the 1998 settlement which many U.S. states signed with the tobacco industry. In 2004, Cato scholar Daniel Griswold wrote in support of President George W. Bush's failed proposal to grant temporary work visas to otherwise undocumented laborers which would have granted limited residency for the purpose of employment in the U.S.
In 2003, Cato filed an amicus brief in support of the Supreme Court's decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down the remaining state laws that made private, non-commercial homosexual relations between consenting adults illegal. Cato cited the 14th Amendment, among other things, as the source of their support for the ruling. The amicus brief was cited in Justice Kennedy's majority opinion for the Court.
In 2006, Cato published a Policy Analysis criticising the Federal Marriage Amendment as unnecessary, anti-federalist, and anti-democratic. The amendment would have changed the United States Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage; the amendment failed in both houses of Congress.
A 2006 Cato report by Radley Balko strongly criticized U.S. drug policy and the perceived growing militarization of U.S. law enforcement.
Criticism of corporate welfare
In 2004, the institute published a paper arguing in favor of "drug re-importation". Cato has published numerous studies criticizing what it calls "corporate welfare", the practice of public officials funneling taxpayer money, usually via targeted budgetary spending, to politically connected corporate interests.
Cato president Ed Crane and Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope co-wrote a 2002 op-ed piece in The Washington Post calling for the abandonment of the Republican energy bill, arguing that it had become little more than a gravy train for Washington, D.C., lobbyists. Again in 2005, Cato scholar Jerry Taylor teamed up with Daniel Becker of the Sierra Club to attack the Republican Energy Bill as a give-away to corporate interests.
Cato scholars seek to promote a better understanding around the world of the benefits of market-liberal policies and institutions, openness and engagement in the global economy, and a principled and restrained foreign policy. Cato argues those benefits include notable improvements in human well-being as countries increase their levels of economic, civil, and personal freedoms. Hence, Cato's position urges the United States should thus engage the world, trade freely, and work with other countries on common concerns, but avoid trying to dominate the globe militarily.
Ted Galen Carpenter, Cato's vice president for defense and foreign policy studies, criticized many of the arguments offered to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq. One of the war's earliest critics, Carpenter wrote in January 2002: "Ousting Saddam would make Washington responsible for Iraq's political future and entangle the United States in an endless nation-building mission beset by intractable problems." Carpenter also predicted: "Most notably there is the issue posed by two persistent regional secession movements: the Kurds in the north and the Shiites in the south." But in 2002 Carpenter wrote, "the United States should not shrink from confronting al-Qaeda in its Pakistani lair," a position echoed in the institute's policy recommendations for the 108th Congress. Cato's director of foreign policy studies, Christopher Preble, argues in The Power Problem: How American Military Dominance Makes Us Less Safe, Less Prosperous, and Less Free, that America's position as an unrivaled superpower tempts policymakers to constantly overreach and to redefine ever more broadly the "national interest".
Cato's foreign and defense policies are guided by the view that the United States is relatively secure and so should engage the world, trade freely, and work with other countries on common concerns--but avoid trying to dominate it militarily. As a result, Cato advocates the United States should be an example of democracy and human rights, not their armed vindicator abroad, claiming it has a rich history, from George Washington to Cold War realists like George Kennan. Cato scholars aim to restore this view, with a principled and restrained foreign policy recommendation, to keep the nation out of most foreign conflicts and be cheaper, more ethical, and less destructive of civil liberties.
Cato's scholars seek to advance policies and support institutions in developing and developed countries that protect human rights and extend the range of personal choice. In particular, Cato's research explores the central role that freedom in its various dimensions--economic, civil, and personal--plays in human progress and in solving some of the world's most pressing problems, including global poverty. To this end Cato co-publishes the annual Human Freedom Index (2015-) with the Fraser Institute and is the co-publisher with Fraser of the U.S. edition of the Economic Freedom of the World annual report (1996-).
Cato argues that most Americans are immigrants or descended from immigrants who sought opportunity and freedom on American shores, and that this continues today with immigrants continuing to become Americans, in the process, making the United States a wealthier, freer, and safer country. Cato's research indicates current US immigration system excluding most peaceful and healthy immigrants, and urges Congress to look to America's past for inspiration to expand and deregulate legal immigration.
Cato advocates that policymakers must be constantly reminded of the benefits of free trade and the costs of protectionism, arguing free trade is the extension of free markets across political borders. It promotes the idea that enlarging markets to integrate more buyers, sellers, investors, and workers enables more refined specialization and economies of scales, which produce more wealth and higher living standards, and argues that Protectionism does the opposite. Cato's policy recommendations focus on congress and the administration pursuing policies that expand the freedom of Americans to participate in the international marketplace.
