Complicity in Cato

In today’s installment of “John Allison, Show Us the Tape,” let me grab a posted comment and break it out for wider viewing.

The writer is Irfan Khawaja, an Objectivist scholar I quoted when I broke the story that Allison, president-to-be of the Cato Institute and long-time associate of the Ayn Rand Institute, may have plans in store for Cato that are troubling.

These plans may include turning it into a more Ayn Rand-centric place and changing its current pro-peace foreign policy. We’re still trying to get Allison to make public a Q&A that he did with a bunch of Objectivists in late June to get to the bottom of this.

Khawaja voiced a concern that got me curious in the first place. The Ayn Rand Institute is a redoubt of hardcore Objectivists who really, really don’t like libertarians.

In fact, they have anathematized another faction of Objectivists, including Objectivist philosopher David Kelley, for getting too close to libertarians.

Got all that?

Okay, here’s what Khawaja had to say in response to John Allison’s Thursday all-staff e-mail to employees of the Cato Institute to address reports of the still unreleased Q&A. He writes:

I’m going to assume that that email is authentic. If so, it’s a farce.

Let’s just clarify what the issue is. The issue is that since 1989, ARI has, as a matter of explicit, public policy anathematized libertarians as “evil,” and described “trafficking” with them as complicity in evil.

That was the basis of their as-yet unrepudiated demonization of David Kelley back then, and of everyone associated with him (like me).

No one at ARI has ever repudiated this policy, and I’ve recently made public my online correspondence with Yaron Brook, re-affirming ARI’s old position (a re-affirmation endorsed in the same correspondence by Leonard Peikoff; I can direct anyone to the site where it’s made public if you want).

So the old policies of demonization still stand. And they’re still there on ARI’s website, last I checked.

John Allison has contributed huge amounts of money to ARI in the full knowledge of the existence of these policies, and he became a Board member at ARI in the full knowledge that endorsing the policy was an EXPLICIT necessary condition of his occupying the office he held.

Given the opportunity to reconcile with Kelley, he rejected it, deferring to Yaron Brook’s view that the repudiation of Kelley (and his followers) should stand. (This fact is detailed in Gary Weiss’s new book, Ayn Rand Nation, and was confirmed to me by Kelley himself; I can supply page references if anyone wants.)

Given the opportunity to name ARI’s policy in an explicit way as the root of the “namecalling,” he’s changed the subject and said nothing.

NONE of this is a “rumor” or “conspiracy theory.” Every element of it is irrefutable fact, and if Allison or his defenders think they can refute it, let them give it a try.

He is now taking actions that utterly repudiate the 20+ year position of the organization on whose Board he STILL sits (a fact I checked ten minutes ago). They have said nothing to explain this, and neither has he. But it demands an explanation.

His defense of himself consists of red herrings that evade the basic issue. No one thinks that being a member of the Board at Duke or any other university requires you to sign on to views of Duke’s faculty, as Allison ridiculously suggests.

Board members aren’t responsible for the views of the rank and file of an organization. Nor in any case do universities promulgate policies like “Fact and Value” or “On Moral Sanctions,” a la ARI, or engage in decades-long vendettas against the people they’ve excommunicated, and quietly encourage trashing their reputations (as I know from first hand experience with ARI people).

But being on the Board at ARI does require you to sign on to ARI’s repudiation of libertarianism. It requires you to regard people like Kelley as your enemies, and to treat them accordingly.
If all this is news to John Allison, he’s simply a fool (and has been badly misled by his handlers at ARI).

In that case, however, we’re entitled to ask why a fool has been installed at the head of the Cato Institute. If he can’t answer simple questions about himself, why think he’s going to be of any use when the New York Times and Washington Post start asking tougher questions about Social Security, Medicare, the right to health care, the need for infrastructure, the need for stimulus to reduce the unemployment rate, etc.?

If he can so easily be manipulated by the likes of Yaron Brook et al, how independent a thinker can he be?

I honestly cannot believe how little pushback Allison, Cato, and ARI have gotten for what, objectively considered, is their joint swindle of the libertarian and Objectivist movements.

No libertarian or Objectivist who was awake through the 1990s could forget the virulence of ARI’s virtual war against what they regarded as heterodoxy. And heterodoxy in those days consisted of taking the position that John Allison, Yaron Brook, et al now profess to take.

What we need to hear from them is an EXPLICIT repudiation of ARI’s past–meaning documents and their authors, including Leonard Peikoff and Peter Schwartz. Allison’s handwaving BS about a “big tent” is not going to cut it at this point.

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