A Triumphant Emergence
by Vincent H. Miller
Marshall Bruce Evoy Memorial award winner Jaroslav Romanchuk and Elena Rakova (both from Belarus) pose in front of the historic Trakai Castle (former capital of Lithuania).
In spite of a spate of violent conflicts, terrorism, and sundry other temporary setbacks on the world stage, many positive trends continue to quietly develop in numerous spots around the globe, and the movement for liberty marches inexorably on.
Nowhere was this more evident than in Lithuania, the site for ISIL’s 22nd world conference, which was held from July 6th through the 10th 2003 in the capital city of Vilnius.
At this remarkable event we sat shoulder to shoulder with the architects of a free Lithuania – along with people like Yuri Maltsev, who had been on the team drafting Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika.
Not so many years ago, many of the people at this conference would have been looking at each other over rifle sights. Times have changed indeed.
A Fascinating Historical Background
During the 20th century the people of Lithuania were ground under the tyrannical heels of both Nazi and Soviet occupations. One third of their total population of three-million people were annihilated, with almost all of the 100,000 members of the Jewish community being slaughtered by the Nazis. Many of the people we met during our visit could relate personal tragedies of how members of their families had been murdered by Nazis. Others had been tortured and murdered by the KGB or exiled to Siberian slave/death camps.
Just prior to the ISIL conference, a small group of us toured the charming Old Town section of Vilnius, and along the way made a visit to the KGB museum. This museum had been an actual KGB compound, complete with cramped holding cells, torture chambers, padded cells, execution rooms (with blood drains in the floor) and rooms full of still-unidentified skeletons – ghoulish reminders of a nightmarish past. We were reminded that there had been prisoners in this compound as late as 1986. It was an eerie experience to be standing where such unspeakable horrors had occurred.
One member of our group from the former Eastern Bloc chose not to accompany us inside the KGB museum – feeling that memories of these awful times would be too personal and painful. I remember hurrying up the stairs as I left, anxious to escape that sinister place – and joyful that I could – having been told that no prisoners had left this compound alive.
Happily with the weakened grip of power following glasnost and perestroika and the ultimate collapse of the Soviet empire, great changes occurred, and in 1990 Lithuanians declared independence.
A Modern, Free Society
We saw little evidence of the grim past in today’s Lithuania. In fact it looked downright prosperous. There were many new cars on the streets and a cornucopia of consumer goods were available. Scaffolds, indicating massive rebuilding efforts, were seen on buildings throughout the country – and there was extensive new construction. The people were smiling, friendly, optimistic. Many spoke English. During evenings in Vilnius and Kaunas we saw crowds of well-dressed young people on the streets attending night clubs and dance bars. Lithuania enjoyed 10% economic growth last year. It showed.
But arriving at this place in history was not automatic for Lithuanians. As libertarians know, the mere absence of tyranny is no guarantee of liberty or prosperity. In Lithuania, our friends at the Lithuanian Free Market Institute (LFMI) www.freema.org – the hosts of this year’s world conference – had been on the front lines of change since independence, and in the past decade have exerted a profound influence on the evolution of Lithuania from a communist slave state to a modern and relatively-free society. After reading this report, you will surely agree that the work of the Lithuanian libertarians in this organization has been nothing short of heroic.
LFMI now pursues its mission by exploring key issues of economic policy; developing conceptual reform packages; drafting and evaluating legislation; submitting policy recommendations at the legislative and executive levels; and launching educational campaigns. To gain passage for policy proposals, LFMI’s policy analysts participate in non-governmental forums, TV debates, ministerial task forces, and parliamentary committee sittings. Their activities also include sociological surveys, publications, conferences, workshops, lectures and briefings. LFMI is active in a variety of public-policy issues, including privatization, business deregulation, monetary systems, capital markets, tax and budget policy, social-security privatization, international trade and EU integration.
We are happy to say that ISIL had a small part in helping bring about this happy state of affairs. We met Lithuanian libertarian movement pioneers Virgis Daukas (ISIL’s rep for Lithuania) and Prof. Algirdas Degutis at the ISIL world conference in Poprad, in Eastern Slovakia (then Czechoslovakia – back in 1992 – the year of the Czech/Slovak “divorce”) and in following years worked together with them providing seed capital for free-market publishing ventures, (which were repaid with interest). At that time we were impressed at how entrepreneurial the Lithuanians were. Both Virgis and Algirdas attended several subsequent ISIL European events, and both contributed to, and benefited from the creative dialogue that characterizes ISIL conferences.
In 2001, Virgis organized local libertarians from Lithuania and neighboring countries and chartered a bus to take 17 students and young activists to the ISIL/LI conference in Dax, France. He has also been actively involved in organizing Summer Seminars for students (partially funded by ISIL).
THE CONFERENCE BEGINS
ISIL President Vince Miller chats with Vilnius Mayor Arturas Zuokas
On Sunday evening (July 6) a reception was held at the conference hotel (the Reval Hotel Lietuva). People from the far corners of the world began to assemble – always an exciting time, meeting old friends in our extended family, and meeting new participants.
There were the regular registrants from throughout Europe and the world – as well as the students and young activists who had been recipients of ISIL scholarships to this event (36 in total this year). Some had been attending the summer Liberty English Camp which was held just prior to the Vilnius conference. ISIL had sponsored about 15 students to that seminar, which was founded and supported by the families of ISIL stalwarts Steve Browne and Virgis Daukas. ISIL Directors Louis James and Ken Schoolland arrived early to assist with teaching duties at the camp near the historic Trakai castle. Louis brought a carton of books with him for the students, and Ken brought his wife and daughter as English teachers.
The scholarship youngsters from Lithuania and elsewhere throughout the former communist bloc – Poland, Russia, Belarus, Estonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine – added greatly to the levels of dialogue at the conference – and were keen to learn.
The conference hotel, the Reval Hotel Lietuva, formerly a decrepit Soviet Intourist hotel, had been in the words of the locals, an utter “hole”. But in the year before our conference it had been massively renovated by a Norwegian company into a beautiful first-class hotel and was now touted as the most luxurious hotel in all of Vilnius. It was so new you could still smell the paint. The ISIL conference was the first major event to be held there since its reopening. We enjoyed not only first-rate facilities, but also thoroughly excellent food and service.
Following welcoming remarks by myself and Libertarian International president Hubert Jongen, LFMI president Ugnius Trumpa introduced Arturas Zuokas, the mayor of Vilnius, who delivered an opening address.
