ISIL World Freedom Summit
2005 – Gummersbach, Germany
by Vince Miller
- Surprise Meeting With Iraqi Constitutionalist
- The Moral Hazards of “Orange” Revolutions
- Why The EU is Doomed
- The EU – A Pragmatic View
- French Anti-Liberalism: Don’t Do It the French Way
- In Praise of Non-Centralism: The Swiss Experiment
- Tax Competition As A Means To Control Leviathan
- Globalization As A Peace Strategy
- The Limits of Democracy
- Africa’s Scars Will Take More Than Live-8 To Heal
- Africa: Cultural Impediments To A Free Society
- Networking Panel: Free Market Thinktanks
- Religion: Fundamentalism vs. Liberalism
- Religion: Are Religion and Capitalism Compatible?
- Report: International Free Student Network
- Celebrating The “Year of Ayn Rand”
- Banquet: Awards Ceremony
- Post-Conference Tour
The ISIL conference this year celebrated the 25th anniversary of the founding of ISIL in Ann Arbor, Michigan back in 1980. For history buffs, we started out as Libertarian International, but later in 1989 merged with the original Society for Individual Liberty (SIL) which dated back to 1969. We changed our name to ISIL. A historical review is included in this issue of the Freedom Network News.
Our 2005 conference was held in Germany at the facilities of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation in Gummersbach (near Cologne – or Kóln as it is properly known). This year many hot topics were covered – including the state of the European Union, globalization and free trade.
We owe a great vote of thanks to Jim Peron of the Institute for Liberal Values (New Zealand) and Wolfgang Mueller who has just formed the only privately-funded German thinktank – the Institut für Unternehmerische Freiheit(Institute for Free Enterprise) in Berlin, for their outstanding work in hosting this event.
The conference had originally been scheduled for St. Petersburg, but deterioration of the political climate in Russia made it necessary to us to change venues. So Jim and Wolfgang managed to salvage the situation in spite of the fact we lost 6 months preparation time. A special vote of thanks guys, you saved the day!
Thanks to the support of our membership and some especially generous patrons, we were able to provide scholarships to attend this conference for a record 56 students and young activists from throughout the former Soviet bloc – plus a smattering from Western Europe, Africa, the US, and even New Zealand. All told, despite a late start, we assembled some 125 participants from 28 countries. Georgia, Ghana, Kenya, Moldova, Mongolia, and Portugal were represented for the first time at an ISIL conference.
As usual a great deal of valuable networking transpired. We saw levels of excitement and high spirits that reminded those of us who have been in the movement for decades of the early days when we first discovered the ideas of freedom.
A SURPRISE MEETING
ISIL VP Jim Elwood and I arrived at the Friedrich Naumann Institute facilities a few days early and discovered much to our surprise that a team of Iraqis (including politicians, lawyers, and academics) were there discussing their constitution (presumably choosing Germany as neutral territory). We wondered what the police and heavy security were all about. In any case we made it a point to meet with the leader of the group to discuss constitutional models and the nature of democracy. We have been in regular contact since our friend returned to Baghdad. We hope to report on inroads into Iraq and other Arab countries in future issues. For starters we have a request for an Arab translation of the now-famous “Philosophy of Liberty” flash animation. And an Arab edition of Ken Schoolland’s The Adventures of Jonathan Gullible is now nearing completion.
THE MORAL HAZARDS OF
Jaroslav Romanchuk (Belarus) warns that many of the so-called “Orange Revolutions” have not produced the desired result of bringing freedom and prosperity.
Jaroslav Romanchuk, vice-chairman of the opposition United Civil Party of Belarus, deputy editor-in-chief of the weekly newspaper Belorusskaya Gazetta, and president of the Mises Center in Minsk, warned of the dangers accompanying many of the “Orange” styled revolutions which have occurred in various countries in the former Soviet bloc – (Poland – 1989-90; Soviet Union – 1991; Yugoslavia – 2002; Georgia – 2004; Ukraine – 2005; Kyrgistan – 2005; etc.).
These popular movements, which arose as attempts to topple totalitarian and authoritarian states and bring about western-styled freedoms, have faced great difficulties.
Many of these movements have been subverted from the outset with old tyrannies being installed under new labels – imposing control over assets, eliminating or marginalizing political competitors, conducting phony privatizations, etc.
Romanchuk explained that people typically have unrealistic expectations – such as anticipating instant high Western standards of living, high salaries, and so on – and are unprepared for an awkward adjustment period after a half-century of disastrous socialist rule.
“Contributions” from the West
Unfortunately, countries emerging from socialism have been presented with a poisonous brew of reforms by westerners. The Sachs-Galbraith Paradigm – otherwise known as the “Third Way” (a mixed-economy welfare state) is a prime example. But as we have seen, the Third Way leads to the Third World. Emerging countries have also been inundated with intellectual, financial and technical “assistance” from the IMF, World Bank, the EU, UN, OECD, EBRD, etc.
