The Cato Institute's obsessive focus on government as the ultimate evil is certainly curious but, unfortunately, potentially destructive ("Red, White and Small," by Nina J. Easton, July 9). Granted, government does some things poorly, and Cato is justified in pointing that out. However, complete reliance on the private sector is as bad as totalitarian emphasis on the state alone.
Cato apparently forgets that corporations also can be tyrannical (witness the "robber barons" of the 19th Century or the environmentally indifferent stance of many modern businesses) or that governments can do good, as federal programs from rural electrification to the National Park Service demonstrate.
The proper balance is somewhere between the two, with the private sector's efficiency and innovation and the public sector's capacity to affect positive social change working together to better America.
Adam A. Sofen
After reading "Red, White and Small," I have concluded that we should privatize Congress and make think tanks like Ed Crane's Cato Institute our representative government.
His whole philosophy, and that of others who think as he does, reminds me of Charles Darwin's theory of the survival of the fittest, which left God to take care of the rest.
Of course, the outcome depends on how one views God.
Hyman H. Haves
If the Cato elitists took the time to study the supposed humor of P. J. O'Rourke, they might find that the most important part of what he should be saying isn't there. What he did say is: "We don't know what's good for mankind . . . . There is only one basic human right--the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." What he didn't say is: When you do as you damn well please, the consequences of your actions should not be borne by me.
Therein lies the problem. We live in a world that's getting smaller, more heavily populated, more interrelated and more depleted of resources every day. At the very time when better and more comprehensive long-range planning is desperately needed, the Cato-ites, along with those who want to return to a simple past that never was, are running blindly in the opposite direction.
S. J. Baer
Today, government is only the shadow of the greatest concentration of power in human history. The substance of this force is corporate power over politics, national and world economies, armies and the media. It's that same corporate power that finances and empowers the Cato Institute.
Nicholas V. Seidita
Real libertarians, like classical liberals, have a general opposition to concentrated power in any form--public, private, religious or otherwise--seeing it as inherently undemocratic and not liberal.
Shrinking the public form of concentrated power (the government), as championed by the libertarian decentralists, is a contribution not to liberty and democracy but to tyranny--corporate tyranny. Corporations are like pirates, and until the corporate system is replaced with a democratic structure, we cannot view shrinking government as anything other than a step away from liberty.
Easton could have expanded the paragraph on the support that the Cato Institute gets from the billionaire Koch family of Wichita, Kan., which made its money in oil and gas. According to a 1992 National Journal article, the Koches support five conservative think tanks in the nation's capital as well as six regional conservative groups across the country. Those include the Reason Foundation in Los Angeles, which has suggested that public libraries solve their financial problems by going private.
According to the National Journal, Citizens for a Sound Economy, supported by the Koch family, has an annual budget of more than $4.8 million and, with a staff of 45, is one of the largest "free enterprise" groups in Washington. The Cato Institute, the Journal said, led the Koch-supported centers between 1986 and 1990 with a budget of $6.5 million.
An institution like Cato may pose as a think tank, but its leadership has to have been heavily influenced by the agenda of its conservative financier.
Florence E. Fitzgerald
As I began to read Sheryl Stolberg's article about Elvira Herrera ("A World Without Welfare?" July 9), I expected to find an uplifting story that would renew my faith in our ability to transcend adversity and improve ourselves. I found myself commending Herrera's perseverance in waking up early each morning to take her boyfriend to work, exercise, read from a book of daily meditations and get her children ready for school--all before going to work herself. I consider that an excellent example of determination.
But I was extremely disheartened to learn that Herrera apparently leaves her 6- and 8-year-old daughters home alone while she drives her boyfriend to his job at the mobile home factory.
Stuart L. Jaffe