July 2006 – Prague, Czech Republic
Dan Stastny (Vice Dean of the University of Economics – Prague), Josef Sima (Economics Department Head) and Josef’s wife Tereza discuss conference proceedings
- The Rise of Capitalism in the Czech Republic
- Promoting An Austrian-School Version of Law & Economics
- The Politics and Economics of Radical Reforms: The Case of Slovakia
- West Against The West: In Search of the Land of the Free
- Liberty and Community – Voices from Afar
- The True Nature of Politics and The Story of the “Littlest Dissident”
- The Rise of Classical Liberalism In France
- Markets and Morals
- Libertarian Logic
- Liberty In Costa Rica
- Freedom In the 21st Century: Theory and Practice
- How To Find Freedom In An Unfree Europe
- Enterprise and Social Welfare
- Oil Price Fever and the Future of Energy Production
- International Thinktank Panel
- Africa Panel
- The Liberty English Camp Project
It’s been 25 years since we held the first ISIL world conference in Zürich back in 1982. At that time the world was in the icy grip of the cold war; and the Iron Curtain, which isolated millions in socialist slavery, looked as though it would last forever.
But times changed – very rapidly as it turned out. The Berlin Wall crumbled, the Soviet empire collapsed – and as we have observed, many of the people in the former Soviet states (having experienced decades of socialism on their backs) have rushed to adopt varying degrees of capitalism. Many have progressed at astonishing rates.
Gone are the days when we could do little more than smuggle books behind the Iron Curtain via members traveling into those countries (conveniently leaving important titles behind – to be laboriously reproduced via Samizdat).
When the wall fell, many new opportunities arose. We were finally able to hold actual conferences and meetings and launch publishing projects in places that were once hopelessly off limits – in the heart of the “evil empire” – Slovakia, Estonia, Lithuania, even Russia. And many others.
In the days following the collapse of the Soviet empire, we moved quickly to provide support for those heroic souls engaged in rebuilding and creating free societies from the ashes of repressive socialist regimes.
Among other things, we helped build free-market libraries in Czechoslovakia in both Bratislava (at the Slovak prime minister’s office) and in Prague (at the Liberalni Institute), both before the split in 1992.
As to Prague itself, the locale for this year’s ISIL conference, we confess, we love the place. It is one of the world’s most romantic, beautiful and historic cities. We will jump at any excuse to visit. It is not only beautiful, with old buildings dating back to the 12th century, but it is an historical center for the arts. We visited the opera house where Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni premiered in the 18th century. We also visited a bar that was a favorite haunt of Kafka and Einstein – a place in the town square where, we were told, the practice of “defenestration” was practiced. Defenistration, for those unacquainted with the term, was the practice of throwing corrupt politicians (but I repeat myself) out of 3rd story windows onto the hard, cold cobblestones below. Several of our group expressed serious reservations about the practice: “Is three stories enough” they asked? Funny, the same thought occurred to me too. Libertarians are so predictable.
We had visited Prague in 1992 (just prior to the ISIL world conference in Poprad, Eastern Slovakia), and later in 1998, and 2003. The progress had already been amazing in 1992, and it has continued to advance over the years. Many buildings that were dingy gray and rundown in 1992 have since been restored to an elegance that reminded one of Paris. There are sidewalk cafes, bars, good restaurants and well-stocked shops everywhere – and the Czech beer is incomparable. The economy is growing well, and the atmosphere is upbeat. Crowds of stylish locals are enjoying the cultural attractions and nightlife.
So we were delighted to be able to hold the 2006 ISIL conference in Prague – an event most ably hosted by our friends Josef Sima and Jozef Zdechovanof the Liberalni Institute – the Czech Republic’s leading libertarian thinktank.
We remember meeting a very young Josef Sima at the ISIL world conference in former East Berlin in 1998. Following that conference we accepted an invitation from him to visit the Liberalni Institute headquarters in Prague. We were immediately impressed by their free-market library (and recognized some of the books we had provided) – and by the large portrait of F.A. Hayek that greeted us as we entered their offices.
Little could we have imagined that year while bar-hopping and partying with Josef Sima and Dan Stastny (then a researcher at the Liberalni Institute) that the LI president and founder Jiri Schwartzwould in 2004 become Dean of the Prague University of Economics – with Dan becoming Vice-Dean and Josef head of the Economics Department. All are devotees of the Austrian school of economics and focus (of course) on the works of Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek and the other prominent Austrians.
Josef has in addition become a prolific translator of libertarian books into Czech. He showed us an impressive rack of books in a ground-floor window of the bank building where Liberalni Institut is headquartered. It included Josef’s translations of Ken Schoolland’s The Adventures of Jonathan Gullible, Mises’ Human Action, Rothbard’s Man, Economy and State, and other Liberalni translations of Bastiat, Friedman, Becker and other free-market notables.
At this year’s ISIL conference, we sponsored a record 80 students and young activists from across the former Soviet bloc, with a smattering from Western Europe – plus our first Egyptian, three from Turkey, and two from Mongolia – most of whom attended the full conference on ISIL scholarships.
Included in the attendance were 40 of Prof. Simas’ students from the Prague University of Economics. These students went on to the LI’s annual Austrian Economics seminar which followed the ISIL conference.
Participants this year also included large contingents from Belarus and Poland, and many attendees came fresh from the Language of Liberty English camp in Trakai, Lithuania.
Such a diverse collection of bright and highly-motivated young people resulted in exuberant high spirits and considerable comparing of notes and general networking.
Jozef Zdechovan jokes with ISIL Scholarship Chairman Richard Venable.
And a special thanks to Josef Sima’s able assistant Jozef Zdechovan who handled so many organizational details of the ISIL conference – as did many of Josef’s students, and the lovely ladies – Michaela Ciner and Edita Vitkova – of Czech Startours.
Scholarship Chairman Richard Venable also deserves a vote of thanks for having to deal with so many intractable bureaucrats in various embassies around the world (re working out visa details for scholarship applicants). There must be some kind of medal for this kind of suffering and pain and general heroism. Thanks Richard.
As usual with ISIL conferences, we offer an extra-cost post-conference tour, so that those interested in seeing more of the host country can do so while continuing to deepen friendships with fellow attendees.
This was a particularly interesting tour as Edita Vitkova, our tour guide from Czech Startours provided fascinating insight into the story of the Czech emergence from communist rule. She told personal stories about living under socialism and of taking part in the “Velvet Revolution”. Many people remarked that she should have been a speaker at the conference.
Some other spots of special interest were Karlovy Vary with its famous spas and the concert hall where Dvorak’s New World Symphony premiered; Konopiste, the castle of the Arch Duke Ferdinand with its art collections and thousands of game trophy heads; the ancient town of Kutná Hora – and a delightful Prague river cruise and dinner.
IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC
Tomas Jezek, the leadoff speaker, was described by Josef Sima as one of the heroes of the liberalization of Czechoslovakia. During the latter days of the socialist period – even before the Soviets departed – Tomas Jezek had already translated the works of Friedrich Hayek, including his classic Road to Serfdom, the 3 volumes of Law Legislation and Liberty, and other relevant papers including “The Use of Knowledge in Society”. This laid important intellectual groundwork for what was to follow, as these dissident works were read by and influenced the people who were to form the first post-communist government. Jezek participated in that new government as Minister of Privatization. (He now teaches the economics of F.A. Hayek at the University of Economics in Prague).