Zuokas was described by Remigijus Simasius as an individual who had been under concerted attack by the left for his radical free-market reforms – but who stuck to principle. He was financing public-works projects by selling off government assets!
As an interesting footnote, in the 1980s Ugnius Trumpa, now the president of the Lithuanian Free Market Institute, had been drafted into the Soviet Army to serve in Afghanistan – but fortunately for him, and the future Lithuanian movement, the war ended while he was sitting on his duffel bag awaiting transport to Afghanistan. With independence, he became a libertarian activist.
On Monday morning the conference with its theme of “Examining the principles of liberty and showing how they do and could work” began in earnest.
– DAY-ONE THEME –
The Principles of Liberty:
Do They Work – And If So Why?
Strengths & Weaknesses In The Moral Justification Of Capitalism
Conference Chairperson Mary Lou Gutscher chats with Prof. Jan Narveson (both from Canada)
Jan Narveson, professor of philosophy at the University of Waterloo, Canada, and an Officer of the Order of Canada, spoke on the “Strengths and Weaknesses in the Moral Justification of Capitalism.” In this stimulating presentation, Prof. Narveson defined capitalism not only as “free enterprise” but as a moral system that incorporates the libertarian voluntarist ethic. Do not coerce others. Under capitalism, market transactions are voluntary and to the mutual benefit of participants. This is not the same thing as so-called “State Capitalism” in which coercion is used – thus negating morality.
Of democracy, Prof Narveson noted: “Democracy is majority rule. But if I am in a minority, as most of us are, most of the time – why should I have such a lofty opinion of the majority?” He went on to say, “Indeed capitalism is a much truer kind of democracy than democracy – for in capitalism the customer rules. If you want a customer’s business, you had better give him what he wants. In political democracy, on the other hand, if you want someone’s business, you get a law passed compelling him to buy the thing or forbidding anyone else from trying to give it to him. Too many modern businesses do business this other way. But in doing so, they make a mockery of the very system that enabled them to get off the ground.”
One of the Russians in attendance (who had formed a libertarian think tank in Moscow) remarked that this presentation was exactly the kind of thing they hoped to hear at this conference.
See text version on-line here – Jan Narverson
Do We Need Liberty For Its Own Sake?
Doug Den Uyl, Vice-President of Education at the Liberty Fund (USA) spoke on the subject “Do We Need Liberty For Its Own Sake – or Something Else? Den Uyl dealt with the question of whether freedom is good in itself, or desirable because of the good that it brings about. He interpreted the question to be about political liberty – which would seem to have only instrumental value (in terms of the wealth it creates – and the security for the individual it provides). But while not denying these benefits, he explored the idea that political liberty has dimensions that make its value closer to the intrinsic. In short, freedom is a constitutive element of the morally good life, so it is possible to give a moral foundation to political freedom and not just a foundation in terms of consequences.
See text version on-line here – Douglas Den Uyl
Universalism and Particularism
of Social Order
Remigijus Simasius LFMI policy analyst and local conference coordinator.
Remigijus Simasius, a senior policy analyst at LFMI, specializes in privatization and legal reforms. He is chairman of a working group to establish a legislative/constitutional model for the Republic of Lithuania, and is also a Councilor in the city government of Vilnius. He also did an outstanding job as the “nuts and bolts” local coordinator of this conference.
Remigijus spoke on “Universalism and Particularism of Social Order in a Free Society.” He stated that libertarians face a problem of making universal libertarian principles compatible with existing group values – values often at odds with objectively-proven libertarian principles (subsuming property rights, individualism, etc.) – but which unfortunately are values which in today’s society are voluntarily accepted by most individuals.
The problem for libertarians is that on one hand we have our image of libertarian ethics. On the another hand, people may choose other sets of rules which are very often in conflict with libertarian principles. He pointed to solutions in law – proposed by Bruce Benson, Hans Hermann Hoppe, David Friedman and Bryan Caplan.
He asserted that law must be privatized and should focus on procedural mechanisms – not on which particular set of rules we would like to see implemented.
He concluded by saying that for libertarians the choice should not be between “good” law and “bad” law, but between legal monopoly and competition in law – or free markets vs. central planning. Satisfactory solutions may be offered only in a competitive environment, so legislation must be privatized and de-monopolized completely.
See text version on line here – Remigijus Simasius
Frontiers of Libertarian-Statist Controversy
Professors Antony Flew (England) and Algirdas Degutis (Lithuania).
Prof. Algirdas Degutis, a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Culture, Philosophy and Art (Vilnius, Lithuania), spoke on “Frontiers of the Libertarian-Statist Controversy: The Case of Globalization”.
In this presentation Dr. Degutis tackled the question: “Is the rise of globalization as unavoidable and irreversible a process as the rising of the sun in the morning – and if it is, what is it about it that incites the anger of the crowds of ‘anti-globalists’?’”
He argued that to a large extent we have globalization because, in the face of the ongoing worldwide collapse of statism and socialism, governments around the world have deliberately chosen to remove barriers within and around their markets – policies which in the past have impeded domestic and international trade.
The anti-globalists’ criticism of the global march of capitalism is commonly based on the failure to recognize that all market exchanges represent a positive-sum game and that the demand to curb the “power of corporations” is ultimately a call for the rejection of the choices made by people in the market. This can only lead to increases in state power.
Dr. Degutis pointed to the pioneering work in promoting free trade done by Friedrich von Hayek and Chicago School luminary Milton Friedman (and carried on by a vast international network of foundations and institutes, like our host LFMI – and ISIL) – as the reason for the growing acceptance of globalization and free trade. He warned that the success of globalization may not be automatic, and that we should keep up the intellectual battle against the anti-capitalist agenda now promoted by anti-globalists.
See text version on-line here – Algirdas Degutis
Freedom, Prosperity and Natural Order
Hans Hermann Hoppe, a Professor of Economics at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas (USA) and a Senior Fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute, delivered a speech entitled “Freedom, Prosperity and Natural Order.” In this presentation Prof. Hoppe challenged the Classical Liberal assumption that there should be a state (as part of a social contract) and elaborated on his anarcho-capitalist vision of Natural Order in which there is no public property and all property is privately owned.
Prof. Hoppe then addressed the
problems of dealing with anti-social behavior (the robbers, rapists and
murderers in society) by contrasting poorly-performing existing statist
institutions with market-oriented services like insurance companies and private
defense agencies. He gave many examples of how these might work.
