Randal O’Toole

Randal O’Toole (rot@ti.org) is a senior fellow with the Cato Institute and the founder of the Thoreau Institute, which seeks to find ways to protect the environment without big government.

Understanding Thoreau


To commemorate Henry David Thoreau’s 200th birthday on July 12, the New York Times last week featured an essay by historian Douglas Brinkley based on a complete misinterpretation of one of Thoreau’s most famous quotes: “In Wildness is the preservation of the world.” Brinkley equates “wildness” with “wilderness,” thereby connecting Thoreau with today’s environmental movement. While that’s a mistake I […]

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Does D.C. Need Metro Rail?


Yesterday’s shutdown of the Washington Metro rail system was supposed to result in horrible congestion. In fact, as reported in the Washington Post, congestion was “normal,” with a little heavier traffic than usual in some places and lighter in others. A few people hadn’t gotten the word, but most made other plans. Some people took the bus, […]

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Tug-of-War Over Federal Lands Leads to Standoff


Lost in all the hoopla over “y’all queda” and “VanillaISIS” is any basic history of how public rangelands in the West — and in eastern Oregon in particular — got to this point. I’ve seen no mention in the press of two laws that are probably more responsible than anything else for the alienation and […]

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More Gridlocked Than Ever


Yesterday, the Senate passed a six-year transportation bill that increases spending on highways and transit but only provides three years of funding for that increase. As theWashington Post commented, “only by Washington’s low standards could anyone confuse the Senate’s plan with ‘good government.’” Meanwhile, House majority leader Kevin McCarthy says the House will ignore the Senate bill in favor of […]

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Paying the Planning Tax


Easy credit fanned the flames of the recent housing bubble, but the bubble was first inflated by anti-sprawl plans that created artificial housing shortages in many American markets. If planning laws hadn’t boosted median housing prices to several times median family incomes, few homebuyers would have had to resort to sub-prime mortgages. As I write […]

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San Jose’s Public Planning Debacle


Through the Envision San Jose 2040 community workshop, the city of San Jose is asking residents to present plans for the next three decades. A new vision is certainly needed, as the current one has stifled growth, produced unaffordable housing, worsened traffic congestion, and created a woefully inequitable community. In 1970, the San Jose urban […]

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Infrastructure Gridlock


In the wake of the Minneapolis bridge disaster, transportation journalists are searching for local bridges in danger of collapse. This is already stimulating proposals for huge tax increases for new infrastructure. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that the U.S. has a $1.5 trillion backlog of infrastructure projects. But this number should be taken […]

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Big Government, Big Fire


The Angora Fire, which burned nearly 200 homes in South Lake Tahoe, can teach important lessons about wildland fire. If the Forest Service has its way, however, they will be the wrong lessons. The official Forest Service response to the fire followed a predictable pattern. Forest officials claim that a century of mismanagement (by their […]

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