Prof. Jezek explained that from the beginning of the communist revolution in the 1950s, the inefficiencies of socialism were painfully evident. He revealed that there had been discussions among economists at that time as to whether socialism could be made to work better – or if it could be reformed in any way. But with the discovery of the Austrian School and particularly Ludwig von Mises’ magnum opus Human Action, serious doubt was cast on the possibility of ever reforming such an impossible system. Of particular and core interest was Mises’ chapter on “The impossibility of economic calculation under socialism”. This played a dramatic role in the abandonment of socialist policies.
Privatization of state enterprises was a very successful strategy and was one of the major pillars of the Czech transformation – as were monetary reforms, removal of price controls, and establishing convertibility of the crown.
In 1989, 100% of all assets in Czechoslovakia were state-owned. Unlike Poland and Hungary where some private-sector activity had been tolerated, none were permitted in Czechoslovakia. Under total socialization, no savings as such existed. So there were fundamental problems with trying a conventional privatization without there being any capital or savings with which to purchase state enterprises.
They decided that the majority of state assets had to be distributed free of charge to all citizens, and consequently the voucher-privatization technique was introduced. Through this process, public-owned companies were transferred into joint-stock companies, and vouchers could be redeemed for shares. The prices of shares at that time were not known (no calculation possible under socialism, eh?) and had to be discovered in time by market performance.
Also, the privatization process was complicated somewhat by the fact that the process was actually a combination of privatization – and restitution.
There had been some debate about how nationalized assets might be returned to the original victims, and eventually it was decided to set the date of 25th February 1948 for the effective date (the day of the communist putsch) after which stolen property would be returned to the original owners or their descendants.
After 1990, some enterprises – such as restaurants and hotels and some service industries – were still state-owned, a fact that slowed the recovery. These were eventually denationalized through a process of public auctions (each district in the country had its own privatization committee which held weekend auctions).
There weregrowth pains in the mid-nineties with corruption and a series of scandals in which new corporate managers absconded with funds – but eventually problems were ironed out, and last year the Prague stock exchange was one of the best-performing in the world.
For an MP3 audio version of Professor Jezek’s speech click here
Josef Sima, Editorial Director of Prague’s Liberalni Institute (host for the ISIL conference) spoke on the importance of property rights and why they are a vital element in the study of economics.
He stated that what is lacking in today’s chapter of free-market scholarship is the link between property and economics. He said that in the 20th century, law and economics had become fragmented and isolated with a general lack of integration.
He quoted Dr. Murray Rothbard in his economic treatise Man Economy and State: “Economics has become tellingly fragmented, disassociated to such a degree that there hardly is an economics anymore. Instead we find myriad bits of theses and uncoordinated analysis.”
Harold Berman, a famous legal theorist and historian, expressed the same point in his monumental book, Law and Revolution. He said, “Law in the 20th century – both in theory and practice has been treated less and less like a coherent whole – a body of corpus juris and more and more like a hodge-podge – a fragmented mass of ad-hoc decisions and conflicting rules united only by common techniques.”
20th century establishment economists like Paul Samuelson promoted the idea that economics must be property-less rather than property-based.
Dr. Sima gave many examples of the abandonment of property rights among the current statist apologists in the profession.
He countered the establishment position as follows: “The Austrian approach towards law and economics must therefore be considered a powerful alternative to the prevailing mainstream views. Its emphasis on the need to base social theory on actual human choice, as opposed to someone’s guess as to possible future choices, is a useful source of guidelines for judges. Instead of looking forward and trying to calculate an optimal outcome, the Austrian approach urges judges to look backward and to find a resolution to conflict in contractual relations between the parties.”
He went on to say that the existence and respect for property is a prerequisite for peace and social life. The concept of property enables the union of law and economics – and the respect for property is a key indicator of the quality of the social system that people live in. If property is respected, there can be no law allowing the confiscation of any property of a peaceful man.
“Then we can justly speak about property-based social order – or capitalism. The link between law and economics cannot be ignored. The more we understand it, the better our lives will be, and the more peace and prosperity can be achieved.”
For an MP3 audio version of Professor Sima’s speech click here
OF RADICAL REFORMS:
THE CASE OF SLOVAKIA
Radovan Durana, co-founder of the recently-formed Institute of Economics and Social Studies, a leading Slovak thinktank located in Bratislava, told of the work being done by this new organization and of the publicity generated in the Slovak news establishment regarding their activities in monitoring the public sector, evaluating government activities, and providing critiques of government interventionism. He then provided some historical information on the evolution of Slovakia since the dark days of communist rule.
After the split in 1993, the new regime held power for the next five years – but the denizens had no idea of how to proceed. The privatizations were badly-done, were accompanied with high levels of corruption, heavy deficit financing, and exhibited a general lack of stability. Not surprisingly, the country was not able to attract foreign investors. Reforms were badly-needed in public finance, pension reform, social systems, and healthcare.
The government which took power following the 1998 elections instituted some reforms: more transparency, more rigid control of budgets and a 19% flat tax (for which Slovakia is probably best known). Before tax reforms, Slovakia had a progressive income tax ranging from 10 to 38% with a corporate tax of 25%.
The current 19% is the highest rate among all the countries that have implemented such a tax. And they raised corporate taxes by 3%. There are many other taxes – in addition to the flat income tax (indirect taxes represent almost 80% of tax revenues in Slovakia).
Some positive signs, he noted, were the abolition of dividend taxes and radical pension and healthcare reforms.
People in Slovakia are given a choice of investment strategies for retirement. Like Chile’s system, payments are mandatory, so it is not perfect from a libertarian standpoint. 64% of the people decided to invest. As in Chile, the state program runs parallel to the private one. On the down side, Radovan told us that the cost of the state-run social security program is running enormous deficits which grow yearly – and that in the last year the number of other socialist welfare-state programs increased from 48 to 70.
Healthcare in Slovakia features private insurance companies in competition with the state system. Again, participation is mandatory. Like pension reforms, the state-run system is running deep in the red. Moreover, a law recently passed mandates that if a private company has financial difficulties, its competitors must cover costs (!?) Radovan concluded that the system is still socialist (run by the Socialist Party). They have a long ways to go.
He joked that Slovakia has been described as a “Tiger” in the New Europe, but noted that it doesn’t take much to look like a Tiger in the EU these days.
For an MP3 audio version of Radovan Durana’s speech click here
THE LAND OF THE FREE
Jaroslav Romanchuk is vice-president of the opposition United Civil Party of Belarus, Deputy Editor in chief of the weekly Belorusskaya Gazeta, and president of the Mises Center in Minsk. He was the winner of the Bruce Evoy Memorial Award which was presented to him at the ISIL world conference in Vilnius, Lithuania in 2003 for his tireless work to promote liberty under difficult circumstances.
Jaroslav spoke on the ideological “west” vs. the geographical “west” and how they are perceived by emerging countries.
He lamented the fact that “the ideological west” is a dying phenomenon, and pointed out that it is a bad mistake for post-socialist countries to blindly cut and paste – copying anti-western policies and institutions from the geographical west – which in many cases has lost sight of its roots.
With Europe adopting the welfare-state model, Jaroslav asked: “Has the west won?”
He noted that France, for instance, is seen as part of the “west”, but that it is badly off track. Only 36% of people in France believe free markets are the best way to generate wealth (compared to 71% in America, 66% in the UK and 65% in Germany). He pointed out that their fear of competition, aggressive anti-globalism, and dominance of collectivist policies is a formula for disaster.
