A DC Summer at the Cato Institute

Blake Paterson at the Cato Institute.

The Harvard community is no stranger to a political discussion. As a rising sophomore from Houston, Texas, I was sure that I wanted to spend my summer in the city that’s at the center of American politics. Through the generous support of the Harvard Institute of Politics and their Director’s Internship stipend program, I was able to spend ten weeks in Washington D.C. working in and learning more about public policy research at the Cato Institute.

Cato the Younger, a politician and statesman in the late Roman Republic, was a fierce dissenter to the corruption and tyranny espoused by rule of Julius Caesar. In the early 18th Century John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon adopted this honorable pseudonym in writing Cato’s Letters, a series of essays envisioning a society free from excessive government. And in 1977 a libertarian think-tank dedicated to free markets, limited government, individual liberty, and peace adopted this name. I had the great fortune of working at this think-tank, the Cato Institute, this summer.

The Cato Institute facilitates a wonderful intern program that encompasses work and education. Most of my time was spent as a research intern for Dr. Jeff Miron, Director of Cato’s Economic Policy and Director of Undergraduate Economics at Harvard. Throughout the summer I worked on a variety of projects for Dr. Miron, including research on environmental regulations and marijuana legalization, but most of my work was on Social Security budget research. This internship was not about brewing coffee and making copies but real meaningful work.

The other portion of the internship was educational. We had weekly seminars directly from Cato’s top scholars and public policy experts on topics like immigration reform, foreign policy, and immigration, as well as a whole set of lectures on classical liberal political philosophy. Each seminar often revealed a new nuanced aspect of libertarian public policy that I had not considered before.

Living in Washington D.C. was an equally interesting experience. There are infinite amounts of “free” things to do with all of the Smithsonian Museums and Capitol monuments. Courtesy of my roommate, I got a tour of the East Wing of the White House. Seeing the Capital Fourth Parade along with the Fireworks on the Mall was definitely a highlight. This was my first time experiencing Washington D.C., and I’m sure it won’t be the last!


Blake Paterson '17 is a bassonist in the River Charles Ensemble.