National Commentary

Cato Institute & the F.C. School Board

The Cato Institute, where a Falls Church School Board candidate is a prominent staffer, is a high-profile D.C. think tank whose purpose is to influence the national political discourse in favor of libertarian policies. Far from the popular notion of libertarianism as a marginal and relatively harmless “live and let live” philosophy, in the hands of some of the most powerful financier interests, like Cato Institute co-founder, Charles Koch, it has been a battering ram against consumer protections and other forms of government regulation.


The brother team of Charles and David Koch (David now dead) was notorious for using the Republican Party as a battering ram against regulations that threaten to put limits on their ability to exploit land for its natural resources and people for their almost-slave labor. It is “live and let live” for the wealthiest and most exploitative in society and it deploys deft camouflage and obfuscation to mask a Social Darwinist “might makes right” posture.


As of 2011, Koch Industries was listed as the second largest privately held company by revenue in the U.S. and the Koch brothers were two of only four Cato shareholders.


The Cato Institute has been able to swim with big fishes in the D.C. scene, leaving its stamp on almost every social, political and legal discipline. It has been ranked among the 15 top 501(c)(3) non-profit think tanks in the world with an annual budget of over $30 million.


Its posture is almost exclusively anti-government, in favor of the privatization of everything, from Social Security to the Affordable Care Act and much more. It plants its libertarian bias on every issue, including on civil liberties and foreign interventions. It claims to speak for the true meaning behind the U.S. Constitution and has taken strong stands against the scientific case for global warming.


It worked closely with former Rep. Dick Armey of Texas, who founded the “grass-tops” Tea Party movement of Republicans organized after the installation of Barack Obama as president in 2009. The group engaged in disruptions of countless Congressional town halls in the summer of 2009 that were thinly racist and became the incubator for the social forces behind the election of Trump in 2016 and the violent attempt on January 6 to stop the certification of President Biden’s victory.


It’s Cato philosophy that gave rise to Trump’s claim that in the 2017 white supremacist march on Charlottesville, “There were good people on both sides.”


The connection between the Cato Institute and the Ayn Rand Institute has always been there philosophically. Cato’s former president and current board member, John Allison, is an “ardent devotee” of Rand, having served on the Ayn Rand Institute board.


“Neo-classical liberalism” is an historical antecedent to modern Cato-style libertarianism. Among other things, it took sides against Teddy Roosevelt’s trust busting in the first decade of the 20th century aimed at freeing the nation from the grip of monopolistic corporations like Rockefeller’s Standard Oil and others producing sugar, steel, railroads and meatpacking.


Cato scholarship has consistently called for the privatization of many government services, in addition to Social Security and ranging to NASA, the postal service, Transportation Security Administration, public schooling, public transportation systems and public broadcasting. It opposes minimum wage laws, extending overtime regulations, universal health care, affirmative action and public sector unions.


As for public education, Cato publishes a “Public Schooling Battle Map,” designed to highlight the conflicts that result from public education.


And as Cato big shot Ilya Shapiro is seeking a spot on the Falls Church School Board in an election next week, the Cato Institute’s published policy on public education is instructive:


“The reason public schools don’t improve is not a lack of funds. State and local governments have continually increased spending for K–12 education. Rather than throw even more money at the problem, states should institute school choice on a broad scale, moving toward a competitive education market. The only way to transform the system is to break up the long‐​standing government monopoly and use the dynamics of the market to create innovations, better methods, and new schools.”


So, does this help better illuminate Shapiro’s Falls Church School Board candidacy?