His advice to post-socialist/communist countries is that poor countries need consistent capitalism and free labor markets – and that they cannot afford big, top-heavy regulatory state institutions and “natural” monopolies, such as those in health care, social security and education. He emphasized that these should be opened up to competitive market forces. He pointed out that welfare-state institutions are in an advanced state of collapse even in the rich western countries. He also warned that it is damaging to hide from globalization.
Jaroslav closed by urging everyone to get behind ISIL in a worldwide crusade to rediscover the traditional western values of free markets, political rights, and civil liberties as exemplified by movement luminaries like Ayn Rand and Ludwig von Mises.
— For an MP3 audio version of Jaroslav Romanchuk’s speech click here
Professor Butler Shaffer teaches courses in Legal Reasoning and Property at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles. He is author of Calculated Chaos: Institutional Threats To Peace And Human Survival and In Restraint of Trade: The Business Campaign against Competition – 1918-1938. He has a continuing e-book at LewRockwell.com: The Wizards of Ozymandias: Reflections on the Decline and Fall.
Professor Shaffer began: “In case anyone here has not noticed, modern society is collapsing. Traditional, vertically-structured social systems are eroding, their places being taken by horizontal networks of autonomous individuals and associations. The pyramid – with its top-down, command-and-control systems of centralized authority – has been the dominant social organization model in Western society since at least the time of Plato.
What might have begun as a flexible, organizational tool allowing individuals to cooperate for the production of life-sustaining values, has come to be regarded as an end in itself – producing a rigidity that interferes with change and, paradoxically, generates disorder that can lead to the entropic death not only of individual systems, but entire civilizations.
A creative, vibrant civilization is dynamic, not stable; adaptive to change and not burdened by equilibrium. Individual liberty abounds in such a society, as men and women advance new ideas, new technologies, and new practices in pursuit of their varied self-interests.
There has been a drastic failure of expectations that the state is able to generate social and economic order. 20th-century state-conducted wars and genocides killed some 200 million people; state systems of economic planning have produced starvation, impoverishment, and death; shortages of goods and services; unemployment; inflation; and depressions. The promises of individual liberty to be protected by the state have been negated by expanded police states, concentration camps and gulags, torture, censorship, surveillance of the lives of people, and widespread forms of police brutality. The expectation that the state would protect private property has wilted in the face of the burden of taxation, government regulation of land usage, and the powers of eminent domain. There is a growing awareness that “the system” simply doesn’t work as most people expect it to work.
Faith in pyramidally-structured, vertically-imposed societal order is in the process of being demolished by a more-sophisticated understanding of the dynamics of complexity. Technology has generated its own science in the study of “chaos”. A primary lesson in this emerging field of inquiry is that complex systems are too varied in terms of their structure and origins to be capable of our generating predictable outcomes.
The study of chaos and complexity is helping us understand why vertically-structured systems tend to be so dysfunctional, while horizontally-networked systems are more effective.
There are powerful dynamics within systems that confirm the orderly nature of chaos. In contrast with the presumed simple structuring of nature inherent in the traditional, mechanistic model of the universe, the study of chaos reveals the integrated complexity of nature. Such complexity spontaneously generates order through conditions of non-equilibrium and instability that permit systems to renew themselves.
Extending this insight into the social realm, there is an increased awareness of the interconnected nature of both “freedom” and “order” in our lives. Institutional efforts – particularly through the coercive powers of the state (to create structured equilibrium conditions) necessarily restrain the freedom that generates the creative, negentropic processes needed for the health of any system.
Just how desperate the state is to increase its powers over a rapidly-decentralizing society was reflected in the enactment of the Patriot Act in America. Members of Congress – the representatives of the institutional apparatus – did not even bother reading the draconian details of this measure. In fact, the draft of this bill had not even been completed at the time Congress voted for it! It was sufficient that the state masters wanted such enhanced powers over people. The political system has become like a chicken that has just had its head chopped off: it continues to flail about in a noisy display, leaving blood in its trail and making a mess of everything with which it comes into contact. While its wild, flapping around in energized reaction may give the appearance of liveliness, its fate has already been determined.
VOICES FROM AFAR
Christian Michelis a director of both ISIL and the Libertarian Alliance-UK/Libertarian International. He was a member of the inner circle of classical liberals in Paris, and now resides in London after living many years in Switzerland. He combines a successful business background with a strong intellectual bent and has always produced highly-interesting and fascinatingly original talks at ISIL events.
This year’s talk on “Liberty and Community” began with what for most libertarians would be a reverse opinion about the hopes of peace through reason. He pointed out that there are many different legitimate viewpoints on many issues. Man does not live by pure reason, but rather by perceptions that are based on past experiences, knowledge and prejudices. Indeed, man could not function without these reference points, which combined make up “culture.” Living in a cultural community does not restrict your freedom in general, but it can affect your range of feasible options.
The discussion moved on to empire vs. republic. Empires are not always enemies of freedom. Christian pointed out the history of the Habsburg Empire, a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic empire that had a large portion of self-rule by each group. In fact, members of the various groups held high positions in the imperial ministries in Vienna. This was an old tradition in Europe dating back to the Greeks and Romans.
And it also occurred in the Ottoman Empire, the greatest Muslim power ever. The sultans allowed a polycentric legal system, whereby foreigners and religious minorities handled their own justice and were even exempt from Ottoman taxes, with the sultan acting as a sort of supreme court if there were intractable conflicts between members of different groups. European members of the empire ran most of the government. The Ottoman Empire was far from a libertarian paradise, but it showed that certain libertarian systems can work in practice.
The dismantling of these two empires by the Allied politicians following World War I led to the creation of many parochial, nationalistic republics. Successful republics actually require ethnic homogeneity, otherwise there will be constant political conflict over control of the state apparatus and distribution of wealth and privileges. Democracy, therefore is not a solution. This is a matter of collective self-preservation for the dominant group. Others have to either accept assimilation, second-class citizenship, or secede.
But “empire” and its features of diversity, heterogeneity, and complexity is making a comeback – as “globalization”. Empire is a body of rules and procedures that undergoes constant contradictions and adjustments – essentially “capitalism”. Sovereignty is moving from the nation-state to multi-national organizations like the WTO, IMF, and corporations, whose personnel come from around the world. But there is no center of power. The United States government does not rule this new globalizing empire.
Along with the “Empire” of commercial and technological unification of the globe, we have a global “Multitude”. It means an assemblage of practices, of forms of productions, of relationships and networks that are not integrated into a hierarchy or ordered unit. Multitude consists of increasingly-interconnected cultures and peoples, but importantly, they are not united in any great purpose or set of values. Multitudes do not form allegiances, political affiliations, or lasting moral commitments. A democratic process cannot turn a Multitude into a people or community.
The modern left-liberal Western society is a good example of the failure of Multitude. Standardized welfare-state programs have done poorly in the provision of services, but even worse, they have eroded virtue. Without virtue, nothing prevents anti-social behavior by individuals. Societies require moral foundations to minimize the role of the state. The decline of virtue in the West is going to be very hard to reverse.
Christian then moved to the topic of “Community”. “Virtues are not taught in books, they are exemplified. Young people learn them from role models”. Studies of criminals show that peer pressure is the key factor in choosing social or anti-social behavior. Crime rates are lowest where the sense of community is strongest.
But communities are not always geographical. The strongest ones are “communities of memory”, which can encompass many millions of people and span continents (such as religions). People draw strength from a common past – whether real or imagined. In a globalized world, countries have become narratives.