Romanchuk asks, “Where was the libertarian platform for post-socialist countries?”
These calls for an active role of the state (with expensive welfare-state programs, protectionism, limited and flawed privatizations, price controls, and the maintenance of state monopolies in education, healthcare, transportation and communications technologies), were doomed to failure at the outset. Worse yet, they’ve been carried out under the labels: “liberalism”, “capitalism”, “democracy”, “the Western Way” – which has ended up discrediting market-economy solutions in the eyes of many people.
The result of all this is that the governments of poor countries have been unable to meet social commitments and have been faced with high levels of unemployment, escalating street crime (gangs, etc.) and a general economic malaise.
Romanchuk stated, “Clearly, these people haven’t the slightest idea what a libertarian agenda is about.”
The solution, as Romanchuk stressed in his closing remarks, is to challenge the Washington Consensus – which is in reality leading to economic chaos in the West and is the problem – not any kind of solution. He also emphasized the need for education on the virtues of market economies in the universities and among intellectuals (a task taken on by ISIL with our scholarship program and book publishing projects – Ed.).
Discussions on the EU Constitution
WHY THE EU IS DOOMED
– And How Liberty Can Blossom In Europe –
Rahim Taghizadegan, president of the “Liberale Initiative” (LI) www.liberal.li, a classical liberal think tank based in Vienna, Austria, which reaches the German-speaking world, warned that the EU is a danger not to be taken lightly.
Quoting from David Landes’ famous book The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, he noted that in the past European despotism was mitigated by law, by territorial partition, and by divisions of power between competing authorities within states. And Rosenberg and Birdzell in their account of How the West Grew Richemphasized: “It seems certain that the development of capitalism in the West owed a good deal to the fragmentation of Europe into a multitude of states and principalities”.
But this does not seem the way that Europe is headed today. Of the European constitution he noted:
“The term ‘constitution’ is misleading. In fact, it is a treaty between governments, which only for reasons of marketing and power politics has been termed a “constitution”. While real constitutions are treaties between the government and the governed, usually formulated by citizens to achieve a limitation and reduction of arbitrariness of their governments (if they can’t get rid of them in the first place) this treaty was set up by bureaucrats to put the EU on the road toward further centralization. It would not lead to a limitation of power, but rather it would result in the creation of a European super-state. To use the term “constitution” is nothing but a device to obscure a usurpation of power. It is bureaucrats and governments trying to speak under the guise of ‘we, the people’”.
Rahim alluded to the early American experience and the warnings of American patriot Patrick Henry about the dangers of a consolidated government in which the “sword and the purse” would be usurped by a central authority.
After the horrible experience with nationalism gone wild in Europe of the 1930s and 40s, Rahim worries about a recurrence of collectivism and a new Euro-chauvanism. Politicians seem eager to create a European “people.”
As to solutions, Taghizadegan noted that many people, including especially the young, are looking for new solutions, but are tricked into harmful illusions by politicians.
“What I propose instead,” he stated, “is to go bottom-up. While political changes need a majority and always imply coercion, in the battle of ideas an irate, tireless minority may also do very well. The so-called revolution of 1968 showed an approximate participation of 5% of that generation – that is 1-2 students per classroom. It very much seems like defenders of individual liberty are getting there. I am receiving a lot of email from 18-year-olds who are surprised to learn that they are not alone. They say things like “I have always felt that there was something wrong with the way my teachers presented history, economics, and politics. But I thought that maybe there was something wrong with me, as I knew of no-one else who thought the same way.” Another student told me that he had always been striving for ‘another world that is possible,’ which the enemies of individual liberty relentlessly promise, but the only coherent vision, he finally found, was in the philosophy of individual liberty. Click here for the entire text of Rahim’s speech
THE EUROPEAN CONSTITUTION:
A Pragmatic View
Jacques de Guenin, president of Le Cercle Frédéric Bastiatin Les Landes, France, had a view of the EU quite different from that of Rahim Taghizadegan.
He explained that even though he is a classical liberal and opposed to the socialist elements of the EU, there were more important aspects to consider.
He noted, “The attempt to develop some sort of European Union in order to live in peace forever with our neighbors has been the greatest enterprise of my generation, the generation born before the war of 1939-1945.
“We have known Nazism, Communism, and their trails of horror and have watched the killing of millions of people in absurd conflicts.
“Our parents have told us the horrors of the previous war, the War of 1914-1918. Every year, on the 11th of November, with most people of my village, we gather at the monument to the soldiers killed during that war. Their names are on the monument: they cover practically all the young men who would have been between 20 and 30 in 1918. And the same thing happened in all villages, in all towns, of France and Germany.
