The cause of limited government is enjoying a political resurgence, and it may even prevail on November 6. But if it fails on Election Day, the fault won't lie with Ed Crane, who has stepped down this month after 35 years building the Cato Institute and promoting free people and free markets.
With money from Wichita businessman and libertarian Charles Koch, Mr. Crane founded Cato in San Francisco in 1977 with a budget of $800,000 and a staff of 10. He reluctantly moved the think tank to Washington in 1981 to more effectively communicate the small-government case in the heart of Leviathan. Cato's annual budget is now $21 million with a staff of 127, and its scholars have led the battles for entitlement reform, regulatory restraint, free trade and lower taxes.
Unlike some leaders of the libertarian movement, Mr. Crane is not a dogmatist and allowed his scholars wide latitude. We've disagreed with Cato's isolationist approach to foreign policy, but its ideas and op-eds have regularly informed readers of these pages. Cato's annual conference on monetary policy is especially influential by airing debates over a subject typically ignored by most of the media and think tanks. Under Mr. Crane, Cato held the first conferences on free markets and the rule of law in China (1988) and Russia (1990).
Mr. Crane's final months at Cato were marred by an unfortunate row over control with Charles and David Koch. We're pleased that the battle has been settled with a new governance pact that organizes Cato like a more traditional nonprofit with a self-sustaining board. Mr. Crane is graciously retiring at age 68.
His able successor is the longtime and highly successful former CEO of BB&T bank, John Allison, who has plans for expansion but who will build on the foundation of Mr. Crane's broad shoulders.Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on Ed Crane and incoming President John Allison.
Here is a tribute to Ed Crane from the Canada Free Press.
Here is a tribute to Ed Crane from United Liberty.