Communities have strong emotional ties among their members, and their strength lies in the ability to mobilize for the common good, as in self-defense. “Empire”, such as the Austro-Hungarian empire of the Habsburgs, works well enough in peacetime, but lacks the same level of devotion, and are thus fatally weakened in a crisis such as war.
Due to their commonalities, members of a community are able to operate via a general consensus. Dissidents can leave and form their own communities. Communities are thus far-better positioned than nation-states to provide effective education, health care, policing and justice.
Fully-independent communities that operated on brutal, anti-freedom principles would likely shrivel. Independent Muslim communities in France might adopt radical Shariah law with its harsh punishments for crimes. But just as happened when imagined socialism met the shock of actually-implemented socialism, it is likely that many members of a Shariah community would come to reject the bloody practice of Shariah law.
Libertarianism could be enhanced by competition between communities, and freedom of movement for dissidents. Libertarian virtues of openness, scientific enquiry and individual responsibility would make for attractive communities.
The proper role of the globalizing Empire will be to resolve disputes between individuals and communities, and between communities. Nation-states de-legitimized themselves when they violated property rights in favor of one group or goal over others. Democracy as the means of choosing leadership of the Empire would ensure conflict. Multi-national institutions actually work because they focus on single issues and are shielded from democracy.
Empire will have to operate by those core principles that all decent humans share, recognizing individual property rights. He said, “Empire will have to start from the convictions, prejudices and irrational beliefs of various communities, and work to achieve the golden rule of civilized life – to agree to disagree”.
— For an MP3 audio version of Christian’s speech click here
— For the full text of Christian’s speech click here
Jim Peronis the executive director of the Institute for Liberal Values (New Zealand).
Jim began his speech by noting that most people instinctively dislike politics and place it very low in their hierarchies of values. And probably with good reason – what with the backroom deals, low ethics, big promises and poor delivery, lies, lies, lies – and to cover them up, usually more lies. And the quality of people attracted to such ventures is not very high. There seems to be a direct inverse relationship between electability and decency.
Jim stated that the things we really value in life depend upon the limitation of power and the recognition and advancement of liberty.
“We are after a world where politics is reduced to the inconsequential so that we can spend time pursuing higher values” he said.
On the subject of understanding the importance of liberty, Jim told the story of Walter Polovchuk (the “Littlest Dissident”).
Little Walter at the age of 11 (during a visit to the USA with his parents) refused to return to Soviet Russia and at 12 met with Russian dissidents in the US. With their help a lawyer was hired to challenge both the US Immigration and the Soviet bureaucracies – both of whom wanted him returned to Soviet Russia, (for bureaucratic and political reasons).
Fortunately for Walter, his lawyers were able to stretch the battle out until he turned 18, at which point he applied for and received political asylum.
He just wanted to live free. It was that simple and that profound.
When Walter finally received his American citizenship, he made this statement: “I was 12½ years old when I made the most important decision of my life. I told my parents I wouldn’t go back to the Soviet Union. To those people who thought I did not know what I was doing, and should just do what my parents said, I want to set the record straight. I knew what I was doing. After living under communism for 12 years, and only six months in a free country, the difference was pretty obvious. To the brave men and women who came before me who wanted their freedom and who fought for it, I want to say ‘thank you’. I only hope I have made it easier for the people young and old who come after me. Finally, I want you to know that I am very very glad to be free. I know a lot of people take their freedom for granted but I don’t – and I never will.”
In 1990, Walter’s battles came to mind again as world events spiraled beyond comprehension. All across Eastern Europe people were learning a lesson: no government, not even the most tyrannical, can rule the people without their consent. When the people refuse to consent, the government will lose the battle.
Jim then delivered an extremely moving, emotionally-charged narrative of the great struggles for liberty that brought down communist rule from Poland to Czechoslovakia to East Germany. In each case, the same things were happening. The streets were filled with hundreds of thousands of people all saying “no more”.
Jim recalled the events that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and recounted many moving stories of those historic days – including his presenting a piece of the Berlin Wall to Walter Polovchuk.
In a more serious note, Jim, in his concluding remarks, noted that if the liberty movement is to survive, it needs to attract more young blood. He pointed to the fact that many pioneers of the modern libertarian movement have either burned out or died.
He announced a new project “The Free Student Network” www.freestudents.blogspot.com to create an international network of libertarian-thinking students. He is currently developing an introductory-level on-line course in free-market economics. The course can be taken free of charge, and is planned for multiple languages. We have seen a preliminary edition of the course and can attest to its excellence. The courses will be at: www.theknowledgecafe.org
For an MP3 audio version of Jim Peron’s speech click here
Ludovic Lassauce(France), Secretary General and founding member of the newly-formed Alternative Libéral political party, told of his work to build a classical-liberal, libertarian-leaning political party in France.
In 2002, Lassauce had joined a new and rapidly-growing French thinktank called Liberté Cherie (“Beloved Freedom” in English). They became famous for breaking union strikes in 2003. Sabine Herold had made headlines at the time as a fiery young spokeswoman – demonstrating against unbridled union power and the strikes in public-sector services that had repeatedly paralyzed the country.
Earlier this year, both Sabine Herold and Ludovic left Liberté Cherie to join in forming the new party in an attempt to provide an alternative to the existing establishment parties. (Ludovic was quick to explain that there is no split with Liberté Cherie and that they are both still members, but feel that political action is needed – in addition to the intellectual/educational approach).
He alluded to the recent uprisings and violence in France.
“When you look at the events that occurred in a French suburb last year, what you saw were not simple acts of criminality. They had no other way except violence to express themselves. It was the result of years of socialist policies from both the right and left that froze certain classes out of the labor market and doled out welfare in a futile attempt to buy social peace. It has resulted in huge inequalities in France.”
He said, “In the French Revolution (before it was subverted by the violence of Robespierre) we wanted to end privilege and absolute rule. But after more than 200 years our work is not finished.”
Why a party? The UNP party, which at one time included a classical-liberal element in its ranks, has abandoned those principles. Alain Madelin(a former Finance Minister – and banquet speaker at the ISIL 2001 conference in Dax, France) ran for president in the last national elections garnering 4% of the vote, but he has since left the UNP and politics.
Ludovic explained that people are very disillusioned with the major parties like the UNP, and that 40% of the eligible voters are not even voting anymore – among them many young people.
He enumerated some platform positions of the Alternative Libéral party which included:
- Minimal service requirements in the public sector
- A flat tax
- Proportional representation
- Changes in employment laws
- A Thatcher-styled privatization of public-housing units.
As to European relations he stated he was in favor of a federal Europe – with responsibilities. The advantages, he listed were:
- Freedom of movement
- The possibility to appeal to higher European courts for people suffering abuse from local governments.
- Establishing a lasting peace.
One point where Lassauce departed sharply from a pure libertarian position was his call to maintain a minimal basic (but temporary) social safety net in the transition period. This he explained was necessary to allay fears during a switchover.
Other problem areas were with civil liberties. Although he emphasized a need to defend the individual against arbitrary state power, he noted: “Censorship, drugs, and prostitution are sensitive topics, controversial even among ourselves. We have people who are very liberal in economics, but very conservative in terms of values, traditions.”
Definitely not a pure libertarian platform – but extremely radical in the French/European context. One must remember that compared to typical European politicians, the likes of Bill Clinton and Tony Blair are considered “radical free-marketeers”.
