John Samples

John Samples directs Cato’s Center for Representative Government, which studies campaign finance regulation, delegation of legislative authority, term limits, and the political culture of limited government and the civic virtues necessary for liberty. He is an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University. Samples is the author of The Struggle to Limit Government: A Modern Political History and The Fallacy of Campaign Finance Reform. Prior to joining Cato, Samples served eight years as director of Georgetown University Press, and before that, as vice president of the Twentieth Century Fund. He has published scholarly articles in Society, History of Political Thought, and Telos. Samples has also been featured in mainstream publications like USA Today, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times. He has appeared on NPR, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC. Samples received his Ph.D. in political science from Rutgers University.


James Madison’s Vision of Liberty

by John Samples on Mar 1, 2001

Samples explores James Madison’s life by examining his motivations in drafting and later defending the United States Constitution.


Falsifying Government

by John Samples on Feb 21, 2012

Samples discusses J.C. Lester’s conjecture that liberty is compatible with welfare.



by John Samples on Aug 15, 2008

Corruption in government is a widely discussed issue, as its impacts on government effectiveness impact democratic institutions and individual liberty.



by John Samples on Aug 15, 2008

Federalism is the form of government that diffuses political authority. It is favored to protect against consolidation of power in a central authority.


An Introduction to Rent Seeking

by John Samples on May 30, 2012

Samples explains how consumers are harmed by corporate rent-seeking with a look at New York City taxi licensing.


Do We Need the Constitution?

by John Samples on Nov 3, 2011

Samples discusses some of the failures of the constitution, wondering if it can truly be a government limiting document.

Building Tomorrow

Instagram is the New Fireside Chat

featuring Paul Matzko, Will Duffield, and John Samples on Jan 17, 2019

Some politicians seem authentic on social media & others completely miss the mark. Should political advertising on social media be regulated?

Free Thoughts

Happy (Belated) Birthday James Madison!

featuring John Samples, Gene Healy, and Michael B. Levy on Mar 22, 2019

James Madison would have turned 268 on March 16, 2019, so in honor of that, we explore his political life. 

Free Thoughts

Can Money Buy Elections?

featuring John Samples, Aaron Ross Powell, and Trevor Burrus on Oct 28, 2013

John Samples joins us on the show for a discussion on the relationship between money and political speech.

Free Thoughts

Trump’s Assault on America’s Institutions

featuring Aaron Ross Powell, Trevor Burrus, and John Samples on Jan 19, 2018

John Samples joins us to discuss how the Trump presidency is challenging America’s institutions.

Around the Web

Adam Smith: An Enlightened Life

featuring James R. Otteson, John Samples, and Nicholas Phillipson on Jan 12, 2011

Phillipson reconstructs Adam Smith’s intellectual ancestry and formation, of which he gives a radically new and convincing account.

Free Thoughts

What Influences Elections?

featuring John Samples, Trevor Burrus, and Aaron Ross Powell on Nov 17, 2014

John Samples joins us this week for a midterm election recap and a talk about factors—including campaign contributions—that influence elections.

Free Thoughts

Understanding Impeachment (with Gene Healy)

featuring Aaron Ross Powell, John Samples, and Gene Healy on Oct 26, 2018

Gene Healy joins us to discuss the concept of impeachment, from its’ origin to its’ impracticality in our polarized political climate. 

Around the Web

Ronald Reagan: Fate, Freedom, and the Making of History

featuring John Patrick Diggins, John Samples, Jonathan Clarke, & Steven Hayward on Feb 22, 2007

Following his departure from office, Ronald Reagan was marginalized thanks to liberal biases that dominate the teaching of American history.

Free Thoughts

John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, Part 1

featuring John Samples, Matthew Feeney, Aaron Ross Powell, & Trevor Burrus on Jul 29, 2016

This week Aaron Ross Powell, Trevor Burrus, John Samples, and Matthew Feeney discuss 19th century philosopher John Stuart Mill’s idea of “civil liberty.”