Educational Institutions

Cato Institute

  • Washington, DC
  • www.cato.org

Mission Statement

Founded in 1977, the Cato Institute owes its name to Cato’s Letters, a series of essays published in 18th- century England that presented a vision of society free from excessive government power. Those essays inspired the architects of the American Revolution. And the simple, timeless principles of that revolution — individual liberty, limited government, and free markets – turn out to be even more powerful in today’s world of global markets and unprecedented access to information than Jefferson or Madison could have imagined. Social and economic freedom is not just the best policy for a free people, it is the indispensable framework for the future.

The Institute’s mission is to originate, disseminate and increase understanding of public policies based on the principles of individual liberty, limited government, free markets and peace. Our vision is to create free, open, and civil societies in the United States and throughout the world. Our mandate is to ensure that we use the best available data and evidence in support of our mission to inform public policy. We seek to broaden the parameters of public policy debate to allow consideration of more options that are consistent with our principles. Toward that goal, the Institute strives to achieve greater involvement of the intelligent, concerned lay public in questions of policy and the proper role of government. The sponsorship of those who share our principles is critical and very welcome.

Cato undertakes an extensive publications program of independent, nonpartisan research . Books, monographs, and shorter studies are commissioned on a wide range of policy issues. Its current research areas comprise Education and Child Policy, Energy and Environment, Finance, Banking and Monetary Policy, Foreign Policy and National Security, Government and Politics, Health, Welfare and Entitlements, International Economics and Development, Law and Civil Liberties, Political Philosophy, Regulatory Studies, Tax and Budget Policy, Telecom, Internet and Information Policy, Trade and Immigration.

Major policy conferences are held throughout the year, from which papers are published thrice yearly in the Cato Journal. The Institute also publishes an annual Cato Papers on Public Policy journal, the quarterly magazine Regulation and a bimonthly newsletter, Cato Policy Report. We offer a monthly online magazine: Cato Unbound.

In an era of sound bites and partisanship, Cato remains dedicated to providing clear, thoughtful, and independent analysis on vital public policy issues. Using all means possible — from blogs, Web features, op-eds and TV appearances, to conferences, research reports, speaking engagements, and books — Cato works vigorously to present citizens with incisive and understandable analysis.

The Cato Institute maintains the following Web sites: cato.org, elcato.org (Spanish), downsizinggovernment.org, libertarianism.org, humanprogress.org, policemiscounduct.org, and overlawyered.com.

In order to maintain its independence, the Cato Institute accepts no government funding and does not perform contracted research. Contributions are received from foundations, corporations, and individuals, and other revenue is generated from the sale of publications. The Institute is a nonprofit, tax-exempt educational foundation under Section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code.

Main Programs

  1. Center for Educational Freedom
  2. Center for Constitutional Studies
  3. Center for Trade Policy Studies
  4. Defense & Foreign Policy Studies
  5. Fiscal Policy Studies
  6. Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity
Service Areas

Self-reported

International

The primary focus of the Institute is analyzing US public policy at the national level, which incorporates foreign policy, trade relationships with other countries and international agreements.

ruling year

1975

Principal Officer

Self-reported

Mr. John A. Allison

Keywords

Self-reported

constitutional, liberty, freedom, civil rights, individual rights, liberties, economic liberty, libertarian, school choice, social security reform, free trade, free markets, free enterprise, limited government, peace, private property rights

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EIN

23-7432162

 Number

3380946958

Contact

Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Research Institutes and/or Public Policy Analysis (B05)

IRS Filing Requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

Programs + Results

How does this organization make a difference?

Overview

Self-reported by organization

The Cato Institute does not measure its impact by the number of laws enacted. The aim of the Institute is to change the broader public debate rather than to directly influence policymakers. To that end, Cato uses the following quantitative measures to evaluate the short-term impact of its work. How many publications has the work produced during the year? How many op-eds have been published by Cato analysts and where? How many op-eds have been generated by others and how influential are those authors? How many media citations have there been and from which sources? How many media interviews and with whom? How many policy forums were held? How many conferences? How many Hill briefings? How many meetings with key policymakers? How many books have been sold and distributed?  Over the longer term, the questions become more qualitative and measure elements relative to real change: Have we shifted the terms of the debate? Did we provide an active and timely response to opponents? How many and how important are the policymakers who have requested interviews and copies of studies? Has there been congressional testimony? What legislation has been influenced by the work? Have amicus briefs been filed? How have the ideas presented informed the national debate? Have we established a significant document trail that can be accessed by those looking for ideas and solutions? How has the work changed the dynamic between civil society and governing powers? Have we maintained a high degree of credibility?

Programs

Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Program 1

Center for Educational Freedom

The Jeffersonian philosophy that animates Cato's work has come to be called "libertarianism" or "market liberalism." Rooted in the traditional American principles of individual liberty and limited government, it combines an appreciation for entrepreneurship, the market process, and lower taxes with strict respect for civil liberties and skepticism about the benefits of both the welfare state and foreign military adventurism. Cato's education research is founded on the principle that parents are best suited to make important decisions regarding the care and education of their children.

