Guest Post: Koch vs. Cato? Not a problem for a True Libertarian

Jim Bales here, and my thanks to Tom for the loan of his soap box.

So, I’ve been following the back and forth between Brad DeLong and Jonathan Adler over effort by the Koch brothers to exert control over the Cato Institute, which they believe to be (or to soon be) a property they have majority interest in.

Adler argues that the direction the Koch’s would likely take the organization would be bad for Libertarianism. DeLong is amused that Adler’s position is “not the most full-throated libertarian defense of private property as the essential foundation of ordered liberty that I can imagine…”. Adler’s claim is that he is defends the Koch’s “right to do something [with their property] even as I criticize or lament [their] choice to do it.”

I think that Adler is, in fact, taking a non-Libertarian stance here, but DeLong is wrong to focus on property rights. While Adler defense of the Koch’s right to make the presumed changes is far from full-throated, Adler has never (to my knowledge) denied that the Koch’s have that right should they prevail in court.

And yet, Adler’s hand wringing over the fate of Cato is decidedly non-Libertarian. To Libertarians, what happens to Cato really doesn’t matter. Their indifference is not driven by their belief in the moral sanctity of property rights. What happens to Cato doesn’t matter to Libertarians because of their dogmatic belief in the well-nigh omnipotence of markets.

For all true Libertarians understand that, just as the free market created Cato when there was a need for a high-profile Libertarian think tank, the market will most assuredly deliver a new, improved, Libertarian think-tank should the Koch brothers trash this one.

One might wonder why Adler has lost his Libertarian faith in the power of the free market — particularly the oh-so-free market for high-profile Libertarian think-tanks. That, I cannot answer.

Best,

Jim Bales

Image:  Titian,The Tribute Money, 1516.

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One Comment on “Guest Post: Koch vs. Cato? Not a problem for a True Libertarian”


  1. […] Bales, “Koch vs. Cato? Not a Problem for a True Libertarian,” The Inverse Square Blog (March 11, […]


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