Before that, there was not a single generation without a war between some of the nations that constituted Europe, wars the atrocities of which were always covered up by the governments involved.
Now, for 60 years, there has not been a single war among our countries, and it seems almost impossible to imagine that there could be one during the life of any living person. Such is the main achievement of the European Union.
“The EU has forced leaders and citizens, to work together on common goals, to appreciate each other, either in the common institutions, or in multinational activities – all of which has generated lasting friendships which are totally impervious to previous antagonisms. Click here for a full text version of Jacque DeGuenin’s speech
Don’t do it the French Way
Vincent Benard, science writer for the Hayek Institutein Brussels, Belgium, began by saying that French anti-liberalism and its dominance within every level of decisional powers, is turning France into the main impediment to liberal reforms in Europe.
“Other countries of the world are not immune to what is happening to us,” he stated. “Marxist forces are challenging liberal values (such as globalization and its benefits) on a daily basis . . . there is a French paradox: liberalism has become the center of political debate, but it virtually doesn’t exist in France.
Benard explained that there were some historical factors which contributed heavily to the present situation in France. One is “Gramscism”, named after Antonio Gramsci. He was a Marxist activist who advocated strong penetration by communist militants into key French institutions – especially education, media and culture. National state-run education has been a priority target and has been responsible for inculcating strong anti-capitalist dogma into young people’s minds.
In 1945 communists received 25% of the vote in France. Maurice Thorez, chief of the Communist Party (and notoriously pledged to Moscow) became Minister of Civil Service and right away forced the administration directors to share power with unions – a policy that would have disastrous long-term consequences.
Another problem facing the French is “Enarchy” derives from the acronym ENA – Ecole Nationale d’Administration). This is a department that selects 25-year-old students for top civil-service jobs. The “Enarch” insiders have dominated government and have been sought after as CEOs for private-sector companies because of their rent-seeking talents with fellow comrades. Corporatism with a capital “C”.
He reported that police had been ordered to arrest those with Liberte Cherie t-shirts at demonstrations.
But Benard also expressed some optimism because of the growing pressure from more-liberalized neighboring states:
“The French people might be misled by their political parties and the mainstream media, but blogosphere and cross-border circulation of information will make it more and more difficult to hide the fact that countries which solved their internal crises achieve such results with liberal reforms.”
He thinks the solutions are to fight the state monopoly in education and to fight any university or other group that seeks to achieve a monopoly over civil service top management jobs.
IN PRAISE OF NON-CENTRALISM
The Swiss Experiment
Robert Nef, Director of the Liberales Institut in Zurich, Switzerland, co-publisher of the journal Schweizer Moatschefte, and author of “Which Constitution For Which EU?” spoke on the Swiss experiment in democracy and the dangers of centralization of power.
“The temptation of centralism is great,” he began, and so, too, is the half-life of its decay long. It is not only an ‘evil in itself’, but it also bears the seeds of its own destruction and is thus something dangerous not only for the subjugated but also for those who wield the power.”
Those who nourish the hope that it will be possible to keep central government free of the corrupting tendencies of power and to staff it with a freedom-loving elite, overestimate the virtues of both the electorate and the elected, and underestimate the normative power of structural processes even over well- intended functionaries.”
Anyone examining the various studies on the global ranking of nation-states can hardly avoid the observation that a broad range of indicators provide empirical evidence for the success of smaller, non-central systems.
Wars, which may be seen as the pathological excesses of centralized power, create benefits for centralized systems that interrupt and mask the very gradual process of their decay.
In the course of his international lecturing on the subject of “Swiss Federalism and Non-Centralism” Nef is sometimes asked: “When did Switzerland begin its process of decentralization?” His response was: “It never began that process; all it has managed to do is to successfully avoid – or at least put the brakes on – the process of centralization for an uncommonly long time. The country’s only centralist experiment, Helvetia under French dominance, lasted barely five years, from 1798 to 1803, or less than half of one percent of its 700-year history. Switzerland is moving very slowly in the direction of “more centralism,” and perhaps the first step towards non-centralism consists in active skepticism towards centralism, in the refusal to push the process forward and accelerate it.
Switzerland’s success resides in the persistent resistance to centralism. Positively defined, it may be seen in the functioning of competitive municipal bodies, in the combination of personal autonomy and municipal autonomy.
The Swiss political system rests on two main points: first, a skepticism about power and rejection of domination (which is always “foreign” domination, to a certain extent), and second, the realization that there are collective problems which must be resolved in common, flexibly, as cooperatively as possible, and without outside intervention.
Both these points are aptly presented in Friedrich Schiller’s play “William Tell”: the anarchistic “Tell principle” and the communitarian “Rütli alliance principle.” A political system cannot survive on the basis of the negation of power alone. Neither the “anti” nor the “non” is sufficient as a long-term principle for political survival.