The Moral and Practical Arguments For Liberty
ISIL Director Mary Ruwart spoke about the interrelationship between the moral and practical arguments for liberty. Her thesis was that the moral arguments for liberty have a pragmatic basis. What is “right” is derived from that which helps humans survive and thrive. What is both pragmatic and ethical, therefore, is liberty.
She gave several examples of how utilitarians who used to espouse socialist views are now supporting free markets. For example, the World Bank, which used to think that market-created growth was bad for the poor, now recognize that the poor are the greatest beneficiaries. Redistribution policies are now frowned upon in the recognition that they disrupt the market, decrease growth, and harm the very people they are supposed to help. Recognition of property rights, rather than “land reform” is now advocated by World Bank economists.
Other studies, such as the Economic Freedom of the World index, show that freedom increases wealth and longevity, while decreasing poverty and equalizing distribution of wealth. Wealth follows freedom, but not vice-versa.
The dividing line between principle and pragmatics is dissolving, making it difficult for authoritarians to believably proclaim that taxes and regulation are good for society.
All of this was backed up by an extensive collection of charts and statistics, often using numbers cited by market opponents, making for an extremely powerful, credible case.
To learn more of Mary Ruwart’s views on the important issues, check out the “Ask Dr. Ruwart” column on the Advocates web site www.TheAdvocates.org.
That evening we all dined on the shore of lake Galva in front of the medieval castle at Trakai.
– DAY-TWO THEME –
The Principles of Liberty: Implementing
The Ideas of Liberty: Lessons Learned
The Austrian Theory of Transition and
Economic Reform In Eastern Europe
(left to right) Yuri Maltsev (USA), Bojidar Marinov (Bulgaria), Igor Souzdaltsev (Russia).
Yuri Maltsev, a former teacher and researcher in Moscow for over 15 years, was a member of a team of Russian economists who worked on President Mikhail Gorbachev’s reform package of perestroika. Dr. Maltsev defected to the US in 1989 and now teaches economics at Carthage College in Wisconsin, USA.
Prof. Maltsev’s speech was entitled “The Austrian Theory of Transition and Economic Reform in Eastern Europe.” He covered in some detail the history of socialism in the Soviet Union – from the Bolshevik Revolution to Lenin’s failed New Economic Policy (NEP) which attempted to abolish money (an economic catastrophe in itself), to present-day Russia.
Communist Russia, he said, was the first country to completely and officially abolish property rights. In his estimation, the establishment of an absolute command economy enforced by massive slaughter and deportations was one of the greatest tragedies ever experienced by mankind. It virtually destroyed the consumer market and was doomed to failure from the outset.
He was critical of perestroika. He said, “The core issues of private property and the market were not even mentioned by the so-called Soviet ‘reformers’. The true reason for the demise of socialism and the Soviet empire, he explained, was the weakening of top-down political control and removal of coercion from a system glued together solely by naked force. The system, built upon repression, fell like a house of cards. He stressed that the major lesson to be learned from the spectacular failure of this command system was that it failed due to internal contradictions, not due to human error. Quoting Paul Craig Roberts, he added, “No one can say they didn’t have enough power or enough bureaucracy or enough planners – or that they didn’t go far enough.”
He praised Lithuania and the other Baltic states for biting the bullet and installing radical free-market reforms quickly. He pointed to the failure of Russian, Ukrainian, and Kazakh experiences of gradual “reform” which, he noted, provided a convenient opportunity for bureaucratic vested interests to regroup and ultimately change nothing at all.
He closed by saying that a modern market in Russia – or anywhere else in the world for that matter – cannot function without a legal structure that is consistent with the institutions of private property (the “Mother” of all human rights) and freedom of contract.
See text version on-line here – Yuri Maltsev
Justice In A Free Society
(Lessons from America’s Making)
Prof. Antony Flew, is Professor Emeritus in Philosophy at the University of Reading, UK. He has been awarded the University Prize in Philosophy and the John Locke Scholarship in Mental Philosophy.
Prof. Flew spoke on the historical differences between the European Union and the Unites States of America. He reminded the conference attendees that former Chancellor Kohl asserted that the aim of the EU was not to create a federation of European nation-states, but to create one country: Europe. Reflecting on the American founding and the Declaration of Independence he stated, “The first thing to emphasize here is that the US was intended to be a union of fully-sovereign states in which the central government would have only the minimum powers needed to achieve certain limited – but essential purposes.
He stated that the original American model is the last thing the drafters of a constitution for the future United States of Europe have in mind.
”There is already an enormous and apparently substantially-growing system of many tens of thousands of pages of unamendable and unrepealable laws and regulations intruding into and restricting almost, if not quite every, sphere of human life.”
He noted that Thomas Jefferson in drafting the Declaration, had been strongly influenced by John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government, An Essay Concerning the True Original, Extent, and End of Civil Government which stated in strong terms that a government is legitimized only by the consent of the governed.
Of modern-day America he noted that there is tax competition between the States – but that the idea of tax competition is abhorrent to the EU Commission in Brussels. It is instead constantly urging a “harmonization” of income and other taxes – up to Franco-German levels.
In his final statement, Prof. Flew stated that with the impossibility of flexibility and innovation brought about by such central planning, there is a very small chance that the EU will fulfill its ambition of becoming the most competitive economy in the world by 2010. “America, don’t worry about the EU!” was his final remark.
See text version on-line here – Antony Flew
Spiral Dynamics: A Memetic Theory
On The Evolution of Societies
LI Director Christian Michel (Switzerland/England).
Christian Michel (Switzerland/England) is Director of the Libertarian International. In June of 2000 he sold a large trust and corporate-service company, with 12 offices throughout Europe, and moved from Switzerland to London, England. He is author of La Liberté, published by the Institut Economique de Paris (1986). The book so impressed ISIL Rep Valentina Nicolae that she translated it into Romanian and arranged for its publishing in Bucharest.
His website, www.liberalia.com, has become a prime source of libertarian documentation in French and English for students and scholars.
Michel delivered a stimulating discussion on memetics – the study of memes – or how the propagation and acceptance of ideas can influence the structure of societies.
”Human nature is not fixed,” he stated. “We are not set at birth. If we were, we would be like all other animals, evolving through the accidents of gene transmission.” Instead, humans respond to changing life circumstances by constituting new conceptual worlds. The coping mechanisms are what the late professor Clare W. Graves called “memes” (borrowed from Richard Dawkins). When a critical mass of individuals is infected by a meme, it changes the value systems of whole societies.