Category

None

Population(s) Served

General Public/Unspecified

None

None

Budget

$850,000.00

Program 2

Center for Constitutional Studies

Cato's Center for Constitutional Studies and its scholars take their inspiration from the struggle of America's founding generation to secure liberty through limited government and the rule of law. The Center's scholars address a wide range of constitutional and legal issues.

Category

None

Population(s) Served

General Public/Unspecified

None

None

Budget

$1,750,000.00

Program 3

Center for Trade Policy Studies

The mission of the Cato Institute Center for Trade Policy Studies is to increase public understanding of the benefits of free trade in goods and services and the free movement of people and the costs of protectionism.

Category

None

Population(s) Served

General Public/Unspecified

None

None

Budget

$1,525,000.00

Program 4

Defense & Foreign Policy Studies

Cato's foreign policy vision is guided by the idea of our national defense and security strategy being appropriate for a constitutional republic, not an empire. Cato's foreign policy scholars question the presumption that an interventionist foreign policy enhances the security of Americans in the post-Cold War world, and maintain instead that interventionism has consequences, including the formation of countervailing alliances, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and even terrorism. The use of U.S. military force should be limited to those occasions when the territorial integrity, national sovereignty, or liberty of the United States is at risk. Amid the troubling backdrop of the ongoing occupation of Iraq and talk of opening a new front in the Middle East, Cato scholars offered commentary and advanced policy proposals stressing the importance of peace. Cato trade analysts stressed the importance of cooperation and free trade in promoting peace.

Category

None

Population(s) Served

General Public/Unspecified

None

None

Budget

$1,685,000.00

Program 5

Fiscal Policy Studies

Cato's economic research examines federal, state, and local spending and tax issues from a limited government perspective. Specifically, Cato's economic research explores the benefits of lower taxes, a significantly reduced federal budget, and less government involvement in market processes.

Category

None

Population(s) Served

General Public/Unspecified

None

None

Budget

$1,495,000.00

Program 6

Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity

Cato seeks to promote a better understanding around the world of the benefits of market-liberal policy solutions to combat some of the most pressing problems faced by developing nations. In particular, Cato’s research seeks to advance policies that protect human rights, extend the range of personal choice, and support the central role of economic freedom in ending world poverty. Cato scholars also recognize that open markets mean wider choices and lower prices for businesses and consumers, as well as more vigorous competition that encourages greater productivity.

Category

None

Population(s) Served

None

None

None

Budget

$2,950,000.00

Charting Impact

Self-reported by organization

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

  1. What is the organization aiming to accomplish?
    The Cato institute's fundamental purpose is to originate, disseminate, and increase understanding of public policies based on the principles of individual libery, limited government, free markets, and peace.

    Our ultimate goal, our vision, is to create free, open, and civil societies based on those libertarian principles.

    To achieve our mission and vision, we will focus on four key strategic themes:

    1. Engage best-in-class think tank talent operating in a high-performing organization;
    2. Enable success with a growing, predictable, and sustainable funding engine;
    3. Produce world-class, high-impact research and publications;
    4. Expand and grow Cato's influence and brand strength though excellence in outreach.
  2. What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?
    1. Develop a growing, predictable, and sustainable funding engine
    2. Drive balanced focus of and resource allocation to the highest impact policy areas and issues -- short-term, mid-term, and long-term
    3. Identify, prioritize, target and impact opinion leaders
    4. Attract, develop, and retain best-in-class talent -- build depth and breadth of the talent pipeline
    5. Drive organizational alignment and productivity through excellence in performance management
  3. What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?
    International renown; credibility; reputation for non-partisanship; outstanding scholars; commitment to liberty for all; dedicated support staff; excellent communications and marketing teams; an active and engaged board of directors
  4. How will they know if they are making progress?
    Our purpose is to introduce alternative ideas into the public discussion. The short-term indicators we look to principally then are those in which people who shape policy convey our ideas to the general public and would include print and Internet citations, media interviews, congressional testimony and amicus briefs. Long-term cultural changes as evinced by public policy are not something that can be tracked, but -- as with all cultural changes -- if enough people share information and our publications are fresh, accurate and exciting, new perspectives will percolate and manifest themselves within the body politic through language, education and policy.
  5. What have and haven't they accomplished so far?
    We have not yet succeeded in reducing the size & scope of government to an significant degree. We have succeeded in making the changes we advocate part of the public dialogue. Throughout 2012, Cato advocated policies that preserve individual sovereignty while decreasing government power in areas ranging from regulatory policy to education reform. The Institute has become a leading voice for the American principles of liberty, limited government and peace. “Cato has managed the difficult feat of becoming both a fount of true-blue libertarian ideas and a reputable source of information even for those who don't share its views,” columnist Steve Chapman wrote in the Chicago Tribune last year. “It may be the most successful think tank in Washington.” The New York Times noted that “Over the years, Cato has successfully injected libertarian views into Washington policy and political debates, and given them mainstream respectability.” Ezra Klein in the Washington Post said “When I read Cato's take on a policy question, I can trust that it is informed by more than partisan convenience. The same can't be said for other think tanks in town.” The 2012 Global Go To Think Tanks Report rated Cato 2nd in “Top Domestic Economic Policy Think Tanks” (behind Brookings), 3rd in “Top Education Policy Think Tanks” (behind Brookings and Brown), and 4th in “Most Innovative Think Tanks” (behind Brookings, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and The Peterson Institute of Economics). We are proud as well to note that in The Center for Global Development's new ranking of think tanks by public profile, Cato bested all other U.S. think tanks in the main category of “Aggregate Profile per Dollar Spent.” The report ranked Cato 3rd overall in terms of total profile, behind Heritage Foundation and Brookings Institution. However, the report noted that the annual budgets of both Brookings ($88.9M) and Heritage ($80.4M) are almost four times the size of Cato’s ($23.6M). As such, Cato outdid competing think tanks in the study’s key metric of efficiency. A significant measure of our impact is the continual growth in outreach via the strategic use of web and multimedia technology. Our bandwidth numbers nearly doubled over the past year as did visits to DownsizingGovernment.org. Views of our live online programs & events nearly tripled. The2012 online response to our publications had a combined total of over 1M copies downloaded. In 2012 some 11M users visited Cato.org. There were more than 17K subscribers to our highly popular podcast series; millions of visits to our blog, Cato@Liberty, innovative online exchanges of ideas every month on Cato Unbound. We have more than 140K Facebook fans, nearly 157K Twitter followers, 20K YouTube subscribers. We reconfigured cato.org for mobile accessibility, device-specific layouts & touchscreen interactivity, which resulted in more than 1.2M visitors through our iPhone and Android apps: In 2011 that figure was 10K.
Service Areas