As a Means To Control Leviathan
Daniel J. Mitchell, the McKenna Senior Fellow in Political Economy for the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C, spoke on tax competition as a means of controlling leviathan.
Tax competition exists when people can reduce tax burdens by shifting capital and/or labor from high-tax jurisdictions to low-tax jurisdictions. This migration disciplines profligate governments and rewards nations that lower tax rates and engage in pro-growth tax reform.
Like other forms of competition, fiscal rivalry generates positive results and is a powerful force for economic liberalization. Unfortunately the European Union is an opponent of tax liberalization policies and a strong advocate of so-called “tax harmonization”.
The Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development launched a “harmful tax competition” initiative in the 1990s, identifying more than 40 so-called tax havens. The OECD is threatening these jurisdictions with financial ostracism if they do not agree to weaken their tax and privacy laws so that high-tax nations could more easily track – and tax – flight capital. Luckily, as of this writing, all tax-harmonization schemes have been stymied. Several nations – most notably the United States – have refused to join the EU’s proposed tax cartel.
The Benefits of Tax Competition
The benefits of tax competition can be appreciated by looking at tax-policy changes that have swept the world in the past 25 years.
Tax competition surely played a role in this global shift to lower tax rates, and lower tax rates unambiguously have helped the world economy to grow faster. Even the OECD, which is hardly sympathetic to pro-growth tax policy, has estimated that economies grow one-half of 1 percent (0.5 percent) faster for every 10 percentage-point reduction in marginal tax rates.
The “Irish Miracle” is perhaps the most impressive evidence of how tax competition advances good tax policy. Less than 20 years ago, Ireland was an economic “basket case” with double-digit unemployment and an anemic economy. This weak performance was caused, at least in part, by an onerous tax burden. The top tax rate on personal income in 1984 was 65 percent, the capital-gains taxes reached a maximum of 60 percent, and the corporate tax rate was 50 percent.
Since slashing tax rates and regulations, the Irish economy has experienced the strongest growth of all industrialized nations, expanding at an average of 7.7 percent annually during the 1990s. The late 1990s were particularly impressive, as Ireland enjoyed annual growth rates in excess of 9 percent. In a remarkably short period of time, the “sick man of Europe” has become the “Celtic Tiger.” Unemployment has dropped dramatically, and investment has boomed.
And the Irish experience has had a positive effect on the rest of Europe.
Tax Reform in Eastern Europe
One of the most amazing fiscal policy developments is the adoption of flat taxes in former Soviet-bloc nations. The three Baltic nations – Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia – adopted flat-tax systems in the 1990s, and tax reform in the Baltics triggered a virtuous cycle of tax competition. Russia followed with a 13 percent flat tax that took effect in January 2001. Ukraine recently approved a 13 percent flat tax, and Slovakia is implementing a 19 percent flat tax. Even Serbia has a variant of a flat tax.
Which Path For Europe?
High-tax European welfare states are the biggest supporters of tax harmonization. Germany and France even want European-wide taxes imposed and collected by Brussels.
The battle between tax competition and tax harmonization is really a fight about whether government will control the factors of production. Supporters of tax harmonization would like to hinder the flow of workers and investments from high-tax nations to low-tax nations. The debate has focused primarily on capital, particularly on whether governments can track – and tax – flight capital; there are, however, even proposals that would allow government to tax the other factor of production – labor – when it crosses national borders.
Ultimately, this is a debate about the size of government. Harmonization means higher tax rates and bigger government. Freed from the rigor of competition, politicians would cater to special interests and resist much-needed fiscal reforms. This is why the residents of high-tax nations have the most to lose if governments create an “OPEC for politicians.”
Note: Peter Jungen (Germany) President of the European Enterprise Institute and described by a leading German business magazine as one of the 100 most important personalities who shape the future of the “new economy” in Europe was moderately positive about the future of Europe. He pointed to major factors of labor and tax competition from central European countries as a factor in forcing reforms on the European welfare states.
– GLOBALIZATION –
GLOBALIZATION AS A PEACE STRATEGY
Erich Weede, professor of sociology at the University of Bonn, Germany, began by saying that discussions of capitalism and globalization tend to focus quite narrowly on their economic effects. Although he is convinced of the economic benefits of globalization and free trade, he believes that these benefits might be less important than their international security benefits.
Free trade plays a pivotal role in the prevention of war because it exerts direct and indirect pacifying effects by stimulating growth, prosperity and democracy. The package of effects may be labeled the capitalist peace. If globalization is understood as the spread of capitalism by free trade, foreign investment and outsourcing, then globalization promises to promote prosperity and peace at the same time.