On environmental policy
Cato scholars have written about the issues of the environment, including global warming, environmental regulation, and energy policy.
Cato scholars have been critical of the Bush administration's views on energy policy. In 2003, Cato scholars Jerry Taylor and Peter Van Doren said the Republican Energy Bill was "hundreds of pages of corporate welfare, symbolic gestures, empty promises, and pork-barrel projects". They also spoke out against the former president's calls for larger ethanol subsidies.
With regard to the "Takings Clause" of the United States Constitution and environmental protection, libertarians associated with Cato contended in 2003 that the Constitution is not adequate to guarantee the protection of private property rights.
In 2019, Cato closed its "Center for the Study of Science" (which E&E News characterized as "a program that for years sought to raise uncertainty about climate science") after its head Pat Michaels had left the institute over disagreements, along with his collaborator Ryan Maue, a meteorologist. By that time, the Cato Institute was also no longer affiliated with its former distinguished fellow Richard Lindzen, another critic of the scientific consensus on climate change.
Other commentaries on presidential administrations
The Cato Institute is classified as a 501(c)(3) organization under U.S. Internal Revenue Code. For revenue, the institute is largely dependent on private contributions and does not receive government funding. The Cato Institute reported fiscal year 2015 revenue of $37.3 million and expenses of $29.4 million. According to the organization's annual report, $32.1 million came from individual donors, $2.9 million came from foundations, $1.2 million came from program revenue and other income, and $1 million came from corporations.
Operating revenue as of FYE March 2020: $31,695,000
Program and Other Income (2%)
Operating expenses as of FYE March 2020: $31,726,000
Management & General (12%)
Net assets as of FYE March 2020: $81,391,000.
Shareholder dispute and departure of Ed Crane
In 2011, there were to be four shareholders of the Cato Institute. They were Charles and David Koch, Ed Crane, and William A. Niskanen. Niskanen died in October 2011. In March 2012, a dispute broke out over the ownership of Niskanen's shares. Charles and David Koch filed suit in Kansas, seeking to void his shareholder seat. The Kochs argued that Niskanen's shares should first be offered to the board of the institute, and then to the remaining shareholders. Crane contended that Niskanen's share belonged to his widow, Kathryn Washburn, and that the move by the Kochs was an attempt to turn Cato into "some sort of auxiliary for the G.O.P ... It's detrimental to Cato, it's detrimental to Koch Industries, it's detrimental to the libertarian movement." Those who supported Cato's existing management rallied around the "Save Cato" banner, while those who supported the Koch brothers, called "For a Better Cato".
In 2018, several former Cato employees alleged longtime sexual harassment by Crane, going back to the 1990s and continuing until his departure in 2012. Politico reported that he settled one such claim in 2012. Crane denied the allegations.
In January 2008, Dom Armentano wrote an op-ed piece about UFOs and classified government data in the Vero Beach Press-Journal. Cato Executive Vice President David Boaz wrote that "I won't deny that this latest op-ed played a role in our decision..." to drop Armentano as a Cato adjunct scholar.
Recipients of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences at Cato
Since 2002, the Cato Institute has awarded the Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty every two years to "an individual who has made a significant contribution to advancing human freedom." The prize comes with a cash award of US$250,000.
According to the 2017 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report (Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program, University of Pennsylvania), Cato is number 15 in the "Top Think Tanks Worldwide" and number 10 in the "Top Think Tanks in the United States". Other "Top Think Tank" rankings include # 13 (of 85) in Defense and National Security, #5 (of 80) in Domestic Economic Policy, #4 (of 55) in Education Policy, #17 (of 85) in Foreign Policy and International Affairs, #8 (of 30) in Domestic Health Policy, #14 (of 25) in Global Health Policy, #18 (of 80) in International Development, #14 (of 50) in International Economic Policy, #8 (of 50) in Social Policy, #8 (of 75) for Best Advocacy Campaign, #17 (of 60) for Best Think Tank Network, #3 (of 60) for best Use of Social Networks, #9 (of 50) for Best External Relations/Public Engagement Program, #2 (of 40) for Best Use of the Internet, #12 (of 40) for Best Use of Media, #5 (of 30) for Most Innovative Policy Ideas/Proposals, #11 (of 70) for the Most Significant Impact on Public Policy, and #9 (of 60) for Outstanding Policy-Oriented Public Programs. Cato also topped the 2014 list of the budget-adjusted ranking of international development think tanks.
^Jones, Caleb. "Bernanke". AP Images. Archived from the original on June 10, 2014. Retrieved 2013. Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke speaks at the Cato Institute's annual Monetary Conference...