He described how Don Beck and Chris Cowan charted successive memetic stages that societies and individuals pass through in the form of a spiral structure which they call “spiral dynamics”.
These memetic stages are identified by assigning them colors. Levels range from beige, (basic survival); purple (tribal, mystical); red (egocentric, aggressive, conquering, dominating); blue (philosophical, religious); orange (scientific, capitalistic); to Green (communitarian, feelings supercede rationality, the meme of the New Left).
Memes, he stressed, evolve through stages of increasing complexity, transcending but including lower levels. This is critical to the understanding of the process, because billions of people stand at different levels on the spiral. Indeed many are moving into zones we vacated more than 500 years ago – yet we cannot ignore them.
The problem, Michel explained, is that (for example) a scientific, capitalistic “Orange” society is able to produce an atomic bomb which can then be used by primitive, lower-level (e.g. egocentric “red” meme) civilizations – even though cultures at that level of development could never hope to produce such a device themselves.
Finally today the “Yellow” or libertarian meme represents the leading edge of collective human evolution. Yellow is when you have a kaleidoscope of systems and forms created by the market and finding their place in a natural hierarchy. Yellow is a new era, the libertarian era. In yellow the magnificence of existence is valued over material possessions. Flexibility and functionality have the highest priority – as befits a society based on technology but respectful of the environment – from which it follows that chaos and change are accepted as natural. Differences can be integrated into natural flows.
Michel’s talk is available on computer CD as mp3 and PowerPoint files.
Russia’s Painful Struggle Toward Liberalism
Yevgeni Volk (Russia) head of the Heritage Foundation’s Moscow office, discusses problems facing the Russian economy.
Yevgeni Volk, a native of Russia, heads the Heritage Foundation’s Moscow office, serving as a liaison between Heritage-USA and the Russian reformers as the Russian nation struggles toward freedom. Volk was former deputy director for the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies and an advisor to the Committee on Defense and Security Issues for the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Federation. He spoke in place of his friend and Putin advisor Andrei Ilarionov who cancelled at the last minute.
He began his talk by explaining that the Heritage Foundation is a conservative organization – not a libertarian one. But he noted that they enjoy much common ground with libertarians – such as their promotion of individual liberty, limited government, and free enterprise.
He honored the Austrian economists for their contributions to the foundations of liberty – particularly Eugen Böhm-Bawerk and those directly influenced by him (Ludwig von Mises, F.A. Hayek, Milton Friedman, etc.).
He also praised Ayn Rand’s vast contribution to the literature of liberty and reminded us that 2005 will be the centennary of Rand’s birth in St. Petersburg, Russia. He urged those ISIL directors present to consider holding the 2005 world conference in Russia to honor Rand and to help focus attention on her ideas.
Volk then went on to describe the problems facing Russia in the struggle toward freedom. A major problem, he said, is regulations, licensing and corruption that permeates every level of government. Bureaucrats (former KGB operatives and communist party élites) are everywhere on the boards of corporations and in management positions.
He warned that that the courts and judges are corrupt and that there are no effective judicial systems to protect property rights.
On the subject of tax reform, he noted that there are many more taxes than the widely-touted 13% flat income tax. For instance, the tax on entrepreneurs for social services alone comprises an additional 36%.
In such an inhospitable economic environment it is not surprising that 45% of the Russian economy still operates in the black market.
On a more positive note, Volk noted that besides Heritage-Moscow there are other budding institutions devoted to promoting civil societies. There’s the Hayek Foundation in Moscow and “Project Capitalism 21″ which publishes the works of von Mises, Hayek and which has established F.A. Hayek chairs at several Russian universities. He emphasized in closing that we must speak out openly and frankly to defend and promote the virtues of capitalism. He praised the worldwide “Marches For Capitalism” as a model.
Know Your Enemies:
New Anti-Freedom Movements
Jacques de Guenin (France) president of Le Cercle Frédéric Bastiat, warns of the danger of anti-globalist groups.
Jacques de Guenin, president of Le Cercle Frédéric Bastiat (France), spoke about the hordes of ruffians who march or run through the streets, displaying boards with stupid slogans, shouting like morons, and occasionally breaking windows at World Trade Organization and other international meetings.
ATTAC, Jubilee 200, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Reclaim the Streets, Direct Action Network, and yes, AFL-CIO are among the associations supporting these hordes.
- Anti-”liberal” globalization (anti-free trade)
- Anti-corporation, especially multi-national ones
- For giving up the debt of 3rd Word countries (lip service)
- Radical environmentalists
- Anti-industry, anti-development
De Guenin warned that these groups are under Marxist or Trotskyist leadership – which is why they are so dangerous. Clever collectivist leaders are reactivating formerly-active communists or radical leftists (now discouraged because of the collapse of communism) telling them : “You were right. You have been fooled by egocentric tyrants, but your philosophy is the right one.”
And they offer to these orphans of communism new applications for their philosophy. These movements are in fact little more than communism in a new guise.
But they are incoherent. They appear to be somewhat anarchistic – but yet none of their objectives can be reached without increased government intervention. They are against international organizations and yet none of their objectives can be reached without some kind of international organization.
They agree on some objectives, but differ widely on others. They manifest together to hide their differences, to swell the number of people marching, to give an impression of power, and to enjoy a feeling of existence and camaraderie.
They receive a lot of indirect money from unions and even governments!
Ideas of Liberty: Reforms and Politics
Elena Leontjeva (Lithuania) co-founder of the Lithuanian Free Market Institute, spoke on reforms in Lithuania and the importance of think tanks.
Elena Leontjeva was co-founder of the Lithuanian Free Market Institute in 1990 and was its president until 2001. She had been actively involved in helping establish a Lithuanian securities market and stock exchange – and in 1994 was a State Councilor on economic reforms. Then in 1998 and 1999 she became economic Advisor to Lithuanian President Adamkus.
Leontjeva spoke on the importance of think tanks and related the story of how Antony Fisher had asked the advice of F.A. Hayek about going into politics.
Hayek warned that political action before the intellectual groundwork had been laid would be futile. Fisher took this advice to heart and chose the educational route, establishing many thinktanks around the world, including the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA) in the UK and the Atlas Foundation in Virginia, USA.
Following in Fisher’s footsteps,
Elena and the founders of LFMI chose the educational route. But Leontjeva
stressed the importance of maintaining dialogue with politicians – and
providing the intellectual tools to advance freedom – particularly when a
country is at a critical transition point, as Lithuania was.