For an MP3 audio version of Mr. Lassauce’s speech click here
Jan Narveson is a professor of philosophy at University of Waterloo (Canada) and is author of several books, including the classic The Libertarian Idea. In 1989 he was elected to membership in the Royal Society of Canada (that country’s highest recognition of scholarly achievement).
There were a lot of scholarship students at this conference, including 40 who went on to the annual Liberalni Institut seminar on Austrian Economics following our conference, so Jan gave a talk familiar to most of the old-timer libertarian veterans in attendance. He began by pointing out that morals are essential for the operation of markets. Free markets occur when no one is prevented from engaging in a voluntary transaction involving goods or services owned (not merely possessed) by participants. (This precludes selling or exchanging stolen goods).
Self-ownership is the first principle of liberty. There can be no liberty without property. Ownership implies control, so the owner decides how to dispose of the property when and how he chooses. It can be as a gift, so long as the recipient knows if there are any conditions tied to the gift, and decides to accept it.
Most of the time, the owner of property will exchange it with another market participant, usually for an agreed sum of money. All such transaction are legitimate, provided that the purchase is made based on honest information.
A code of morality must apply equally to all persons in society. It must be in the self-interest of each person to choose to obey general rules of restraint. An action is legitimate as long as someone benefits and no one is made worse off. This liberal notion of the common good is liberty.
The only proper functions of government in the market is to maintain a sound monetary system and prevent force and fraud. Of course, they do a bad job of that, more often than not using coercion to restrict market freedom and ending up denying value to participants.
Free competition increases efficiency – more output per person – which itself is the increase of wealth in a society. And a wealthy society is better able to be charitable (witness the $30 billion Bill Gates is giving away).
Jan closed: “The Free Society is the Wealthy Society. Go for it!”
— For an MP3 audio version of Prof. Narveson’s speech click here
Jacques de Guenin, a past director of Peugeot-Citroën and former mayor of Saint-Loubouer in Las Landes region of France, is the founder and current president of Le Cercle Frédéric Bastiat, an organization promoting the works of this famous 19th century classical liberal. Jacques also hosted ISIL’s 2001 world conference in Dax, France.
In his speech, Jacques spoke on the topic of “Libertarian Logic” – the subject of his new book Logique du libéralisme.
The book, he exclaimed, is the result of a lifetime reflection on individual ethics, life in society, and economics. It is a handbook of the ideas that one must master if one wants to be effective in defending libertarian ideas. The title reflects the fact that the different libertarian concepts can be deduced logically from one another. The emphasis throughout the book is on ethics, but the book also shows why liberal societies, with their adherence to freedom, personal responsibility, reason, and property rights, are also the most efficient and the most prosperous.
The book Logique du Libéralisme is published by Editions Charles Coquelin. 75 Rue Claude Bernard. 75005 Paris, France. 10 Euros). The book is not yet available through Amazon. For the time being, the simplest way to get it is to order it direct from Jacques de Guenin, 145 Chemin de Castlelnau, 40320 Saint-Loubouer, France. Send a check of 15 Euros or US$18 (which includes shipping and exchange costs).
For an MP3 audio version of Jacques de Guenin’s speech click here
José Fernández, President of the Instituto Libertario and former Deputy Secretary General of Costa Rica’s Movimiento Libertario (ML) libertarian party, spoke on his extensive student educational programs and of recent developments within the ML.
José has been active in educational pursuits in Costa Rica, having traveled to every high school and university in the country to talk to students about the benefits of economic freedom: free trade, the need to close the central bank and of reducing government spending.
Some of his activities include:
- Student networking through a weekly e-mail list
- On-line discussion forums for students at Instituto Libertario http://www.institutolibertario.org
- Networking with libertarians from other Latin American countries and bringing in top-level speakers from abroad.
- Book publishing (new books on inflation and dollarization in Costa Rica and another on a flat tax are in the works). He also translated and published Frédéric Bastiat’s The Lawinto Spanish a few years ago.
- Working with policy makers
- Working with the media. e.g. former Costa Rican ML congressman Otto Guevara’s program “Liberty Hour” which employs parts of the “Philosophy of Liberty” flash animation developed by ISIL director Ken Schoolland (see ISIL and JG websites).
José shed some light on the stories that have been circulating regarding a shakeup in the Movimiento Libertario in the last few years – and especially following the last elections.
In 1998 the ML became the first name-brand libertarian party in the world to elect a congressman (Otto Guevara). In political terms, the ML became the most successful LP in the world – particularly after the elections of 2002 when they elected 6 congressmen. The ML comprised 10% of the congress (just one chamber in Costa Rica). Libertarian deputy Otto Guevara was named “congressman of the year” by the Costa Rican media for three years in a row. To the public, the ML was seen as a breath of fresh air – a party of principle that fought corruption and taxes and defended the poor in the informal sector through a policy of freedom to work (no licenses).
Federico Malavassi (one of the six ML congressmen) fought tax increases tooth-and-nail for 4 years, and succeeded in blocking all tax increases. For the first time in 40 years, taxes had not been increased.
However, for the elections of February 2006 there were some high-profile public figures (not libertarians) – who said they would join the ML if the party became more “flexible” in its policies.
So there was a serious discussion within the ML, the upshot was that they decided to sacrifice the party’s principles in order to include these figures within the ML. They thought this move would raise their profile in the public eye and help them win the presidential election.
They accepted public money to finance political campaigns. At the end of the campaign of 2002, they had made a show of returning public campaign money to the government. In 2006, they renounced that principle.
One of the main issues of the ML when the party was started was to close the central bank. This was their main platform proposal – to stop inflation. Over the past 26 years, the average annual inflation rate in Costa Rica has been 18%. But the public figures they took on were in favor of a central bank, so that principle was sacrificed.
The original ML platform called for the separation of education and health care from the state – but the new conservative element called for “strengthening” both (introducing a halfway measure of a voucher system in education).
So what was the result of sacrificing principle and watering down the party platform? They just barely retained the same number of congressman as 4 years before – but at a ten-fold increase in election campaign spending.
More importantly, José told of people within the party expressing great concern that if the ML can sacrifice one principle, they can sacrifice another and another and another. A loss of trust. Many people interviewed in the general public reported they would not vote ML again.
So hopefully the ML will get back on track. In the meantime, Costa Rica has two libertarian think tanks engaged in educational pursuits – the Instituto Libertario run by José and INLAP run by ISIL Rep. Rigoberto Stewart. And of course, there is Rigoberto’s Limón Real project to establish a libertarian free zone in Limon province.
For an MP3 audio version of José Fernández’s speech click here
THEORY AND PRACTICE
Louis James (right) chats with Prof. Jan Narveson at ISIL’s Prague conference.
Louis James, a member of ISIL’s Board of Directors and past president of the Henry Hazlitt Foundation and Free-market.net (the latter now a part of ISIL) discussed strategies for liberty in the 21st century.
“Would I push a button to make all governments disappear tomorrow?” he asked.
The answer to this (rhetorical) question was an emphatic “No”.
He stated, “If you demolish a social order without any thought or care to what’s going to replace it, what are the chances that what it replaces will be any better than what you’ve got?”
“If anyone doubts the idea of rapid change – even violent change – as not being a good idea, I think some of the examples discussed at this conference of how the old Soviet system went away and people expected a lot and were disappointed illustrates the point. I don’t think that’s surprising. There was a very rapid change without the institutions necessary for a transition being in place.
“There’s been a call lately in the US to have another constitutional convention.
