Leader Spotlight

harperJim Harper (Young Leader 2011)

Director of Information Policy Studies, Cato Institute

What do you like most about Switzerland?
The scenic beauty, obviously, but also the temper and style of the people: hard-working and successful, but also friendly and open.

What do you like most about the USA? 
The U.S. has always held out the promise of being the land of opportunity for all. I like that, and I want it to be true.

What defines your leadership style?
An observer once said that it looks like I walk hand-in-hand with my colleagues until they try to deviate from the course I've set. Then they find out that I'm leading them.

Who inspires you? 
Johnny Cash - He was a rebel and trailblazer who came to own and atone for his many imperfections.

What is your greatest achievement?
I always discount what I've done in the past because the real achievements lie ahead.

Do you have any weaknesses? 
I have plenty of weaknesses, and I learn about new ones all the time. The important thing is to learn from mistakes. Luckily, I'm always learning.

Where do you live?
Washington, DC

What is your favorite place in the world?
Up the road near the house where I grew up in California. At the top, you can see the Pacific Ocean.

What is the best book you ever read?
It's a tie between Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, by James C. Scott, and Bureaucracy and Public Economics, by William Niskanen. Life in the modern world is mediated by organizations, public and private. They do wonders, of course, but they can also produce enormous amounts of suffering and death. It's important to understand organizations, so we can counter their destructive potential.

What is your goal in life? 
To continue striving for both professional and personal success, leaving my country, my friends, and the world at least a little bit better off than they would have been without me.



About Jim Harper

As Director of Information Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, Jim Harper works to adapt law and policy to the unique problems of the information age, in areas such as privacy, telecommunications, intellectual property, and security. Harper was a founding member of the Department of Homeland Security’s Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee and he recently co-edited the book Terrorizing Ourselves: How U.S. Counterterrorism Policy Is Failing and How to Fix It. Mr. Harper has been cited and quoted by numerous print, Internet, and television outlets, and his scholarly articles have appeared in the Administrative Law Review, the Minnesota Law Review, and the Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly. Harper wrote the book Identity Crisis: How Identification Is Overused and Misunderstood. He also maintains the online federal spending resource WashingtonWatch.com. He holds a J.D. from UC Hastings College of Law.

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