The Internet – Where The
Battle For Freedom Rages Hottest
Louis James, an ISIL Director and CEO of Free-Market.Net (an ISIL project), spoke on using the Internet to promote freedom. First he showed some slides he’d just taken with our group at the KGB museum http://www.free-market.net/03conf.html to underscore the urgency of the fight for freedom, and the terrible consequences of losing liberty.
”So far,” he stated, “we have been able to avoid an American totalitarian state. Fortunately we have the most powerful educational technology ever invented at our disposal: the Internet. The Internet brings people together like never before and causes people to exchange ideas at faster rates than ever before. Civic discourse has hit the speed of light.”
”This matters,” he explained, “because bad laws, economically-destructive policies, and dictators all thrive on ignorance and survive only when they are well-insulated from reality by thick layers of lies. The facts, however, are out there, and the Internet makes it easier for people to find them.”
He urged everyone to get involved by helping more people discover and encounter important truths, especially about freedom.
”Why should you do this,” he asked, “with so many excellent pro-freedom web sites already online? Because people are individuals, and what will persuade one individual to consider new truths (especially uncomfortable ones) is often unique to that individual. In the past, widely-broadcast messages were best, not because they worked for everyone, but because they allowed one to reach the vast numbers necessary when only a small percentage will listen. Now, via the Internet’s search engines, we can ‘narrow-cast’: get targeted messages right to the people most receptive to them. You should get involved because your way of teaching freedom is going to be the best way to reach certain people.”
James urged everyone to “Get motivated, get going, get online – and make a difference. Only you can!”
AN EVENING OF PARTYING
ISIL Director Ken Schoolland rises to the task of blowing out birthday candles, while Hubert and Rita Jongen applaud (far left and right). Location is Ritos Smukle (Rita’s Pub) in Vilnius, Lithuania.
That night, the conference crowd convened at the rustic Ritos Smukle (Rita’s Pub) for a lively party with food, drink and dancing with a folk band. We also celebrated ISIL director Ken Schoolland’s birthday.
– DAY-THREE THEME –
A Glance At The History of Liberty
Viliiumas Malinauskas (r) owner of Grutas Park, addresses our group (through an interpreter) – telling the story of how he created “Stalin World”.
The third day of the conference was devoted mostly to a visit to Grutas Park, about 50 kilometers from Vilnius. Also known as “Stalin World”, it is the world’s largest outdoor exhibition of Soviet-era sculptures.
The owner of the park, wealthy businessman Viliumas Malinauskas (an alternative Nobel Prize winner) addressed our group (through an interpreter) at a museum in the park.
Besides the hundreds of sculptures of various and sundry tyrants, there were guard towers with (formerly) electrified barbed-wire fences – and in some areas loudspeakers blaring martial music of the period.
When Malinauskas first came up with the idea of a theme park chronicling the history of Marxist oppression, it was opposed by many Lithuanians who had seen enough of these horrors and wanted to forget. But he insisted that future generations must never forget and scoured the countryside for statues of Soviet tyrants (some weighing several tons) and assembled them in this unique park.
This is the first and probably last time you will see a photo of Stalin in an ISIL publication. One of hundreds of statues and busts of tyrants (from the dark times) on display at Stalin World.
That evening we reconvened in Vilnius for a concert at St. Kotryna’s Church. The program proved to be a highlight for music lovers. The St. Christopher Chamber Orchestra, directed by Donatas Katkus, played a selection of classics, including Haydn’s Symphony in E Major No 64 – but the highlight of the evening was a beautiful young Swedish soprano Kerstin Avamo who delivered a stunning performance of numerous classics. A star in the making!
– DAY-FOUR THEME –
Are We Getting Closer To
The Ideals of Liberty?
Apparatchik Economics: The Past
and the Future
Fred Foldvary, a professor of economics at Santa Clara University, California is an active member of the Civil Society Institute – an up-and-coming classical-liberal intellectual powerhouse. His main areas of research include public finance, public choice, social ethics, and the economics of real estate. His books include The Soul of Liberty, Beyond Neoclassical Economics, Public Goods and Private Communities, Dictionary of Free-Market Economics, and (co-edited) The Half-Life of Policy Rationales.
Foldvary spoke on “Apparatchik Economics.” In the Soviet Union, an “apparatchik” was a member of the government, especially a loyal subordinate of an organization or a political leader.
Daniel Klein, Foldvary’s colleague at Santa Clara University, applied this Russian term to functionaries serving and perpetuating status-quo policies. Indeed, the main reason we don’t have free markets today is that the public, the politicians, and, unfortunately, most economists, are blinded by apparatchism.
To remedy the apparatchik problem, Prof. Klein together with other economists, including Foldvary himself, founded a new online journal called “Econ Journal Watch” econjournalwatch.org. One of their aims is to review the economics literature and point out the apparatchism of academic articles.
Foldvary explained that the apparatchiks don’t understand the “meaning of the market.” The pure free market does not mean “anything goes.” In a pure market, all activity is voluntary for everyone in the economy. The meaning of voluntary human action is that a person may do anything that does not coercively harm others. So long as one does not invade the domain of others, there is no legal restriction or cost imposed on human action.
The economies of the former Soviet empire have emerged from totalitarian apparatchism, but have only gotten as far as emulating bad copies of the mixed economies of North America and Western Europe. That has been a major movement towards freedom. But to continue on the path to freedom, we need to go beyond the apparatchism of economics, ethics, and political theory as taught and practiced today. We need to go to a full spectrum of understanding.
In particular, these are the key elements that will bring us to freedom:
- In ethical philosophy, an understanding of the universal ethic that provides the meaning of the market.
- In governance theory, the public-choice analysis of radical decentralized democracy.
- In economics, the recognition that civic services generate land rent, and that free-enterprise can use this rent to finance public goods, eliminating the justification for taxation.
Fred Foldvary, Dept. of Economics, Santa Clara University, Santa
Clara, CA 95053.
See text version on-line here – Fred E. Foldvary
Why Totalitarian States Survive Nowadays
Jaroslav Romanchuk (Belarus) is VP of the Official Opposition party in Belarus and CEO of the Scientific Research Mises Center in Minsk. An economic analyst, he is engaged in working out a strategy of reforms in a economy in transition from socialism to a market economy – including the monitoring of social-security reform. He is also Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the weekly Belorusskaya Gazeta.
