The Cato Institute, a Washington-based libertarian think tank, is one of the America's most prominent nonprofit public policy research organizations, advocating less government involvement. Its research and reports cover numerous issues; such as the Second Amendment and gun rights versus the Police state, defense spending, social security and the Welfare state, monetary policy and fiscal conservatism, natural resource policy, international trade. Cato's current president is co-founder Edward Crane. The organization has approximately 95 full-time employees, 20 fellows, and 70 adjunct scholars, plus interns.
In 1977, Edward H. Crane and David H. Koch, formed the Institute with a $500,000 grant from Koch Industries (see Koch brothers), a chemical and petroleum company. They based the foundation in Washington D.C. and named it the Cato Institute, after a series essays by John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon  written in the 18th century called the Cato Letters. Cato stated that “Cato’s Letters… presented a vision of a society free from the tyranny of excessive government power. Those same ideals inspired the architects of the American Revolution and continue to inspire the work of the Cato Institute today."
According to the Cato Institute's website, it,
|“||Seeks to broaden the parameters of public policy debate to allow consideration of the traditional American principles of limited government, individual liberty, free markets and peace. 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.||”|
Although many of the Institute's political positions are shared by social conservatives, the Institute's brand of conservatism leans more libertarian. The Institute takes a laissez faire approach to marriage, calling the federal marriage amendment “unnecessary, anti-federalist, and anti-Democratic.”
The Institute also supports the total abolishment of several federal agencies including the agencies of Commerce, Education, Energy, Agriculture, Labor, Interior, Transportation and Veterans Affairs. Cato also supports the privatization of several federal services, including Social Security.
The Washington Post referring to Cato’s policies stated, “"A soup-to-nuts agenda to reduce spending, kill programs, terminate whole agencies and dramatically restrict the power of the federal government."
In 2005, the Cato Institutes revenues amounted to over 22.4 million, with approximately 80 percent of the funding coming from individual donations, and another 8 percent from corporations. It is classified as a tax-exempt educational foundation, falling under Section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code.
Milton Friedman Prize
Every second year since 2002, the Cato Institute has awarded The Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty (named after British economist Milton Friedman) to an individual judged to have made a "significant contribution to advance human freedom". The recipients have been:
- 2002: British economist Peter Bauer
- 2004: Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto
- 2006: former Estonian President Mart Laar
- 2008: Venezuelan political activist Yon Goicoechea
- 2010: Iranian writer and journalist Akbar Ganji
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