Most people who value freedom in the United States think it’s an unthinkable idea. How many Jeffersons, Adams, Franklins are running around the USA these days? Would they ratify a Bill of Rights? Much more likely a bill of entitlements.
Louis remarked, “I believe in replacing the bricks and edifice one at a time – one bad idea with a better idea or ideas – as fast as we can replace them without knocking the building down – without total chaos and bloodshed.”
So it is a war of ideas – and it’s why we are here at this conference – to promote the ideas of freedom and liberty.
In the US, the 9-11 lesson is an emphatic proof. Just look at the response to that small scale burst of chaos in New York City. It was hugely pro-government. As a matter of fact, a lot of people have been lecturing that there had been considerable progress over the past few decades towards a more freedom-oriented political philosophy in the United States. 9-11 washed all that away. It was the authoritarian wet dream in the United States. All those powers they had been wanting for so long and had been denied, they got ’em with a vengeance now.
“Anyway, because I don’t believe in throwing bombs, or smashing the social edifice, I see a much more productive path for myself and my children and my future posterity. And maybe not gradual change, but intelligent change, or (as much as possible) useful change. That leaves with me only one choice, only one path, and that is the war of ideas. Therefore the theory (all these things we’ve been talking about today and will hear about tomorrow) is the practice. What you are experiencing here is not just a distracting vacation. What you are doing here is the grist in the mill – the stuff of advancing freedom.”
We’re in the 21st century now – it’s not a time to rewrite Tom Paine’s Common Sensepamphlet to make it relevant to the ghetto of 21st century America. The pamphlet was a vehicle for the 18th century.
Today we have the Internet. It is the censor’s nightmare. Even China can’t keep the ideas out. The fax machine caused Tiananmen Square – just think about the Internet and how much more powerful that is.
The Internet enables the ordinary person to broadcast. You don’t have to have a television station – or even have to own a computer. You can design a project on a library computer somewhere and you can get a free webpage and upload your page. For no cash cost, you can broadcast your ideas to the entire world.
The bottom line on why one should be optimistic regarding the Internet is that it is a catalyst and accelerant for the entire evolutionary process of public debate – what you might call social and organizational learning over time, trial and error, experiment. The Internet accelerates the debate, the clash between ideas.
And there have been instances where people have encountered ideas through our work and have gone out and done something significant in the world. It’s uplifting to know that you as an individual can make a difference in the war of ideas.
For an MP3 audio version of Louis James’ speech click here
Rahim Taghizadegan (Austria) is president of “Liberal Ideas”, an organization that features outstanding websites in German and English. He also runs – as a joint project with ISIL – the Réseau International Francophone(a French-language site that networks French-speaking libertarians worldwide).
Rahim shared his thoughts on the ethical foundations of a strategy for freedom – based on individualistic approaches like those of Lao-Tsu and Harry Browne.
He identified three succeeding stages most individuals employ on their personal paths to freedom.
First comes the acceptance of reality and the leaving behind of the various psychological traps – the illusions identified by Benjamin Constant and more recently described by Guido Hülsmann.
He observed that many people today are trapped like hamsters in an exercise wheel. All institutions are failing and a profound sense of insecurity prevails.
- The law is replaced by laws.
- Liberty is replaced by liberties.
- Money is replaced by paper.
- Language is replaced by government “new speech”
- Morality is replaced by relativism.
He noted that some people in France and Germany, for example, even though they may have voted socialist in the voting booth, are discovering ways to seek freedom. These same people will send their kids to private schools, cross borders for medical treatment, and employ private security guards – because they see that state institutions are failing.
Rahim stressed the importance that once leaving the “matrix” that we focus on rebuilding institutions – while realizing that it’s a long-term process of reaching individuals one at a time. Every individual, he said, is a prime mover, a creator of civilization.
He closed by saying, “Who knows, an ISIL pamphlet written ten years ago, read five years ago, understood today, taught in five years from now, may in ten years from now bring forth the new John Galt – not the leader of a movement, but the prime mover of a new civilization based on human liberty.”
For an MP3 audio version of Rahim Taghiszdegan’s speech click here
SOURCES AND SOLUTIONS
ISIL Director Ken Schoollandspoke to the conference on the topic: “Corruption: Sources and Solutions.” He drew audience laughter by opening with test surveys he had done in his university classes revealing the widespread susceptibility of people to bribes and by asserting that the general population is quite willing to take bribes when there’s no perceived personal risk. Personal moral restraints against corrupt behavior are significant, but rare. Transparency and public exposure may have a mixed result, causing avoidance of bribery by some and enthusiasm for bribery in others.
Schoolland examined the consequences of corruption, asserting that the effects were far more damaging than generally reported because of the long-term impact on economic growth. While corruption exists everywhere, greater corruption generally correlates with higher levels of governmental control over the economies of nations, thus retarding development.
The solution to corruption, concluded Schoolland, may rest in an unconventional source. Transparency, exposure, and stiff criminal penalties to make government more efficient may be a tempting, but fruitless effort. Even the legal and “clean” functioning of government can be corrupting of society. Thus, corruption may be more effectively thwarted by convincing the populace of the personal benefits of a redefined, minimized role of government.
For an MP3 audio version of Ken Schoolland’s speech click here
Juan Ramón Rallo (Spain), a founding member of Spain’s Instituto Juan de Mariana a recently-formed libertarian thinktank, writes a weekly column for the Spanish libertarian e-newspaper Libertad Digital and publishes regularly in other websites: lewrockwell.com, Liberalismo.org, and webinversor.com. The Juan de Mariana’s website is one of the most-visited sites in all of Europe.
Juan spoke on the virtues of enterprise and debunked the Marxist idea that entrepreneurial profits are the equivalent of some sort of plunder.
He stressed that market exchanges are not zero-sum games, but are in fact frameworks where both parties are better off due to the inverse subjective valuation of the goods they exchange. Higher profits coming from voluntary exchange will mean a higher, not a lower, consumer welfare.
On monopoly theory, he explained that coercive monopolies exist only with state legal sanction. He stated that a firm will become unique in the market when it satisfies consumers’ needs better than any other firm. Failing that, a company is subject to diverse forms of competition across the market.
Juan touched on numerous other topics like so-called exploitation of workers by capitalist bosses, and John Kenneth Galbraith’s mistaken views on advertising.
These are of course all subjects familiar to libertarians, but for those new to the subject, more details and a recap of Juan’s speech is available on the ISIL website.
— For an MP3 audio version of Juan Ramón Rallo’s speech click here
— For an abbreviated text of edition of Juan Ramón’s speech click here
OF ENERGY PRODUCTION
Xavier Mérais a researcher with the Instituto Molinari, a French-speaking free-market thinktank based in Brussels.
High oil prices have become a great concern, as they may damage economic activity. Some proposals for new taxes on “excess” oil company profits would only raise prices for consumers, while cutting oil company profits and leave less for investment in new production.
Some blame “price-fixing” by oil executives. This is absurd. If they can “fix” prices at today’s high levels, why didn’t they do so before (when prices were much lower)? Supply and demand determines oil prices, as in any market.
Rising demand in China can help raise prices, as does instability in the Middle East oil region.
Predictions that we are about to run out of oil or other critical natural resources have been repeated throughout history, and have always been proven wrong. And if prices do rise due to oil shortages, it spurs new production of both oil and of economical alternatives. Increased efficiency in fuel consumption extends supply and lowers oil prices as well.
Only state interference via higher oil taxes and regulatory restrictions on oil development and other innovations can guarantee higher oil prices and shortages.