A long-time admirer of Ayn Rand, Romanchuk has lectured in his native Belarus and neighboring countries on the Objectivist ethic, and two years ago introduced Putin advisor Andrei Ilarionov to the Russian version of Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.
After the breakup of the Soviet Union millions of people around the world cried with joy, “Communism is dead! Socialism is dead!” At the same time, many university professors and academicians, politicians and political scientists (assisted by “witch doctors” from the West) laid the foundation for a slightly-modified ideology of new millennium collectivism which they sold to people using adjectives such as: “modern”, “progressive”, “socially oriented,” “humanitarian,” “non-discriminatory,” “just”.
Of course many countries in the region are much freer now than they were 20 years ago. Hard work, dedication and courage of Lithuanian, Polish, Czech, Russian and many other peoples, led to the collapse of the most bloody, cruel, and anti-human system in the world. We should honor the people who broke the backbone of the deadly communist, socialist system in their countries.
But Romanchuk warned that the fight for freedom is not over. It will never be over. That is why there is a never-ending need to coordinate our activities in the common struggle against modern totalitarianism.
Belarus is a unique case in many respects. Many experts believed that it was one of the most collectivized republics of the Soviet Union. With its armies of diligent and disciplined apparatchiks, it has been the most consistent in implementing ideas of socialism. Also the fact that the regime receives about 2 billion. USD in Russian subsidies a year (the general government budget is about $3.1 billion) leaves little incentive to abandon central planning.
Elections and referenda were held, but it no longer mattered what people thought. Since 1994 all elections have been manipulated. There are institutions in Belarus with familiar labels: “parliament”, “local council”, “court”, “government” – but these are all substructures of one powerful central administration.
To prevent totalitarianism and to ensure a sustainable, long-term movement toward a free capitalist society, Romanchuk stressed the need for economic education to counter the mindset instilled by decades of propaganda. He said there was a need for a “Harry Potter” of libertarianism to promote the concepts to the masses
See text version on-line here – Jaroslav Romanchuk
Liberty And War: A Critique Of
US Foreign Policy Today
Ken Schoolland, an ISIL Director, is Associate Professor of Economics at Hawaii Pacific University where he teaches courses in Government and International Relations. He is also author of the prize-winning free-market fable, The Adventures of Jonathan Gullible, which has been published in 30 languages.
To dramatize his critique of US
foreign-policy positions, Ken assembled his family (his young daughter Kenli
and wife Li) to perform in a humorous skit. Ken played the straight man with
daughter Kenli asking pointed and embarrassing questions. Ken, playing “Mr. Man
on the Street,” would try (often weakly) to defend his (statist) positions and
deal with all the contradictions and non-stop snafus of foreign policy. Li
joined in later in the discussion.
The performance is available on the conference CD.
One View Regarding Peace In
The Middle East
(left to right) Gediminas Galkauskas (LFMI staff & conference co-organizer) shares a joke with Professors Fred Foldvary (USA) and Dean Ahmad (USA) on the grounds of Trakai Castle.
Dean Ahmad, an adjunct professor of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, and a long-time member of the US Libertarian Party (Executive and Platform committees) is president of the Minaret of Freedom Institute, an Islamic think-tank in Washington, DC. He spoke at some length on the history of Islam and the historic reasons for many of today’s conflicts. He was highly critical of Israeli government policies toward Palestinians – and particularly US government support of that government.
Dr. Ahmad identified much of the current problems in today’s Islamic world as being the legacy of the Crusades and European military interventions by the English, French and Dutch empires. Ahmad related, as Bernard Lewis did in his many books, that up until these invasions, the Islamic world had for 800 years been the world’s premier civilization – not only in terms of scientific achievement but in terms of trade. Ahmad related a history of relatively peaceful co-existence between Jews and Muslims going back through much of history. But imperial adventures by Europeans resulted in a serious decline in the Islamic, and particularly the Arab world, and later attempts to modernize were unfortunately based on copying the structures of European governments’ (lamentably socialist) policies.
Ahmad was critical of the neo-con-servatives who drive American foreign policy in the Middle East and provided a short history of the neo-con movement. He also worried about Dispensationalist religious movements who believe in Armageddon and the return of Jesus and who lobby for support of Israel and try to “force God’s hand”.
Many of the claims made against Israeli policies vis à vis Palestinians by Ahmad are a matter of historical record – but the presentation was deemed by many present to be excessively one-sided. (ISIL had planned for a debate with input from an Israeli speaker but cancellations at the last minute resulted in only Ahmad’s analysis being presented). So, in order to provide some balance, Tim Starr has presented an opposing view, such as should have been included in the conference debate. We are publishing Mr. Starr’s take in this issue of the Freedom Network News. (see Letters to the Editor), and hope he and Mr. Ahmad will continue the dialogue in a public forum available to all concerned).
Ahmad concluded by saying that, in his opinion, an end to American aid to Israel is the major step in moving toward a peaceful settlement. He claimed that such a move would not only marginalize extremists on the Palestinian side, but would establish a more realistic atmosphere for peace negotiations.
Insights Into An Eastern View Of Liberty
Barun Mitra is ISIL’s rep for India, and founder and director of the Liberty Institute in New Delhi. Ken Schoolland, who introduced Barun Mitra, praised him for his monumental efforts to promote liberty. Ken remarked that Mitra has not made waves, but “tidal waves,” throughout India and the world. He has been regularly published in the Wall Street Journal, the Asian Wall Street Journal, The Economic Times of India, and other mainstream publications.
Mitra stressed that Eastern as well as Western civilizations want and need freedom and the ideas of liberty – and that these universal ideals are not unique to any culture. “I think the ideas of liberty – without qualification do apply to all human beings,” he stated.
He warned that a belief in individualism and a “live and let live” ethic are not enough. He said, “We must sell these ideas worldwide.” He especially urged members present to get involved in protests like the World Trade Organization meetings which provide an enormous public forum to promote the ideas of liberty. He himself has attended and spoken out strongly in favor of free trade at WTO events in Seattle, USA; Johannesburg, South Africa; Melbourne, Australia; and most recently Cancun, Mexico.
He strongly suggested that as libertarians we seek ways to reach the poor (the victims of protectionist policies) and galvanize the masses in support of freedom.
Mitra announced at this conference that he had organized a summer camp in the Himalayas modeled after the Lithuanian English Summer camp (which was held just prior to the Vilnius conference) and has been conferring with Stephen Browne who created the first English summer camp. As you may know, in these camps students studied English, using libertarian texts as reading material.
