Regarding the nature of the accusation, "The Cato Institute is an evil institution."
First let's say what the accusation is NOT about
Not about means
I am fascinated at the possibility that Texas oilman GW Bush and Clinton sidekick Al Gore may both agree that global warming is occurring and a threat to humans. I would love to see a debate between them on how to fight global warming.
Given an agreement that people are "harmed by something," decent Christians may choose or may be called by the Spirit to any of the responses below:
Christians ought to agree to disagree on these means, and debate the finer points of the morality or moral urgency of each. (Well, maybe not debate the last two.)
As I try to say again and again, my beef with Cato is not that I disagree with them on legislative proposals or taxation or the nature regulation.
My opinion of their theory of government ranges from disagreement to finding it refreshing at times.
- "Sorry, I just don't feel called to make this my ministry or be an activist on this issue, but Godspeed YOU."
- Personal persuasion
- Billboard ads
- Looking at Matthew 25 or the Works of Mercy to find ways to nurture the victims (visiting hospitals, etc).
- Tax plan A or tax plan B
- Regulation A or Regulation B
- Having government set up some kind of market trading system to make the cost of the "harm" more directly borne by the polluter,
- Sitting back with the knowledge that the laws of the market or the laws of nature will punish the heck out of the offender (currently my only response to the Taliban's genocide of women).
- The sacraments
- Good ol' apolitical evangelization and preaching the word (God will tug on their hearts as He chooses)
Not about scientific uncertainty
Scientists will always be arguing. When scientists agree that the earth revolves around the sun due to gravity, they start arguing about the nature of gravity itself. Scientists seldom prove anything, at best they can say, "This experiment did not disprove my hypothesis."
Cato's book Apocalypse Not had chapters on a host of environmental problems, including asbestos, radon, and electromagnetic fields. I've sweat over these three issues less than I have over Y2K. Even if EMFs from power lines were harming some people, I don't know what to do: it's not an issue of careless greed; being a Luddite seems to be the only way to "fight" this "problem." There may also be a good deal of scientific uncertainty behind these three problems. To be honest, I'm so bored by those three particular issues that I didn't read Cato's chapters on them carefully. I also cannot remember an article on those three topics in any enviro publication in the last year. I also was a bit proud at being a NON-activist on the subject of power line EMF's when I learned that one big study was faked!
Is it "evil" to be in the scientific minority? No! A handful of papers on secondhand smoke show no harm. A whopping majority show great harm. The accusation is not about getting the "wrong results" from one's research. (Cato, BTW, doesn't do 'research,' but critiques of other published works.)
- On the issue of the costs of smoking, they say that smoking "poses little danger to young adults or family members" and " no proven relationship between parental smoking and pediatric disease."
- They have said that it is "quite a mystery" how CFC's can make it to the stratosphere given that they are heavier than air!
What is deadly certain
- There are easily a dozen papers which show a >>2.0 increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome and asthma for smoking parents, independent of mother's education or father's income. Increases in nasty blood thingies (I read the papers but don't understand them entirely) are measured in people who had blood workups right before and after exposure to smoking. I've argued the issue at length with many well-informed smokers on the internet. They start off by saying, "You cannot prove it because the odds ratios are too low (<<2.0) and there are too many confounding factors." When I show them the papers, they say, "Oh, I don't believe the medical literature anyway." If there were a medical society conspiracy, it would have to include medical societies from 4 countries and involve outright brazen lying to paint such a convincing causal association (blood tests of nicotine in dead babies; smoking surveys at start of pregnancy vs. deaths one month after birth). I offer the example of my debate with smokers well-attuned to libertarian/ industry rhetoric as evidence that I doubt there's any stronger arguments that aren't easily disproven by just picking up a few papers. The cases for cardiac disease being caused by exposure to ETS is considerably higher and rock solid, compared to that for lung cancer.
- CFCs are measured in the stratosphere. On the days that ozone depletes in the stratosphere, they measure increases in chemical compounds which would be the products of reactions of CFC's with ozone: chlorine and fluorine. The ability of CFC's to slowly diffuse to the stratosphere makes sense if you think about them as a water-insoluble gas, unlike, HCl, the liquid that volcanos spew. If there were an evil conspiracy among scientists about CFCs, there would have to be dozens of scientists involved, with them agreeing to mention in passing measurement of CFC's in the stratosphere as part of the conspiracy even if they weren't writing directly on the topic. If you accept the handful of papers that Apocalypse Not footnoted as the only ones a "freedom lover" should trust, then ozone depletion is a major crisis! One last accusation: Lloyd Wright said he met another LP chemical engineer and the two of them agreed that "Cato was bad on ozone."
Why it's such a crime: not a simple oversight.
I think that weaker cases may be made for similar mischief on global warming and organochlorines, but certainly not on EMF's.
- Cato and other libertarians have repeatedly reported on the "fraud" of secondhand smoke causing harm. The lead author of their 1993 Regulation article later repented about taking money from the tobacco industry and the "dishonest role" he had played for them. At least two Phillip Morris memos suggest that PM was directing Cato to write against various tobacco medical issues.
- I read the papers in all the footnotes of Cato's book (on the interesting "crises"). The papers all strongly pointed to a crisis with culpability of CFC's. Typically, the paper would say, "ozone levels fluctuate naturally, but it's surely the case that there is depletion by CFC's." Cato would say "the depletion we are seeing is part of a natural fluctuation" and then footnote it with these papers!
And hence, evil...
Cato encourages the CFC smuggler and the parent who smokes in front of children. They tell lies. They do so for money and it's hard to understand how they do not know that they are advocating harming people. Of course, the banker, lawyer, or partisan college kid sitting in a libertarian audience and hearing "smoking is not associated with pediatric disease" just nods his head and reflects on how nicely his political views mesh with the science of the real world.
Is this "worse" than, say an EPA study that gets rejected in a court? Yes. Even when an EPA regulation on particulate air pollution is struck down in court, the fact remains that greedy use of gasoline causes everything from global warming to smog to sprawl to crushed bird eggs to accident deaths. (President Bush once said that conserving gasoline was essential to America's national and energy security.) Even when the lung cancer risk of passive smoking is struck down in court, the same court decision lets stand damning conclusions that passive smoking causes SIDS and asthma! I'll always err on the side of "restraint for your neighbor's sake" more so than "naw, go ahead and have fun."