In an interview with Ralph Benko at Forbes, incoming Cato president John Allison sounds like he wants to ditch economics and turn Cato into an east coast Church of Rand. He tells Benko:
One of the things that I really want to do is make this a moral fight instead of a fight around the technical aspects of economics. The libertarian vision is a moral vision and we own the moral high ground...First what is this about linking Hayek and Mises with conservatives? Hayek even wrote a damn paper, Why I Am Not a Conservative.
As good as Hayek and von Mises are, typically people who are interested in them already are conservative. Very few people read technical books and have their worldview changed. Rand’s work is a novel and about ethics and not economics. Rand was a defender of rational self-interest, properly understood.
As for Rand, she was an important advocate of freedom and individual responsibility, a high level cheerleader, if you will. Her philosophical leg kicks are still capable of attracting fans. But she was nowhere near the thinker that Mises, Rothbard and Hayek were.
Allison is probably correct that, for the masses, it is more enticing to read about Howard Roark blowing up apartment buildings, than it is to attempt to understand marginal utility, opportunity cost, the regression theorem, comparative advantage, methodological individualism, etc., but no movement is going to end up in the right place without it being built on the bedrock of the deep thinkers who understand the "technical aspects" of freedom.
There is nothing wrong with having institutions that are cheerleaders for freedom, provided they don't go way off the road and consider empire building a move toward freedom, but it is surprising that Cato may be heading in such a direction.