The European Union – Freedom Or Leviathan?
A panel consisting of Erik Lakomaa (Sweden), Ramunas Vilpisauskas (Lithuania), Hubert Jongen (The Netherlands) debates the pros and cons of the European Union.
A panel discussion of the pros and cons of the European Union (EU), moderated by LFMI Vice President Ruta Vainiene, was held. Panelists were:
Hubert Jongen (the Netherlands), current president of Libertarian International www.libertarian.to, a founder of the libertarian movement in the Netherlands and Belgium and an initiator of the European libertarian movement.
Ramunas Vilpisauskas (Lithuania), a senior policy analyst for the Lithuanian Free Market Institute, and an Associate Professor at the Institute of International Relations and Political Sciences at Vilnius University. He is also president of the Lithuanian Political Science Academy and a NATO research fellow.
Erik Lakomaa (Sweden), a political consultant and campaign director for “Citizens Against The European Monetary Union”. He is also editor of Nyliberalen, Sweden’s libertarian quarterly magazine.
Hubert Jongen led
off the debate by stating that, in his opinion, the European Union (EU) is an
immoral idea, executed by and for politicians. “It is about concentrating more
and more power over individuals in the hands of politicians in Brussels,” he
He reported that bureaucrats were micromanaging the smallest details of life of EU members. He gave examples like: there are laws about how meat balls must be made (how thick, how much fat, how spicy). There are laws about the number of holes in cheese – and curved cucumbers cannot legally be sold in the EU market!
He noted that CODEX regulations regarding which medicines one may take have already destroyed the entire homeopathic medicine industry in Europe.
”Brussels bureaucrats tell you how, when, where and to whom you may sell; who you may have as your workers and what you may pay them; how much vacation time you have to give them, etc.”
He also warned that countries with large populations tend to run roughshod over smaller countries, calling them “dwarfs” and tailoring policies to suit themselves.
Dr. Ramunas Vilpisauskas,
reservedly supportive of the EU, agreed that there are problems with the
organization and that the powers of bureaucrats can be excessive. He did point
out, however, that the EU does not regulate everything (e.g. social policy,
direct taxes, health, education are not regulated).
Dr. Vilpisauskas identified problems arising from EU regulations. He noted that regulations are usually “harmonized” toward the strictest norms – which increase the cost of business – particularly for small businesses – and thus increase consumer costs.
In a more positive vein, Dr. Vilpisauskas stressed that the complete removal of import barriers inside the Common Market were pivotal in his decision to support Lithuania joining the EU. He also noted that the details of free trade and free exchange within the common market are written out explicitly in the EU Treaty. He saw the ability of corporations or individuals to sue their own governments or the EU as a potentially-effective means of constraining their powers. While he saw many problems, he thought the overall benefits to Lithuanians were worth the risks.
Erik Lakomaa, spoke about the European Monetary Union (EMU). A rather
unsettling aspect of the EMU, he reported, is that once a country signs up they
are locked in and are not allowed to leave. One can leave the EU (Greenland did
in 1986), but if you’ve signed on as a member of the EMU you’re stuck. Lakomaa
noted that of all the European countries, those outside the EU had the lowest
unemployment and highest economic performance. He warned that the EMU had
serious long-term structural problems. For example, interest rates in most
member countries (fixed by the European Central Bank) bear little relation to
economic reality. In a study by French bankers, only Austria and Italy had
interest rates that jived with market realities. Germany’s calculated rates
were too high while Ireland’s were too low (negative, actually). But the EMU
has established one interest rate for all countries. Lakomma said that EMU
bureaucrats were likely to micromanage economies in order to compensate for
market distortions brought about by their polices, e.g. forcing the Irish to
raise taxes – or by socialist redistributionist schemes (taxing good performers
to subsidize poor performers).
He summed up by saying that in his opinion the EMU won’t work, that it will end up giving dictatorial powers to tax and spend to Brussels bureaucrats – and end up bankrupt.
Note: The Swedes did reject the EMU in their referendum.
Jaroslav Romanchuk Honored
Jaroslav Romanchuk (Belarus) accepts the Marshall Bruce Evoy Memorial Award for exceptional devotion and achievement in the cause of liberty – amidst dangerous circumstances.
At the closing gala banquet, Mary Lou Gutscher (Canada) conference chairperson and a trustee of the Marshall Bruce Evoy Memorial Freedom Fund, announced Jaroslav Romanchuk of Belarus as the winner of the Marshall Bruce Evoy Memorial Award this year.
The award was created by former ISIL director Bruce Evoy shortly before his death in 1998.
Knowing that his health was failing, Evoy set up the Marshall Bruce Evoy Memorial Freedom Fund to acknowledge those libertarians who had succeeded in advancing liberty in the face of difficult or dangerous circumstances.
For those who did not know Bruce, he was founder of the Libertarian Party of Canada in 1973, and a rep for the Nathaniel Branden Institute in the 60′s. A Shakespearean actor, master teacher and political activist, he was famous throughout the libertarian movement for his marvelous renditions of Patrick Henry’s famous “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!” speech.
Evoy insisted that the first Evoy Award, presented at the 1997 ISIL Rome conference, be given to Vince Miller and Jim Elwood for their years of devotion to the movement and ISIL, and in recognition of their enormous financial sacrifice.
He also designated two more winners before he passed away. Tomislav Krsmanovic, ISIL’s gallant Serbian Rep, was awarded the second Evoy Award at a 1999 Libertarian International meeting in Copenhagen; and then in 2001 at the ISIL conference in Dax, France, Valentina Nicolae, ISIL Rep for Romania, was honored as the recipient for that year.
Jaroslav Romanchuk, this year’s winner, certainly qualifies, as we shall see.
We met Jaroslav at the 1997 ISIL world conference in Rome. He recalls how much the experience of meeting so many libertarians provided both inspiration and hope.
Before meeting the people at ISIL, he feared that he must be some kind of misfit, or crazy. In isolation from the world of ideas in Belarus, he found it very difficult to understand why the whole world did not admire Rand, Rothbard, Mises or Hazlitt. He thought that there must have been a horrible mistake that such remarkable people have not been studied at all educational institutions.
In Rome, to his great relief, he found hundreds of kindred spirits and realized that it was not he, but the world, that had gone mad. Many Western countries, he discovered, had sadly forgotten the roots of their wealth, stability and security.