— For an MP3 audio version of Xavier Méra’s speech click here
Josef Simatold of how the Liberalni Institute, the Czech Republic’s leading thinktank, was founded by Prof Jiri Schwartz in 1989 – immediately upon the fall of communism.
Prof. Schwartz is now Dean of the University of Economics in Prague. The connection between the Liberalni Institute and the University of Economics has resulted in their being able to reach thousands of students and academics – introducing them to the work of the Austrian economists.
The Liberalni Institute also conducts student seminars (“The Free Market Instead of the Welfare State”). This year, these seminars were run jointly by the Liberalni Institute and the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) – with support from Germany’s Friedrich Naumann Institute. Speakers included Richard and Anna Ebeling as well as Sheldon Richman (editor of The Freeman).
Beginning in April of 2005, the Liberalni Institute launched the annual “Prague Conference on Political Economy” which covers debates and research in economics, philosophy, history, law and political science. This April (2006), 140 people from 20 countries attended.
Another outstanding aspect of the Liberalni Institute is that they have become a publishing house for libertarian books. To date, they have published more than 60 books, including libertarian classics like Economics in One Lesson (a book that every one of the 600 freshman students at the University of Economics is required to read). Many books which had not been available before in Czech have been translated and published (Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, Ludwig von Mises’ Human Action, Rothbard’s Man, Economy & State and Power and Market, Mises Liberalism, Milton Friedman’s Free To Choose and Capitalism and Freedom) and Bruno Leoni’s Freedom and the Law. Also published are books by Israel Kirzner, F.A. Hayek, Robert Hicks, and Ralph Raico’s book on German liberalism.
Our hats are off to the folks at the Liberalni Institute. They have become a vital force for liberty – and an inspiration for all of Europe – and the world.
Adri Nurellari (Albania) discussed the work of The Albanian Liberal Institute (ALI)which was founded in December 2004 as a public-policy institute devoted to promoting liberal values in Albanian society: free markets, individual liberty and the civil society.
Adri emphasized ALI’s opposition to centralized big government, high taxes and high government expenditures, as well as censorship, bad laws, etc.
Some of ALI’s activities include: Liberal evenings, Hayek Day, Seminars on classical-liberal literature, public-policy studies, a forum “Albania’s obstacles to integration and development,” and classical-liberalism courses. Website:
Kozeta Cuadari-Cika (ISIL Rep for Albania) discussed ACER, the Albanian Center for Economic Research where she currently works, and their many projects – the Fight against Corruption; promotion of economic growth; the Privatization of strategic sectors; Cross-border Commercial problems; Albanian agriculture in transition etc. They have produced two periodicals: the magazine Economy and Transition, and the newsletter On Corruption.
Jacques de Guenin, president and founder of Le Cercle Frédéric Bastiat, provided an overview of libertarian activities in France.
He noted that Classical Liberals and libertarians are still a minority in France, but that their number and influence is growing. Old intellectual associations, devoted to the spreading of ideas, such as Le Cercle Frédéric Bastiat and the “Association pour la Liberté Economique et le Progrès Social,” the latter chaired by the formidable Jacques Garello, have seen their memberships increase regularly, while new associations are created, such as the “Institut Turgot,” “Heritage et Progrès,” or “L’institut Economique Molinari,” chaired by Cecile Philippe. Lobbies against taxes and government spending (“Contribuables Associés”), or for the freedom of education (SOS Education) have seen a significant increase in their membership during the last decade.
But the most important development of these last years is the rise of two associations devoted to action. One is a new (classical) liberal political party called Alternative Libérale, chaired by Edouard Fillas, and of which Sabine Herold is the spokesperson. These two persons had founded Liberté Cherie some five years ago, but resigned from it to create the party, because we all want to avoid any confusion between a political party and Liberté Cherie, which belongs to the civilian society. Meanwhile, Liberté Cherie is more and more active, organizing demonstrations or counter-demonstrations in the streets, in particular against undue strikes of unions. Last June, they organized a “Fete de la Liberté” (Freedom festival), together with some twenty liberal associations of the country.
Jacques joined this association two years ago, and even though it is inspired and managed by people in their thirties, they invited him last year to join their executive committee.
Rahim Taghizadegan (Austria) runs an organization called “Liberty Ideas”. He emphasized that Liberty Ideas is more than a thinktank: “It is a grassroots movement of life entrepreneurs” – people with an active and entrepreneurial approach toward life who are seeking individual liberty.”
“Liberty Ideas” runs the most comprehensive and most vibrant online community for friends of liberty in the German-speaking world – and with the support of ISIL, the unique online resource Réseau International Francophonenow addresses a growing international French-speaking audience as well.
“Liberty Ideas” also sponsors innovative seminars in German and English on Austrian economics (for students, employees and even school kids).
Seminars on other topics are offered as well, stretching as far as “ethics” and “sense of life.” Rahim’s online and print publications not only cover questions of theory, but also very practical issues of “life entrepreneurship,” like home schooling, privacy, wealth creation and protection, lifestyle, emigration etc.
Suzana Ignjatovic(Serbia) reported that just a couple of years ago, she (together with a group of enthusiasts: economists, political scientists, philosophers, and even sociologists) got involved in libertarian activism in Serbia. She said that they have not as yet established an official organization, but are nevertheless becoming recognized as libertarians (classical liberals) in public.
Firstly, they launched the e-zine called Katalaksija – the only liberal/libertarian magazine in Serbia. Katalaksija(Catallaxy) is devoted mostly to theory, with over one hundred original articles and translations of the most prominent libertarian and liberal thinkers on the site.
A rather spectacular success of the Serbian libertarians, was their production of a documentary film entitled Capitalism. The concept of the film was the popularization of alternative views on market, state, tycoons, transition, and globalization. The film was broadcast on National Television and was a great success, mostly due to the participation by respected professors and scholars who participated in the film (e.g. Prof. Steve Pejovich). Afterwards, people and media started to refer to Katalaksija, both in academia and in public.
At the moment, they are trying to establish a thinktank in order to tackle public-policy issues in Serbia.
Suzana concluded: “So, our small spontaneous order of zealots is becoming more pragmatic and ready to come to grips with statism and fight for individual freedom in Serbia.”
One of the more dynamic movements from the former Soviet bloc is The New Economic School in Georgia under the leadership of Paata Sheshelidze. The school maintains activities and networks throughout Georgia, the Southern Caucasus, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Paata, who attended and spoke at both this Prague conference and the conference in Germany last year on ISIL scholarships, told of many of the NES projects – which included conferences and training with a total of 3700 participants; a “Library of Liberty” series of pamphlets and books; and media activities with interviews in the major newspapers, TV, and radio.
Conferences this year included a youth conference in Tbilisi with speakers like Tibor Machan and Johan Norberg, and there was a star-studded conference in October, co-hosted by the Cato Institute and supported by the Atlas Economic Foundation the Friedrich Naumann Institute and CIPE (The Center for International Free Enterprise).
In the works is a translation of ISIL Director Ken Schoolland’s The Adventures of Jonathan Gullible: A Free Market Odyssey and the “Philosophy of Liberty” flash animation (see the various versions on the ISIL and Jonathan Gullible websites).
Szymon Kotnis (Poland) is involved with the UPR party (Union of the Real Politics). He said that among other things, they are advocating a small flat tax. He noted that the current Polish government’s social-welfare measures are a huge financial burden – but that the UPR was a small voice in challenging the system.
