Another Take on the Soap Opera
By Arnold Kling
this isn’t a battle between good and evil, and the stakes are probably lower than you think.
Not unlike my take, although he has more inside knowledge than I do. Read the whole thing.
I have a high regard for the scholars at Cato who are suffering through this soap opera. However, if they had asked me for advice, I would not have taken the approach of making a public attack on the Kochs’ motives.
Neither the Kochs nor anyone else in the libertarian movement is as well-funded and powerfully positioned as the apparatus of the state. Neither the Kochs nor anyone else in the libertarian movement is as ruthlessly self-interested and manipulative as the public employee unions or the crony capitalists lined up for their bailouts and green energy subsidies.
Instead, I would have focused on the relationship between funding and control. As I understand it, the Kochs are seeking total control over the Cato board, even though they currently provide a relatively small share of Cato’s funding (from what I hear, less than 5 percent). This discrepancy would threaten to alienate the rest of the donor base, regardless of the motives involved.
The appropriate battle is between the Kochs and the non-Koch donors. I don’t think that Cato staff should be involved in the fight. If it’s anyone’s responsibility to keep them out of it, I would say that it’s Ed Crane’s, regardless of whether you prefer a Crane slate to a Koch slate of board members.
This showdown could have taken place earlier, when the Kochs first began to exert muscle on the Board that was disproportionate to their level of financial support. The non-Koch donors and the highest executives (again, not the staff, this is not their job) could have insisted that the Cato shareholder agreement be reconstituted to create a truly representative board. If the non-Koch donors could use neither persuasion nor legal measures to obtain such a result, then their ultimate resort is to walk and form a new organization.
I generally prefer exit to voice. That goes for this instance as well.