Sunday, July 27, 2008

Thoughts on Cato University Lecture I: "Why Freedom Matters" by Tom Palmer

Tom Palmer gave an overview of the mission of Cato (which he calls "Central Atlantic Treaty Organization." Now I'm scared that the Democrats might abolish the think tank sometime soon, arguing that it harms workers). He makes an excellent point about the common criticism of Cato, in that it can't be trusted because it "has an agenda." For one, he mentions, "Everyone has an agenda, and every question you ask expresses your agenda." Reading studies from think tanks that claim to perform "objective social science research," to me, is at least more time consuming, because I always have to spend a few minutes figuring out what their ideology is. When Cato has a policy proposal, they've already done me the favor.

If any of you ever attend Cato presentations in D.C. and are annoyed by the first of two lecturers who might go on about market failures, the moral obligation of governments to help people, or how guns kill children, Palmer explained the reason for that. He mentioned that Cato likes to invite their "toughest and strongest" opponents on an issue, because the only way to demonstrate to themselves and to the audience that the institutes's ideas have merit is to answer to thoughtful, cogent criticism. This leads me to respect tremendously not just the institute, but also its guests. I couldn't imagine myself speaking in the lion's den of the Center for American Progress or People for the American way. Props to any populist or conservative willing to speak to a primarily libertarian audience.

At one point, Palmer explains that people often associate "libertarians," with their "genetic hybrid," "libertines," presumably referring to those people who would want small government, just so they could have access to call girls and cannabis. Most libertarians I know just want to choose their kids' schools or prevent some township from seizing their house- in other words, pretty mainstream. But, I do wonder if there is a cultural difference between libertarians and other folks, not so much in terms of their relative pursuits of wild lifestyles, but in terms of how they approach situations that have nothing to do with government interference. Today, I'll give a med school example of what I mean, in another post.

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