He lamented, “It is very hard to be a libertarian in Poland. The foreigners don’t seem to be aware that the Polish revolution had nothing to do with free-market capitalism. Solidarity sounded the death knell for communism, but most of its members were still socialists. It is well known, that Piotr Ikonowicz, the leader of the Polish lefties, was a member of “Solidarity”.
Today, most parties in Poland have the same (socialist) economic program. He said his friend, Stanislaw Michalkiewicz, author of numerous feature articles observed, “In Poland, we have two kinds of socialists: socialists with a God, and socialists without a God. In my humble opinion, it is a bad idea to connect socialism with a God. I am sure that if anything paranormal is involved, socialism must be connected to Satan.”
Juan Ramón Rallo (Spain) is a co-founder of the new Spanish thinktank “Instituto Juan de Mariana” which was founded in April 2005 by a small group of Spanish libertarians. Gabriel Calzadais the current president.
The organization has been growing rapidly, having in just one year published 368 articles in eight Spanish newspapers and made 18 appearances on radio and 14 on TV. Last September (2005) they conducted their first Summer University, and offered a libertarian essay contest prize. In future months, three books are in the offing.
The Instituto Juan de Marianaalso has an exceptionally strong web presence. Their website has astounding levels of traffic – being one of the most-visited websites in all of Europe. They also run an on-line store, selling among other things, libertarian t-shirts.
Juan Ramón explained that the thinktank is named after the famous 17th century scholastic Father Juan de Mariana. Mariana, he explained, was the most representative figure of the Salamanca School (a group of clerics who developed a solid corpus of economic theory during the Spanish Golden Age).
For example, Juan de Mariana exclaimed that politicians became tyrants whenever they raised taxes without the consent of the people and accordingly could be assassinated. Moreover, he was one of the first to identify that a debasement of the currency was equivalent to a tax on the people. Mariana was imprisoned by King Philip III for his criticisms of the king’s monetary policies.
Other members of the Salamanca School reached strong and valid economic conclusions. Diego de Covarrubias y Leyva stated that the nature of value was purely subjective. Luis Saravia de la Calle understood the proper relationship between price and costs: it wasn’t the latter which determined the former, but vice versa. And Juan de Salasassured that the information needed to know a “fair” price could not be possessed by one single agent in the market, so only God could know it.
It seems quite obvious that the modern libertarian ideas of the Austrian School could be found in these scholastics. So the Spaniards have their libertarian heroes too.
Unfortunately, all black Africans scheduled to speak this year were refused visas – this in spite of agonizing months of haggling and guarantees made by both the folks at the Liberalni Institute and ISIL’s much-harried Scholarship Chairman, Richard Venable. Formal complaints were filed with the Czech government at the time of the conference.
Filling in for the banned Africans were other ISIL members, and execs who had traveled to Africa this year – and met with several of our activist members.
Ken Schoolland spoke glowingly about the many free-market institutes that are making such great headway across Africa. Oldest of these is the Free Market Foundation of South Africa. But the burgeoning new organizations that are all affiliated with ISIL are these:
Shikuku James Shikwati, founder of the Inter-Regional Economic Network of Kenya (IREN), Agwu Amogu, founder of the Individual Liberty Initiative of Nigeria (ILIN), Thompson Ayodele, founder of the Initiative of Public Policy Analysis of Nigeria (IPPA), Franklin Cudjoe, founder of The Centre for Humane Education of Ghana (IMANI), and Kofi Akosah, founder of Africa Youth Peace Call of Ghana, are the champions of liberty in Africa. They are all prolific writers, articulate speakers, and dynamic organizers who are changing the shape of debate in favor of free markets.
See previous reports on Ken’s visits to Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana on the ISIL website in back-issues of the Freedom Network News.
“Many people treat Africa as one big country. This of course is not the case. Each country in Africa is as diverse as any country in Europe, Asia, North or South America. South Africa is the most prosperous country in Africa with large modern cities filled with skyscrapers. Since 1994 it has been a democracy in that everyone has the right to vote once every five years. Whether this makes it a true democracy is of course debatable. The really sad fact is that we were at our most free during the period following the elections in 1994. At that point, we had come out of the Apartheid system and entered the new “free” South Africa. The old Apartheid laws no longer applied, and the new government had not yet imposed new restrictions or interfered in our lives. However, since then, we have had many situations which could have come straight out of Ken’s Jonathan Gulliblestories.
The unemployment rate in South Africa is high. Many people ask what they can do to help the people of South Africa, or indeed, any other developing nation in Africa. Provide aid? Well, I don’t mind if you allow your governments to steal your money to enrich our politicians, for that is as far as it will get. Our politicians will certainly welcome it, but do not expect them to be grateful, and do not expect your money to trickle down to those you hope it to help. The only way to ensure assisting impoverished people in our part of the world is – TRADE! With trade we will not only increase each other’s wealth, but we will learn about each other’s cultures. We will learn to understand you, and hopefully you will do likewise. Trade will bring peace, acceptance, respect, and prosperity and self-worth.”
Louis spoke on his recent visit to numerous Africa countries (see “Movement News: Africa” in this issue.
Professor Ali Massoud(Egypt) argued that many Egyptians are familiar with classical-liberal ideas.
“In 1919” he said, “we had a liberal party (El-Wafed) that used to be the strongest political party in Egypt.
“This party formed the Egyptian government many times before the 1952 revolution. Now we have some liberal people, but they are not organized. But work has begun.” Ali routinely addresses up to 5000 students at the University in Cairo.
The Liberty English Camp has become somewhat of an institution over the years. The organizers and prime movers of this project – Jaroslav Romanchuk (Belarus), Glenn Cripe (USA), Virgis Daukas (ISIL Rep for Lithuania), Stephen Browne (USA) and Andy Eyschen (Malaysia) have been promoting libertarian/classical liberal ideas for the last ten years through the teaching of English as a second language – using Libertarian and classical-liberal books as texts. Books like Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations and essays of Thomas Jefferson are typical. These events have been very successful, and are in fact being emulated by other members like ISIL Rep Barun Mitrain New Delhi, India, who has held camps in the Himalayas that have drawn in excess of 100 students. Interest has been expressed about holding similar camps in Sonora, Mexico, and in Ghana. What is exceptional about these camps is that they have attracted many idealistic young people – some in their mid-teens – from countries like Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania. Of course, these events not only provide instructions, but include all kinds of social activities like BBQs, debates, sailing, dancing, music, contests, etc.
This year’s event, which drew 65 students from Lithuania and Belarus, was organized by Glenn Cripe and ably supported by Egle Kapociute, Virgis Daukas, and Giedre Kvieskienefrom Lithuania.
New teachers this year were Sue Kleiman (USA), Jan Narveson (Canada) and Max Nuijens(Holland).
The theme was “Privacy” and dealt with issues that threaten personal privacy – such as closed-circuit TV surveillance, chip implants, etc. They asked: “How will governments attempt to use these technologies in order to increase their control over our individual lives, and what can we do to minimize or evade this control?”
Glenn Cripe reports that plans are being made to expand the camps into Poland and Serbia next year – pending adequate funding (each camp costs about $10,000).
ISIL has been providing support for this project for several years now – covering scholarships for students to attend both the camps and ISIL conferences. So if this project interests you, you can make your (tax-deductible) donations through ISIL. Specify the Liberty English Camp project.
This is a great opportunity to influence a new generation of libertarians. For more info on the camps, check out: www.languageofliberty.org