Breitbart and other outlets have framed the Koch-Cato battle in terms of personalities: how nasty Ed Crane is, how vain the Kochs are, who screwed over Murray Rothbard worse. Anyone who has interacted with libertarian bigwigs of a certain age knows that these questions animate them fiercely. But should anybody who hasn’t had a professional relationship or personal crackup with any of these players care?
Any libertarian worth his salt ought to be more interested in the philosophical stakes, and where those are concerned, I have a hard time seeing any merit in a Koch takeover of Cato. What’s more, I don’t know that anyone has even made the argument that a Koch-ified Cato would be more libertarian than an un-Koched one. If the Kochs had only been adding the likes of Judge Andrew Napolitano to the Cato board, there would be grounds to ponder the question. But I’m curious to hear what kind of “libertarian” philosophical claim can be made for adding (or trying to add) Republican partisans like John Hinderaker and Ted Olson to Cato’s governing body.
If Rothbard were alive today, he might enjoy some Schadenfreude at seeing his old foes tear into one another. But I don’t think he would come down on the Koch side, even if he felt more personally wounded by Crane. Rothbard would put the ideological analysis first, especially with an eye to foreign policy. A friend who knew him well reminded me a few years back that “Murray Rothbard always used to say that war is the most important issue.” There are reasons why the most antiwar libertarians might feel frustrated with Cato — Leon Hadar, a former Cato scholar, has outlined some of them in TAC — but it would take quite a feat of reasoning to show that John Hinderaker would actually make Cato more antiwar.