Cato Institute Winter Liberty Seminar 2018
Post by Xizi Luo ’18
Libertarianism is a political theory that is described by most as “economically conservative and socially progressive”. At the Cato Institute’s Winter Liberty Seminar, I participated in a three-day crash course on libertarian theory and libertarian approaches to current policy issues. I heard experts from the Cato Institute promote how the pillars of “individual liberty, limited government, free markets, and peace” could improve the immigration system, deregulate the financial sector, reduce defense spending, and reform the criminal justice system.
I also learned about pathways to careers in research and policy. Academic research and policy-making interest me alike as I concentrate in Economics and Global and Regional Studies at Babson and am seeking to work in international development after graduate school. Through volunteerships and fieldwork conducted during my summer and winter breaks at Babson, I have tried my hand at humanitarian aid and journalism. Therefore, as a next step, I desired to understand how think tanks influence international development behind-the-scenes.
In Washington DC, I found exactly what I was looking for: an inside view of how the logic behind to public and foreign policy-setting is produced. I was uncertain of the role of think-tanks before attending the Cato Institute’s Winter Liberty Seminar. Now I understand that there is a market for debate about the practicality and effectiveness of proposed policies, as well as markets for the criticism of existing policies and for advocacy of policies that do not yet exist but should.
Yet I was hesitant about some propositions offered by the Cato Institute. In terms of Wall Street reform, I do not know if insider trading benefits all stakeholders, including the greater public, by fine-tuning stock prices to reflect more closely the value of a corporation (as the line of reasoning goes). As well, I cannot imagine living in an ideal libertarian state that has scaled back the government to such an extent that federal agencies for consumer protection, financial regulation, and intelligence have been eliminated. The libertarian argument is that many functions of the state can be provided by the private sector who is more efficient at service-delivery and can provide more options for consumers.
In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, deregulation and privatization have received bad names. While I was originally opposed to some libertarian principles, I became attracted to libertarianism when learning about the traps of foreign intervention and foreign aid. At the time that I applied for an internship to the Cato Institute, of which the applicant pool I was selected from to attend the Winter Liberty Seminar, the libertarian stances on market-based development and non-interventionist foreign relations made the most sense to me as they make sense to me today.
During the Cato Institute’s Winter Liberty Seminar, I was exposed to new ways of thinking about how things could work in a society. I believe that models based on the political foundation of the Western liberal democracy and the economic foundation of free markets can evolve to suits today’s global demands and challenges. There is still much to learn, and I thank the Babson College Undergraduate Professional Accelerator Fund for enabling me to continue my political and professional development.