Globalization promises to enlarge the market and therefore to increase the division of labor and to speed productivity gains and economic growth. He noted that opponents of globalization – vested interest groups and political activists still think in Leninist terms about capitalism, imperialism and war. But historical evidence suggests the opposite: By promoting capitalism, economic freedom, trade and prosperity we simultaneously promote peace.
Weede gave the example of the Sino-American trade relationship. He also expressed reserved optimism regarding the spread of capitalism (albeit imperfectly) in Russia and the East bloc, as well as in India. “It is likely to spread by the sheer power of example” he said.
Ultimately the purpose of capitalism is to restrict the sphere of force, obedience and command as much as possible and to expand the sphere of individual freedom and choice as much as possible. The promise of capitalism is to make politics less important, and conflict within and between states less rewarding for the victors than it still is. Click here for the full text of Erich Weede’s speech
WHY GLOBALIZATION WORKS
Martin Wolf, Associate Editor and chief economics commentator for the Financial Times(London) elaborated on globalization, how it is driven and why it works.
He stated that the worldwide move towards market economies, particularly in Asia, has introduced new, positive divisions of labor which are dramatically reshuffling the productive chain across the globe – first in manufacturing and now increasingly in services.
He stressed the importance of Asia and especially China in the changing world dynamics, pointing out that globalization is being turbocharged by the entry of emerging Asian economies in the world economy.
Asia’s rise, he said, is the fourth biggest transformation in relative economic power since the industrial revolution.
Some Complications Lie Ahead
One is insecurity – middle-class anxiety in the West as services become more internationally tradable.
Another is instability – financial crises in emerging market economies, asset price bubbles, a dollar crisis, etc.
And there’s insufficiency of resources. e.g. The resource needs of Asian industrialization are enormous: half of global incremental demand for oil is now from Asia, with China a bigger factor than the US.
Globalisation is the result of a a revolution in markets and technological advancements – and it has coincided with Asia’s rise, which is transforming the world. Globalization confronts large, but, we hope, manageable, risks.
Note: Julian Morris, director of the International Policy Network and a member of the Academic Advisory Council of the Institute for Economic Affairs (UK) reinforced the call for globalization and the increasing need for pro-market thinktanks to defend and promote the institutions of the free society globally.
THE LIMITS OF DEMOCRACY
Sir Samuel Brittan, a journalist with the Financial Times(London) stressed, “Western leaders have debased ‘democracy’ by using it as a slogan to cover all desirable objectives.
The highest common factor of most concepts of democracy is voting. Popper saw it as the best known method of changing government without the use of force. Winston Churchill regarded it as a very bad system; but he commented that all the other systems he knew were worse.
Brittan pointed out flaws in the system in Britain and the EU showing how the democratic system in which “first past the post” resulted in relative minority parties achieving disproportionate numbers of seats. He suggested that proportional representation might address this problem. But even that presented problems.
“I cannot wave a magic wand to banish the potentially dangerous aspects of extreme democracy,” he said, “but there are a few suggestions that can be made.”
“First there is terminology. We should never, never, never allow ourselves to use the word ‘democratic’ unqualified as a shorthand for a desirable political system. I would like to say that we should talk instead about an Open Society where people are free to lead their own lives without fear of the government or what their neighbor will say.
We should always politely but firmly insist on qualifying it by such terms as constitutional democracy or liberal democracy.
Sir Samuel Brittan was knighted in 1993 for “services to economic journalism.” Click here for the full text of Brittan’s speech
– AFRICA –
AFRICA’S SCARS WILL TAKE
MORE THAN “LIVE 8″ TO HEAL
Franklin Cudjoe, head of Imani (The Centre for Humane Education), a Ghanaian libertarian think-tank, spoke on the sad state of the African continent – and on the impact of foreign aid. He noted that Tony Blair and his chancellor made statements that the African continent is a scar on the conscience of the world. He and “Live 8″ called for a number of well-meaning but ultimately questionable measures – including massively increasing foreign aid. Cudjoe noted that the amount of money poured into the African continent in foreign aid has amounted to six times the amounts expended by the west in the Marshall Plan which rebuilt Europe following WWII. He remarked, “We ordinary Africans ask Western leaders why they continue pouring money into leaky bowls. Is it because of a misplaced guilt for colonialism – or fear of being branded racists?”
Cudjoe quoted Nigeria’s president and current chairman of the African Union who recently lamented that the annual cost of corruption in the continent amounts to a staggering $140 billion. Every second, some corrupt official steals approximately $4700.
“Failure of economies to develop, is not due to lack of resources”, Cudjoe noted. “Instead, it’s due to overbearing, overly-bloated and corrupt governments.”
