Cato used to have a bunch of people who were honestly interested in better public policy. Now it looks as though most of them have been pushed out, leaving only the hacks. Howard Pollack observes the trainwreck:
Cato Institute exposes leftist plot: Medicare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board: Medicare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB).... Last weekend I posted an item at American Prospect lamenting Congress’s deep opposition to IPAB and its unwillingness to address its own misaligned incentives in setting health policy. The guts of my argument were simple: IPAB attracts bipartisan opposition because it might constrain the ability of Senator X or House Chairman Y to quietly help that local wheelchair manufacturer or academic medical center, to make sure that this national association of orthopedic surgeons or home care providers has proper cover in the legislative process.... In short, we face a massive collective action problem. Every Democratic and Republican policy expert knows that we must reduce congressional micromanagement of Medicare policy. Unfortunately, every Democratic and Republican legislator knows that mechanisms such as IPAB that might do so would thereby constrain their own individual prerogatives. As Maggie Mahar notes, there’s nothing novel in this argument. Liberals, conservatives, and libertarians have said similar things for years. As I recall, Republicans are rather fond of noting the incompetence and venality of Congress, at least under Democratic majorities.
Apparently, I said something wrong. Yesterday’s Cato Institute blog includes an entry by Michael Cannon, titled “Inside Every Leftist Is a Little Authoritarian Dying to Get Out.” Cannon regards my support for IPAB as literally another step on The Road to Serfdom. Supplying the requisite slippery-slope Hayek quotations, Cannon intones, “This isn’t how it starts. This is how it snowballs.” No, it isn’t. It makes no sense, from any ideological or political perspective, for Congress to approach regulation and financing of our health care colossus as a fragmented, rent-seeking mob....
Hayek was right to warn about the dangers when welfare states go too far. He was quite wrong to see this possibility as an inexorable threat to our freedom or one that couldn’t be addressed through democratic means. He was even more wrong to disparage the commitment to freedom embraced by those who hold more egalitarian economic views.
Cannon describes me as a “leftist” and an (aspiring) “little authoritarian.” There is a certain authoritarian mindset in Cannon’s own writing, which flattens basic distinctions between conventional technocratic liberalism and socialist central planning. Unfortunately, the internet encourages and rewards precisely this sort of boorish overstatement.
Ironically, such overstatement trivializes the real blows to human freedom that people have endured, many at the hands of actual leftist authoritarians. Before I get frightened by some panel of health services researchers exploring effectiveness of back surgery, I remember people I know who have seen much worse.
Anyone seen anything honest and worth reading from Cato this year?
If there's anyone there who still wants to be part of reality-based American policy discourse, it is time to leave.