Self-reported

International

The primary focus of the Institute is analyzing US public policy at the national level, which incorporates foreign policy, trade relationships with other countries and international agreements.

Social Media

Blog

Funding Needs

Capital Campaign Program Special Projects Visiting Scholars General Operating Support

Videos

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Financials

Financial information is an important part of gauging the short- and long-term health of the organization.

CATO INSTITUTE
Fiscal year: Apr 01-Mar 31
Yes, financials were audited by an independent accountant.

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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

Cato Institute

Leadership

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Principal Officer

Mr. John A. Allison

BIO

John Allison is the President and CEO of the Cato Institute. Prior to joining Cato, Allison was Chairman and CEO of BB&T Corporation, the 10th largest financial services holding company headquartered in the United States. During his tenure as CEO from 1989 to 2008, BB&T grew from $4.5 billion to $152 billion in assets. He was recognized by the Harvard Business Review as one of the top 100 most successful CEOs in the world over the last decade.

Allison has received the Corning Award for Distinguished Leadership, been inducted into the North Carolina Business Hall of Fame, and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Banker. He is a former Distinguished Professor of Practice at Wake Forest University School of Business, and serves on the Board of Visitors at the business schools at Wake Forest, Duke, and UNC-Chapel Hill.

Allison is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He received his master’s degree in management from Duke University, and is also a graduate of the Stonier Graduate School of Banking.

STATEMENT FROM THE Principal Officer

"As the new president, I have set my sights on continuing the Institute's efforts to cultivate a freer and more prosperous society. I am excited about joining the team in enriching the understanding of the principles of individual liberty, limited government, free markets, and peace - the foundation of a free and prosperous society. Having spent 20 years in business, I have learned a great deal about organizational cultures. But a think tank provides a new and exciting opportunity. With no tangible bottom line, how do you measure the performance of a think tank? What is the optimal way to achieve Cato's mission of expanding the understanding of public policies based on those principles? What are the greatest opportunities for Cato? First, we can apply the strategic planning principles from business to focus our resources where we can shape the discussion of fundamental policy issues and, hopefully, have an immediate impact on the debate. We must align our most important assets, our scholars, with our strategic goals so their work has the maximum effect. Second, while Cato has a number of first-class departments, there is an opportunity to take these to "world standard" performance such that professors at the most prestigious universities find it necessary to respond to our arguments and when the Supreme Court Justices feel consistently obligated to consider the Cato perspective in reaching their judicial decisions. Third, achieving that goal requires world standard scholars. We intend to attract more of those as well as educate future scholars. The fourth opportunity is to work with others with whom we share specific common goals. Our society is engaged in a fundamental debate over the future of Western Civilization. I joined Cato because it is essential to defending the principles of "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" in the pursuit of economic well-being and the type of society necessary for individual self-fulfillment and true personal happiness."

Governance

BOARD CHAIR

Dr. Robert A. Levy

None

BOARD LEADERSHIP PRACTICES

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BOARD ORIENTATION & EDUCATION

Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?


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CEO OVERSIGHT

Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?


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ETHICS & TRANSPARENCY

Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?


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BOARD COMPOSITION

Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?


RESPONSE NOT PROVIDED

BOARD PERFORMANCE

Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?