He gave examples of obscenely lavish benefits dished out to Ghanian parliamentarians. $25,000 car loans (never repaid). And housing fit for crown princes. Decent housing for MPs for four years in Ghana should cost about $5300 – but each of Ghana’s 230 MPs receives $86,500 over the same period. Obscene when you contrast this with the average Ghanian yearly income of $350.
On top of this you can add stifling regulations on business, 36% interest rates through the central bank, middlemen in government marketing boards skimming off more resources and extorting bribes, and the imposition of wage and price controls – so no wonder you have a dysfunctional economy.
“From my observations,” said Cudjoe, “there is an obvious inverse relationship between aid dollars and economic growth on my continent.”
Cutting Out the Middleman
Cudjoe has been involved recently with a project with a US NGO to provide badly-needed computers for schools in Ghana. Used units are shipped and refurbished by locals. Initially he worked through government bureaucracies, but they were always looking for ways to skim off funds into their own pockets – and they reneged on previous offers to pay shipping.
“I told the leaders of the NGO that the only way we were going to be successful was to decentralize the project, get the government out of it, and deal directly with beneficiary schools.”
So far close to 1000 computers have been introduced into Ghanian schools through Cudjoe and his associates. Schools are charged token sums to cover costs – and to provide Cudjoe with funds to expand the program.
Franklin Cudjoe is one of a growing number of Africans working to free up Africa from the yoke of corruption and failed socialist policies. Individuals interested in aiding him in his worthy cause may contact him through the IMANI website (or by contacting ISIL)
TO A FREE SOCIETY
June Arunga, an associate of ISIL Rep James Shikwati in Kenya (and currently a law student in the UK) provided more revelations regarding Africa’s plight. She explained that many of the problems facing African countries these days evolve from a culture of violence which seems widespread – ranging from routine beatings in families at the micro level to violent governments at the macro level. But the main problem, as Franklin Cudjoe also observed, is openly-criminal governments – typically propped up with aid from Western governments.
June showed part of a BBC television documentary she directed – called The Devil’s Footpath.
In an attempt to find out why a continent with such incredible resources was so poor, she embarked on a 5000-mile, six-week journey, traveling the length of Africa through Egypt, Sudan, Congo, Angola, Namibia and, finally, South Africa. Six conflict-riven countries that span the continent – from Cairo to Cape Town – comprising “The Devil’s Footpath”.
Everywhere she saw the effects of tyrannical governments – from students in Cairo in fear of voicing their opinions for fear of beatings and torture by police, to peasants being driven off their resource-rich lands further south by government police and troops.
She described conditions in Sudan:
“Imagine living in a place where if someone wants your property, instead of renting or buying it, they decide it is cheaper to kill you, and then proceed to make a law that entitles them to do this unabated, and guess what, you can’t turn to the government for justice because these guys are the police and the army! So all you can do is run for your life. With your children and family, you run.
“If I wondered before why the majority are poor, and only a small political elite is wealthy, it takes little brain work to see that one of the reasons is because they have no institutions that protect their right to their land, so that they would profit off its value, and no time and stability to set up a home, let alone a functioning economy.”
We highly recommend this DVD – available through Laissez Faire Books
A panel on the importance of thinktanks in promoting liberty was moderated by Barbara Kolm-Lamprechter, Secretary General of Austria’s Friedrich A. Hayek Institute(established in 1993 in Vienna).
The panel included Paata Sheshelidze of the New Economic School in Tbilisi, Georgia, Jaroslav Romanchuk of the Hayek Institute in Minsk, Belarus, and Franklin Cudjoeof IMANI thinktank in Accra, Ghana.
Lamprechter described the virtues of developing thinktank networks through communications and cooperation – as international clearing houses of ideas.
She quoted James G. McGann of the Foreign Policy Research Institute:
“The challenge of the new millennium is to harness the vast reservoir of knowledge, information and associational energy that exists in public-policy research organizations in every corner of the world.”
Barbara reported that the tradition of thinktanks in continental Europe had been very weak – but noted that this has changed to the point where there are now over 150 thinktanks in every EU country – even though most are still small (two or three-person operations). The problem now is that there is little cooperation within the thinktank community. Moreover there seems to be little awareness of what the others are doing and certainly no division of labor among them. [This is improving through efforts of the European Resource Bank, the Stockholm Network, among others – including ISIL – Ed.]
Her advice was to run thinktanks as businesses and to keep lean and mean – concentrating on core-business and practical solutions. The main project of the Hayek Institute is to promote lower-rate flat taxes in Austria, which has drawn substantial support from Austrian businesspeople.
Barbara provided all kinds of advice to budding thinktanks on devices like lunches, conferences, student programs, etc.
The other panelists told of their efforts to promote liberal values in their countries (especially to the young) and to network with others in their regions. Paata Sheshelidze told of his work to set up a Caucasian network with colleagues from Azerbaijan (Dr. Sabit Barirov) and Armenia (Vahagn Khachatryan).
