Criticisms of the Cato Institute.

Part of the "Critiques of Libertarianism" site.

Last updated 09/23/11.

A "libertarian" quasi-academic think-tank which acts as a mouthpiece for the globalism, corporatism, and neoliberalism of its corporate and conservative funders. Cato is an astroturf organization: there is no significant participation by the tiny libertarian minority. They do not fund it or affect its goals. It is a creature of corporations and foundations.

The major purpose of the Cato Institute is to provide propaganda and soundbites for conservative and libertarian politicians and journalists that is conveniently free of reference to funders such as tobacco, fossil fuel, investment, media, medical, and other regulated industries.

Cato is one of the most blatant examples of "simulated rationality", as described in Phil Agre's The Crisis of Public Reason. Arguments need only be plausibly rational to an uninformed listener. Only a tiny percentage will notice that they are being misled. That's all that's needed to manage public opinion.


A Critical Assessment of "Lies, Damned Lies, & 400,000 Smoking-Related Deaths".
The Cato Institute, heavily funded by tobacco companies, hired Levy and Marimont to denounce statistics about smoking related deaths. This article refutes their key arguments, finding them unscientific and inflammatory.
Media Moguls on Board: Murdoch, Malone and the Cato Institute
An Extra! (the magazine of FAIR, Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting ) article that describes how media giants use Cato to lobby Congress for corporate welfare and legal monopolization.
Why Privatizing Social Security Would Hurt Women
An Institute For Women's Policy Research rebuttal to Cato Institute proposals and claims about Social Security privatization.
An Analysis Of The Cato Institute's "The Case Against a Tennessee Income Tax"
Senate finance panel examines Cato report, recognizes propaganda
Citizens For Tax Justice lay open the shoddy errors behind this typical example of the claims Cato makes. The Tennessee Senate finance panel also identified a large number of other errors.
Who knew? The Swedish model is working.
Paul Krugman points out that CATO and other conservatives were dead wrong in their predictions for Sweden, and that big welfare states do sometimes work well. From The Unofficial Paul Krugman Archive.
Libertarian Think Tanks
Tom Tomorrow's "This Modern World" gives credit where it is due.
Do Windmills Eat Birds?
David Case, executive editor of, exposes a quotation out of context by CATO in a case of pretend environmental concern.
Millionaires One and All
(PDF) Details the fallacies underlying the CATO Social Security Calculator. Under realistic assumptions, you'd accumulate 1/10th to 1/30th of what CATO estimates. Part of The Social Security Network.
Rethinking the Think Tanks
Sierra Magazine's article detailing the corporate financing of anti-environmental propaganda from thinktanks like Cato.
Internet Bunk: The Junk Science Page
The CATO Institute is a corporate front that employs Steven Milloy to tarbrush opponents scientific arguments as "Junk Science". Robert Todd Carroll's excellent The Skeptic's Dictionary details Milloy's unscientific part in this PR campaign.
Zogby Polling For Cato Institute, Other Clients, Manipulates Findings To Misrepresent Public Opinion About Social Security
A poll based on spin, rather than real alternatives, yields more spin. From Campaign For America's Future.
Cato Institute: "Libertarian" in a Corporate Way
Norman Solomon of the Institute for Public Accuracy details how the CATO Institute represents its anti-regulation corporate funders, not libertarian individuals. The goal is to give corporate propaganda an air of objectivity by concealing its source.
The 'freest economies in the world'.
John Berthelsen of the Asia Times points out that the Cato Institute's 'economic freedom' index seems to have no idea of the reality of government intervention and market oligopoly in Hong Kong and Singapore.
NEW 5/06: Dogmatic Libertarians
John Fonte (in National Review) writes a conservative response to the dogmatic Cato position on open borders. He points out the obvious that somehow libertarians seem to miss: borders are important to self-governance for basic reasons of security.
NEW 5/06: The Cato Hypocrisy
David Brin describes "truly grotesque hypocrisies, putting shame to any pretense that these Cato guys are "libertarians," let along honest intellects."
NEW 1/07: Comments on "Has U.S. Income Inequality Really Increased"
Gary Burtless of The Brookings Institution severely criticizes the analysis of Alan Reynolds of the Cato Institute in the Reynold's paper Has U.S. Income Inequality Really Increased? The answer is yes, contrary to Cato propaganda.
NEW 3/07: The Denialists' Deck of Cards: An Illustrated Taxonomy of Rhetoric Used to Frustrate Consumer Protection Efforts
Chris Jay Hoofnagle details the public relations methodology of CATO and other anti-consumer, business-funded organizations. Count how many of these you've heard on your favorite topic: global warming, for example.
NEW 2/08: CFP's Laffer Curve Video
Law Professor Linda Beale debunks the latest Laffer Curve propaganda video from the "Center for Freedom and Prosperity" and CATO's Dan Mitchell.
NEW 11/08: Politics Compromises the Libertarian Project
Matthew Yglesias takes the Cato Institute to task for corporate shilling in it's own "jornal", Cato Unbound .
NEW 8/10: Covert Operations: The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama.
Jane Mayer's The New Yorker article on Charles and David Koch. They have financed libertarian propaganda with more than 100 million dollars over more than 30 years. They founded and control the major libertarian think tanks Cato, Reason, Mercatus, and others. See: Koch think tanks at SourceWatch.

Print References

The links here are to, through their associates program, primarily because of the review information. Books without links are generally out of print, and can often be easily found at AddAll Used and Out Of Print Search. Good sites for bargain shopping for sometimes expensive new books are Online Bookstore Price Comparison and AddAll Book Search and Price Comparison. Both of those list applicable coupons. Another is

Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber "Trust Us, We're Experts: How Industry Manipulates Science and Gambles With Your Future"
Details of the public relations and brownlash manipulations of CATO, Steven Milloy, and others.
Jean Stefancic and Richard Delgado "No Mercy: How Conservative Think Tanks and Foundations Changed America's Social Agenda"
(Temple Univ. Press 1996). The influence of Cato and Heritage Foundations.

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Copyright 2007 by Mike Huben ( ).
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