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Category — Cato Institute

Energy Tax Preferences: Rid Them All (Cato letter to House working group revisited)

Some might argue that some existing preferences increase energy production and thus, contribute to lower energy prices. Yet many of the preferences at issue have little or no impact on energy production; they simply represent wealth transfers.

Those preferences that do reduce energy production costs simply encourage market actors to produce costly, economically uncompetitive energy. Markets are not made more efficient by producing costly relative to less costly energy.”

Earlier this year, Jerry Taylor and Peter Van Doren of the Cato Institute wrote a tax policy missive to the Energy Tax Reform Working Group of the  House Ways and Means Committee. This committee, chaired by Kevin Brady (R-Texas), is one of eleven such working groups chaired by Dave Camp (R-MI) and Ranking Member Sandy Levin (D-MI).

Taylor and Van Doren espouse cleaning out the tax code to allow a more neutral tax structure to determine the production and consumption of competing energies. Their analysis also opens the door to fundamental tax reform that would  address the size of the tax itself, while eliminating differential tax treatment.

The Cato-based analysis, with subtitles added, is excerpted below. [Read more →]

July 29, 2013   5 Comments

‘Cato University’ 2012: Big-Picture Political Economy

The Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) and the Institute for Humane Studies (IHS) were crucial in my intellectual development. Back in the 1970s, when I attended my first FEE and IHS seminars, there were few such gatherings on the political economy of liberty. For some of us students, the timing was just about right for receiving during the summer what we missing at our colleges and universities.

So it was with interest that I read about Cato University 2012.  The July 29–August 3 seminar is a great opportunity for students  of liberty. The redone, spacious Cato Institute at 1000 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, will be the venue for the first time in many years.

“In a time of political turbulence, a presidential election, ideological posturing, and so much more,” the announcement  reads, “our nation’s capital is the perfect setting for examining the roots of our commitment to liberty and limited government and for exploring the ideas and values on which the American republic was founded.”


A key feature of the Summer Seminar is the people. The enthusiasm and openness of the attendees is what really makes Cato University the one-of-a-kind event it is every year. Because we hope you’ll be able to join us in Washington, we wanted to be sure you had an early opportunity to learn the details and register.

The six-day seminar, which is highlighted by a Capitol Hill dinner with Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), features some top libertarian thinkers/talks as these: [Read more →]

May 4, 2012   1 Comment

William N. Niskanen: Economist, Scholar, and Foe of Political Capitalism

The longtime chairman of the Cato Institute, William N. Niskanen, passed away last week at age 78. We shared the podium a few times on energy issues, and I admired his Enron project at Cato that resulted in two books, Corporate Aftershock: Lessons from the Collapse of Enron and Other Major Corporations (2003) and After Enron: Lessons for Public Policy (2005).

Like virtually everyone else who knew him, I remember Bill as a scholar and gentleman. He had one tone of voice and reliably imparted insightful logic. He was what I like to call a scholar’s scholar, role model for the rest of us.


William Arthur Niskanen Jr. (1933–2011), born in Bend, Oregon, graduated from Harvard University with a degree in economics in 1954. He earned his economics doctorate in 1962 from the University of Chicago.

After teaching at the the University of California at Berkeley, Niskanen Joined Ford Motor Company in 1975. Forced out at Ford (see below), Bill worked as an economist at the Rand Corp., the Department of Defense, and the Office of Management and Budget.

Niskanen then joined Ronald Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisors (1981–85), after which he joined Cato where he served as chairman for 23 years before becoming chairman emeritus in 2008. He was the ‘establishment’ figure that Ed Crane needed badly for Cato to reach the next level, and Ed pulled off the deal to make it happen.

‘Blunt Libertarian Economist’

The New York Times obituary described Niskanen as “a blunt libertarian economist.” But Cato’s Gene Healy, in his tribute Farewell, to the Most Honest Man in Washington, brought attention to the “vastly more interesting and admirable” side of the man. “Bill Niskanen had the kind of character that’s vanishingly rare in Washington DC,” wrote Healy. “He was a man who put principle above partisanship and personal gain.”

Bill Niskanen will be remembered for various things. One was his root insight into how the government really works as versus the romantic view of government.

The bureaucrat, in Niskanen’s words,  “is a ‘chooser’ and a ‘Maximizer’ and … not just a ‘role player’ in some larger social drama.” [Bureaucracy & Representative Government. New York: Aldine Atherton, 1971, p. 5.]

Ford Motor Company: A Great Freedom Moment [

November 4, 2011   No Comments