Jaroslav Romanchuk was an inspiration – working under difficult and dangerous conditions in both Belarus while networking with Polish and Ukranian libertarians.
Franklin Cudjoe of Ghana’s IMANI thinktank is actively involved in the African Resource Bank website, which is run by ISIL Rep James Shikwati of Kenya (and hosted by ISIL).
FUNDAMENTALISM VS. LIBERALISM
– The Battle of the Next Century –
Jim Peron of New Zealand’s Institute for Liberal Valuesspoke on the dangers of fanatical religious fundamentalism.
“There’s something about fundamentalism that is dangerous regardless of the creed – whether it is Islamic, Jewish or Christian,” he stated.
The fundamentalist puts a restricted, stilted version of their religion at the center of everything. He takes the culture-bound words of some ancient mystical writing and attempts to apply them to a modern age. There is a conflict inherent in this. But for the fundamentalist, the ancient word supersedes that of anything since then. Instead of looking for truths that apply to the modern world, he attempts to restrict and confine the modern world so as to fit the ancient text. And he is willing to use force to implement their belief system.
At its core, religious fundamentalism is anti-modern. This is why classical liberalism was such a revolutionary force in the world. It was not merely an economic creed as some conservatives would have us believe. Yes, it did support economic liberalization and markets, but it also challenged the ruling class by calling for equality of rights and devolution of power. It demanded the separation of church and state. In fact, much of classical liberalism first dealt with freedom of conscience before moving on to economic freedom. And it opposed the wars of the ruling classes because war destroyed individual rights, concentrated power in the hands of the state, and made combatants poorer. War is everything that liberalism is not.
The rise of tolerance and the decline of theology were also caused by capitalism in another way.
In Capitalism and the Permissive Society Brittan wrote:
“Capitalist civilization is above all rationalist . . . and anti-mystical.” He points out that the capitalist, as a profit-maximiser, is forced to ignore the “traditional, mystical or ceremonial justification of existing practices.”
“Liberalism is based upon a purely rational and scientific theory of social co-operation. The policies it recommends are the application of a system of knowledge which does not refer in any way to sentiments, intuitive creeds for which no logically sufficient proof can be provided, mystical experiences, and the personal awareness of superhuman phenomena. In this sense, the often misunderstood and erroneously-interpreted epithets ‘atheistic’ and ‘agnostic’ can be attributed to it. It would, however, be a serious mistake to conclude that the sciences of human action and the policy derived from their teachings, liberalism, are anti-theistic and hostile to religion. They are radically opposed to all systems of theocracy. But they are entirely neutral with regard to religious beliefs which do not pretend to interfere with the conduct of social, political, and economic affairs.”
Peron concluded, “It is important to remember that religion and theocracy are not the same thing. Liberalism is at war with theocracy, but not at war with religion. And one can be a Christian or a Muslim or Jew without being a fundamentalist.
ARE RELIGION AND
Christophe Piton, corporate relations manager for the French corporate bank Natexis Banques Polulaires, has translated Hayek’s The Intellectuals and Socialism which was published in the French quarterly Commentaire. His speech addressed the subject “Are religion and Capitalism compatible?”
Piton’s observations and interpretations do provide some interesting insight into the history and value of religious beliefs – irrespective of whether one is a person of faith or not.
Piton began, “Capitalism has won the political battle against socialism but we need to wonder whether religions still have a place in today’s world, and if they can bring anything good to mankind, within the frame of our capitalist societies.”
“Universities,” he said, seem more concerned in preparing individuals to face the practical problems of a working life than to shape civilized individuals, so as a result our societies are producing competent individuals without moral guidance.
He expressed the opinion that religions are the most efficient ways to avoid excessive materialism. “The real strength of a man doesn’t lie in his properties – which he can always lose – but in his moral strength, which is a part of his nature as an individual.”
Piton stressed the importance of a living community in which the development of markets can flourish.
“Indeed it is only when people feel they belong to a community that they can undertake actions for the benefit of others, but also, which is very important for our reflection, it is only within the frame of a community that confidence in one another can develop, and with it the possibility to undertake business efficiently. It is the reason why religions gave birth to prosperous and peaceful civilizations.fact that many people shared the same moral values made confidence possible, and business connections easy and fruitful. No confidence without morals, and no business without confidence.
STUDENT NETWORK REPORT
– by Lukas Schroeter –
Members of Free Student Network (left to right) Lukas Schroeter (New Zealand), Joachim Engstrom (UK), Frederik Schlosser (Norway).
It was great to again see so many students and young people at this year’s ISIL World Freedom Summit; students from “Old” and “New” Europe and further abroad, including Africa, Mongolia and New Zealand.
