The new president of the Cato Institute wants to remake the think tank in Ayn Rand’s image.
But Paul Ryan shares a lot of the same sentiments, and he’s no objectivist. In his Q&A, Allison took every chance to get closer to Rand. Brook nudged him on a question that has sparked intra-objectivist feuds. Did he consider himself a libertarian? “I don't have the energy to fight a label,” said Allison, according to Zey. “I'm not a libertarian.”
It took more than a month for these quotes to circulate. Once they did, it took no time at all for agita to break out inside the think tank. On Aug. 30, Allison sent an e-mail to Cato staff acknowledging the controversy: “Internet chatter based on ‘tweets’ from the Q and A.” He could explain. “I was being ‘grilled’ at the event and will not guarantee that my answers were the best. Also, I was still learning about Cato. However, in the many sessions I have had with employees at Cato my answers have been totally straightforward.”
The Cato-Koch deal had effectively ended the conflict between the think tankers and the funders. Why rip that up over some tweets? “Now that I have a deeper understanding about Cato,” wrote Allison. “I believe almost all the name calling between libertarians and objectivists is irrational. I have come to appreciate that all objectivists are libertarians, but not all libertarians are objectivists.”
And that’s all Allison’s said about the San Diego panel. “My e-mail was intended as a private communication to the Cato staff,” he wrote when I reached him last week. “I do not see any benefit in discussing it further at this time.” The Ayn Rand Institute’s Brook is out of the country; the live-tweeters have kept their opus online but decided against saying more.
But what else should Allison, et al, say? He’s never tried to cover up his Objectivism. In 2001, after Peikoff published newspaper ads making the “end states” argument, he posted in a Randian message board about how it came together.
“I had a lot of help which I want to acknowledge,” wrote Peikoff. “John Allison was my primary inspiration and unfailing morale-booster; he suggested the ads in the first place, and then, with another donor, financed them.”
David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet at him @daveweigel.