October 31 2012
Ed Crane and Cato’s Legacy
Carrie L. Lukas
The Wall Street Journal recently wrote an editorial acknowledging that Cato’s founder, Ed Crane, has stepped down from the organization. The piece was entitled “Ed Crane’s Freedom Legacy,” but the article only touched on the profound role that Cato, and therefore Ed Crane, has in the freedom movement.
Like many others, Cato gave me my first job in the public policy arena. My time there was life-changing. It’s not just that I met my husband at Cato, and that Ed Crane even allowed us to hold our wedding reception at Cato’s building in 2003, when neither my husband nor I was even still working there.
I joined Cato in 1997 as an entry-level assistant after reading and becoming obsessed with Ayn Rand. Cato provided me—as I know it has countless other twenty-somethings newly enamored with libertarian ideas—with a crash-course in the ideas of liberty, the proper role of government, and impact of public policy, giving substance and grounding to that initial passion. Cato impresses upon those who spend any time there a framework for evaluating policies, with the basic concepts of individual liberty and the actual, intended purpose of government serving as the key guideposts.
And if you look around the freedom movement, you will find that an incredible number of those who now play leading roles at other organizations got their start or spent time at Cato. In this way, Cato’s influence goes far beyond the impressive array of products that Cato itself produces, the scholars it supports, and the conferences it holds.
Some of us may veer from Cato’s ideals, but we do so with an understanding of what we are straying from. Ed Crane, no doubt, if he were to read this, would harangue me (as he has many times over the years) for having become too moderate and for supporting creeping half-measures that he would argue hinder, rather than advance, the cause of meaningful reform. Yet I hope that he can take comfort, at least, in considering how much more of a “squish” I might be without my time at Cato.
So on the occasion of his retirement, a sincere thank you and “well done” to Ed Crane for his invaluable contribution to the freedom movement and to the many people, like me, who were profoundly influenced by Cato.