Don Marti

Sun 04 Mar 2012 08:37:24 PM PST

Cato Institute: can anyone save the good parts?

Blog frenzy this weekend over the Ed Crane and the Cato Institute vs. the Kochtopus! story.

A little background: most of the libertarian-sounding noises inside the Beltway come from rent-seekers. Corporate-welfare-receiving companies pay for the think tanks, and you, the taxpayer, pay for the corporate welfare. (Hey, wait a minute. That means, in a way, Solveig Singleton works for me! We need to have a talk.)

One exception, at least a lot of the time, has been the relatively independent Cato Institute. They actually published "Archer Daniels Midland: A Case Study In Corporate Welfare." Nobody else in the think tank business wants to publish an article that will scratch a potential donor off the fundraising list, but Cato pulled it off.

But the end of an era is here. Cato co-founder Charles Koch, who along with his brother David is a prominent corporate welfare queen, is tightening up on the leash. Yawn. Looks like Cato is going to turn into yet another rent-seeking group.

With Cato either melting down or joining the noisy herd of fake libertarians with both front feet in the trough, what's a would-be reader of corporate welfare research to do? How about looking outside the think tank system entirely? After all, Kickstarter's funding for art projects is approaching the size of the NEA.

Your typical libertarian-sounding think tank is essentially a government program anyway. But it's an inefficient top-down channel for funneling corporate welfare dollars into content creation, and loses a lot to transaction costs. Let's think outside of the box here, and put the market to work.

Anybody want to write a think-tank-style report on a corporate welfare problem, but can't get it funded? Why not put it on Kickstarter?

Now that is a good idea. Make think tanks fund themselves on a per report basis via Kickstarter or something similar. Replacing the NEA with Kickstarter is a great idea too. Wish I had thought of them.
Comment by Anonymous Mon 05 Mar 2012 05:30:47 PM PST