As at the 2004 ISIL World Freedom Summit in Rotorua, New Zealand, the young and young at heart broke off for a special discussion on how to actively promote libertarianism, as opposed to the largely theory-based lectures of the conference.
Last year’s theme was clearly New Zealand politics and resulted in the Free Students Network being formed. This year the focus was cast more broadly. The key challenge for discussions was the recognition that libertarian ideas are taking hold far too slowly, and that as principled advocates of capitalism, we need to do better than find excuses if we can not even “sell” our own ideas. The arguments that the public is not ready or just too stupid, that there is too much infighting within libertarian groups, or that these things just take time will not help our cause.
To address these issues we spent time addressing questions such as:
- What mainstream political discussions already have a classical-liberal slant?
- What political issues would need to be moved into mainstream debate to pull libertarian thought further into the public spotlight?
- What examples have attendees had of successful (direct or indirect) political and libertarian campaigning?
- What ideas do attendees have on how to promote classical-liberalism in the mainstream political arena?
The discussions were lively, passionate and determined. Not surprisingly they continued during the breaks, over dinner and late into the nights.
Lukas is currently working on an report which will collate the information he has gathered in an attempt to answer the questions posed above.
CELEBRATING THE YEAR OF
Anna Davidiuk (Belarus) and the dollar sign cake – celebrating the 100th anniversity of the birth of Ayn Rand.
2005 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of famed authoress-philosopher Ayn Rand. Many of those present at this conference came to the libertarian movement through Rand and her various fiction and non-fiction works.
At this event we honored Rand. Unfortunately our star speaker and close Rand associate Barbara Branden had to cancel at the last minute. While some were disappointed, it still that did not dampen the enthusiasm of the general assemblage. A huge cake emblazoned with a giant dollar sign was cut by Hubert Jongen, who had formed an early Objectivist group in Holland and had met Rand in New York. Jim Perondelivered a very moving personal story about how Rand’s message of individualism had impacted him as a young man.
During the regular conference proceedings, Hardy Bouillon (head of Academic Affairs for the Center for the New Europe and senior lecturer at Trier University in Germany) offered a philosophical evaluation and critiques of some Randian positions (Rand and Rothbard: The Odd Couple) – as did Jan Narveson (professor of Philosophy at the University of Waterloo, Canada).
THE AWARDS BANQUET
The closing banquet is always a time of great celebration of a successful conference, but also a bit melancholy as old and new friends prepare to break up and go home for at least another year. We have never seen so much picture-taking as this year.
The candlelit atmosphere was enhanced by a fine violin duet of young women – apparently Russian students at a local conservatory. Later on, conference participants Glenn Cripe (USA), Anna Davidiuk (Belarus) and Andreas, Tauber (Germany) entertained the crowd on the piano, and Michael Kastner (an organizer of ISIL’s 1998 conference in Berlin) played guitar. And, for a much different pace, Martha de Stahl of Germany performed a belly dance! We hear that some of the younger, more vigorous people carried on the dancing and partying until 5 am!
Valentina Nicolae ISIL Rep Romania and a former winner of the Bruce Evoy Memorial Award, presents this year’s award to Henrik Bejke, ISIL Rep for Sweden.
The highlight was the presentation of the Marshall Bruce Evoy Memorial Award which is presented in alternate years to recognize an outstanding individual’s work to promote liberty – often under dangerous or difficult circumstances. This year’s winner was ISIL’s Swedish Rep Henrik Bejke. He has been the long-time editor of the Nyberalenmagazine, and has been involved in numerous resistance activities against the Swedish welfare state. On one occasion he spent two weeks in jail in connection with an illegal speakeasy the Frihetsfronten group was running. Henrik has attended nearly all of the ISIL world conferences, and is on the board of Europe’s Libertarian International.
Henrik has also recently recovered from a kidney transplant.
His trophy was presented by Valentina Nicolae, ISIL Rep for Romania and herself the recipient of the Evoy Award in 2001.
When you travel a long way to attend an ISIL conference, it’s great if you can include some sightseeing of the region. ISIL’s post-conference tours have always been quite popular, and allow for a lot more time to socialize and engage in further discussion – with old and new friends.
This year we visited Frankfurt, spent a day in the beautiful world-famous university town of Heidelburg (never bombed), had a half-day Rhine River boat cruise on which we saw many picturesque little towns and castles, visited a winery, and ended up back in Cologne to see the famous 600+ year old cathedral.
Many attendees have described ISIL World conferences as the event of their lives. We hope you can find out for yourself this coming July in Prague – one of the jewels of Europe!
PS: A special vote of thanks to ISIL Scholarship Chairman Richard Venable for managing this difficult and often frustrating task. He screened and approved 56 students and young activists this year – and fought endlessly with government bureaucrats to acquire visas for many students.