He reflected that even as a consulting expert to the Belarusian independent think tank “East-West”, his positions based on Austrian economics and the morality of a market economy branded him as a “man from the moon” even among his colleagues.
Convinced that the ideas of liberty had to be spread to a wider audience – to the public at large – he then embarked upon a public-outreach program, writing articles for a few Belarussian newspapers. Since 1993 he has published over 500 articles promoting free markets and discussing various moral-ethical issues.
He then joined the biggest liberal (in the classical sense of the word) political party in Belarus – the United Civil Party.
But in 1996 he discovered what it meant to be an independent thinker. In a coup d’état, president Lukashenka, who sympathized with the ideas of Stalin, Lenin, Hitler and Marx, closed down the analytical center along with dozens of independent newspapers. He then dissolved parliament. Critics in all forms of media were gagged, phones were bugged, and relatives of activists found themselves blocked from employment. Four leaders of his party were kidnapped just before the election, and others had unfortunate “accidents.”
But he persevered in spite of great personal danger, and in 2000 was elected Vice Chairman of the party. He seized upon this opportunity to meet and establish dialogue with people from around the country and to promote free-market ideas. He also distributed free books extolling the virtues of capitalism to libraries and various organizations.
Then he and his colleagues reregistered the think tank and began work as the Analytical Center “Strategy”. Later he formed the Scientific Research Mises Center and for 4 years has been holding regular economic seminars called “Economic Salons”. Each of the sessions, attended by students, teachers and experts, has been dedicated to a topic, a book or an article.
A year ago he launched a web site www.liberty-belarus.org. Its aim is to provide access to articles and books on liberty, as well as analytical materials on the situation in Belarus as well as the rest of the world. The site is intended to become a valuable source of information for teachers, students and social activists.
In his position as leader of the opposition, he and his colleagues worked out a new concept for tax, budget and market reforms in Belarus – and a new concept of pension reform modeled after the Chilean experience.
”People are beginning to see that we are not a bunch of crazy extremists. We talk common sense – and above all we value the individual,” he said.
Jaroslav has long been an admirer of Ayn Rand and has lectured on the Objectivist ethic in Minsk as well as in neighboring countries. Recently he became involved in the marketing and promotion of Ayn Rand in her native land, Russia. In 2001 he and Dmitri Kostygn introduced the Russian version of Atlas Shrugged to Putin’s top economic advisor Andrei Illarionov, who has gone on to praise Rand’s work and free markets in the Russian national media.
Jaroslav will be involved in further promotions and publishing efforts leading up to celebrations of the “Year of Ayn Rand” (being promoted jointly by ISIL and the Libertarian International in 2005 on the 100th anniversary of Rand’s birth in St Petersburg).
He concluded his address by saying: “We should never underestimate the potential of a determined minority. If we libertarians here in Belarus do our part to promote our ideas in a proper way and seize this window of opportunity we will have a good chance to start Belarus on the road toward freedom and prosperity.
”I realize that living in an authoritarian state this sometimes looks like day dreaming. But every real thing, every good deed, starts with a dream. I am deeply thankful for ISIL for helping make my dreams come true.”
THANKS TO . . .
Gala Banquet (l to r) ISIL VP Jim Elwood, Libertarian International president Hubert Jongen, Elena Leontjeva, LFMI president Ugnius Trumpa and (far right) Renata Pakalnyte.
Many thanks to the following persons who helped make the Vilnius conference such a great success: Lithuanian Free Market Institute President Ugnius Trumpa and VP/Program Director Ruta Vainiene – and the hardworking team at LFMI headquarters who worked diligently on a day-by-day basis during the year, especially . . .
- Renata Pakalnyte
- Remigijus Simasius
- Gediminas Galkauskas
Also . . .
- Jim Elwood (ISIL Executive VP)
- Mary Lou Gutscher (Master of Ceremonies extraordinaire)
- Richard Venable (Scholarship Chairman)
- Hubert Jongen (President of Libertarian International – co-sponsor of the conference.)
Thanks also to Veidas Magazine for support and coverage of the conference.
NOTE: Most of the Vilnius conference proceedings are available on a computer CD as mp3 files – some with transcripts and photos. There’s also a Lithuanian travelogue included. The price is only $15.95 (plus shipping & handling). Click here to order.
A special feature of ISIL conferences are the optional post-conference tours. These represent a travel bargain and provide our members with an extra three or four days to explore the host country and have an opportunity to continue discussions and make closer friends with conference attendees (or just relax and unwind). This year the tour of Lithuania took us to a number of interesting sites.
After touring some more historic sites in Vilnius, we headed to Lithuania’s second city of Kaunas. Just outside the city we visited Fort #9 – an old Russian fort that later became a Nazi death camp where tens of thousands of Jews had been executed.
Again a somber experience – but a reminder of the hideous things that can happen to a disarmed populace. Kaunas, we discovered, was the birthplace of Emma Goldman – also Ludwig Lazarus Zamenthof, the creator of Esperanto.
Along the way Tom Wilbur, whom some of you may remember from the Tallinn, Estonia conference in 1993, joined our party to act as a tour guide. Tom, a second-generation Lithuanian, had moved back to Lithuania after the ISIL Tallinn conference, and has worked on producing travelogue videos (which we were able to view).
Tim Starr (USA) surveys abandoned Soviet missile silo from top rim (at Plateliai, Lithuania).
Among the trip highlights was a visit to an abandoned Soviet missile site at Plateliai where we explored control centres and peered down into silos which once contained threats to all of Europe (and America, as it turns out). We were told that at one time missiles from this site had been among those transported to Cuba during the Cuban missile crisis.
We then visited the seaport of Klaipeda, and from there visited Nida spit and the great sand dunes (Parnidis Dune).
In the distance from the top of the dunes we could see the Russian border at Kaliningrad. The Nida spit was a bird sanctuary that boasted great flocks of cormorants and herons. It is also an area famous for its amber (we visited the amber museum in Palanga and some of our party purchased amber jewellery).
Later we visited Witches Hill which featured hundreds of pagan wood sculptures – also the Hill of Crosses where Christian worshippers had placed tens of thousands of crosses as a form of prayer and to honor lost loved ones.
Everyone had a great time, so we strongly recommend that you include the tour whenever you attend a future ISIL World Conference.
Next year we are shifting to a new part of the world for us – New Zealand. We’ve got a great one in the planning stages for the spectacular “Middle Earth” – one of the world’s top tourist destinations. Watch for update at ISIL Conferences – and don’t miss the chance to have the experience of a lifetime!