Executive Power

Crane, Levy on Executive Power

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Cato honcho Ed Crane and board member Bob Levy have co-writen an op-ed entitled, "No, a President Can't Do as He Pleases," which sounds quite a bit like a scolding of fellow Catoite Roger Pilon for his recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.

Much as I disagree with Pilon's op-ed (disclosure, I'm a former Cato employee), it seems to me that this is the proper response. Cato is of course a libertarian think tank. But my experience there was that within that framework, there is quite a bit of intellectual freedom. A common refrain there has always been that "there is no official Cato position, only positions held by Cato scholars." Crane didn't fire or publicly discipline Pilon for apostasy. Rather, he took up a pen himself, and wrote a piece that, along with Tim Lee's rebuttal and Gene Healy's forthcoming book, makes it pretty clear that Pilon's position on executive power isn't one held by many others at Cato.

MORE:  Lee and Healy also have a piece in today's Orange County Register on FISA.

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  1. The Cato way:

    1. A fascist op-ed justifying presidential abuse is written under the byline of Cato and published in the Wall Street Journal for millions of viewers to read.

    2. An polite little piece objecting to the statist crap is then published… on the Cato web site, and read by reason journalists and 5 reason readers.

    We don’t fire people. We respect differing opinions into our “lib”ertarian fold. The Cato way. Heh heh.

  2. Forgive my bad grammar, I have sinnnned.

  3. The op-ed appeared in the Star-Ledger. That isn’t the WSJ, but it is the 15th most circulated paper in the U.S.

    I’m sure Crane and Levy would’ve loved to be in the WSJ. But the WSJ is probably more interested in something from a libertarian who supports their own position than the other way around.

  4. Mr Balko,
    Please be silent. jj has a narrative in his head and you’re interrupting it.

  5. Radley,

    What you’ve said about the Pilon incident and the responses to it are reasonable, and I’ll resist the urge to speculate too much on think tanks, big money donors, partisan politics, and so forth. However, I do have to ask you this:

    If the issue weren’t due process, what would happen here? Suppose a Cato scholar hired for expertise on, say, surveillance, wrote an op-ed in a high profile newspaper and argued in favor of large income tax hikes. Would that person really be left alone to continue his scholarship? Would Cato’s senior folks content themselves with publishing the counter-argument in a lower-circulation periodical?

  6. I really wanted that to be a good op-ed, but it just wasn’t.

    Not a single reference to royalism, or even an explanation of why the Constitution limits executive power. Just pushing your glasses up your nose and talking about a court case.

    What a letdown.

  7. Yeah, it’s all kind of ridiculous. Thoreau has it about right. Of course Pilon is considered a muckety-muck at Cato, so deference is probably paid. Not so some junior 20 or 30-something analyst.

  8. Yeah, seniority may be another issue here. A senior guy will almost always get away with more than a junior guy.

    Still, would somebody really be able to rise to senior muckety-muck standing at Cato if he was mostly libertarian but a big fan of income tax hikes or some other major expansion of state power in an area not related to civil liberties in the war on terror?

    I’m willing to be proven wrong on this. Indeed, I’m eager to be proven wrong on this. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Cato has visiting scholars whose views are all over the place on all sorts of issues. Still, there’s a difference between folks with visiting, adjunct, and similar positions vs. people in long term positions with high muckety-muck status.

    Finally, to go back to the seniority issue: Does Cato have something similar to academic tenure for its senior scholars? I wouldn’t think so, but I’ve met researchers with something akin to academic tenure in a few non-university settings, so for all I know it may be similar at some thinktanks.

  9. Hey jj, it is almost a silly as the LewRockwell.com publishes stuff from socialists like Akexander Cockburn and John Pilger. Almost as silly as Antiwar.com telling us Obama is the man for 2008 for libertarians(despite his 100 percent Americans for Democratic Action rating)

  10. Radley, I believe this is the first time I have vehemently disagreed with you. Unless Pilon has a contract with Cato that allows him to write anything under the Cato aegis, they should fire his @ss.

    Pilon is advocating authoritarianism and abandoning the rule of law. If one of the Reason staff suddenly had a conversion of some religious sort, and began publishing here and there about the vileness of gays, the need to lock up drug users for life, and otherwise spouting Christian Reconstructionist ravings — all while claiming truthfully to be a “staff writer for Reason magazine” — I’d say y’all had better protect your good name and brand by parting ways.

  11. Radley, please take Mona’s advice and don’t ever hire such a person. You’d hate to lose a subscriber 🙂

  12. If Cato has so much “intellectual freedom,” then why did they fire Chuck Pena, Ivan Eland, and (disgracefully) Doug Bandow — three of their best people? None of these people strayed from the libertarian “plumbline” — their sin was hewing to it too narrowly for the tastes of our “cosmopolitan” faux-“libertarians.” Yet, if you err the other way — and Senor Pilon is not the only one at Cato who could be thus defined — you get a free pass, and all the “intellectual freedom” you need.

  13. Bandow admitted to involvement with Abramoff, and that’s why he was canned, I believe. So while I’ve always liked his work, one can see why taking money/or going on lobbyist funded junkets would be cause for termination.

    As for Pena and Eland, I have no idea why they left.

    Actually, you’re leaving out Brink Lindsey who advocated for war, and now is VP.

  14. Finally, to go back to the seniority issue: Does Cato have something similar to academic tenure for its senior scholars? I wouldn’t think so, but I’ve met researchers with something akin to academic tenure in a few non-university settings, so for all I know it may be similar at some thinktanks.

    There’s no official tenure at think tanks. So, absent a contract, you can be fired. However, someone who has been at a think tank for a long time obviously has strong ties to the institution. And someone who is considered “distinguished” in general would be thought to enhance the think tank’s general credibility, even if that person spends time writing stupid shit about FISA and the PAA.

    In addition, libertarian think tanks may depend on conservative money, and so having senior people who are conservative may help them raise money from conservative foundations or individual donors.

  15. Radley, please take Mona’s advice and don’t ever hire such a person. You’d hate to lose a subscriber 🙂

    Pour a Drink! But don’t drink it ye-etttttt….

  16. Justin, please tell us how Ralph Nader is a great libertarian, the guy you endorsed for President in 2004? Please tell us about your tentative endorsement of Obama on Antiwar.com. I will take Ed Crane over Ralph Nader, Obama, Pat Buchanan, Alexander Cockburn, John Pilger and the rest of the people you support or post on your website under the umbrella of “anti-state”

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