2017 Free Market Road Show #1: Prague
by Federico N. Fernández *
Simply put, the Free Market Road Show (FMRS) is the biggest libertarian event in the world.
It visits more than 40 cities all across Europe and the Caucasus. It gathers thousands of attendees. Its speakers are engaging academics, top economists, successful entrepreneurs, key decision makers, and highly ranked public officials.
This year’s edition features awesome guys like Bob Murphy, Leszek Balcerowicz, Gloria Álvarez, John Chisholm, Matt Kibbe, Gordon Kerr, María Blanco, John Fund, and many more.
2017 really needs an event like the Free Market Road Show. We definitely live in interesting times… and that isn’t necessarily a good thing.
I don’t know whether America will be great again. But trade barriers seem to be making a comeback for sure. If that is the path President Trump will set for his administration greatness may be elusive. In fact, Trump’s antitrade rhetoric is one of the most dangerous political developments of the 21st century.
And the same can be said about Brexit. Indeed some of the best elements of British society supported the idea of the UK leaving the European Union. The opposed centralization, over-regulation, fiscal federalism, and bail outs. In this sense, Brexit can be seen as a push to a return to the traditional British classical liberal tendencies.
However, the liberals weren’t alone. Rather questionable elements of British society were in favor of Brexit. Although their agenda wasn’t for a more liberal and open Britannia. These people seem to be very happy with the expulsion of EU residents from the UK, protectionism, and the welfare state.
Right or left, nationalist or liberal, for free trade or for protectionism, people are revolting against political elites. Brexit is the strongest example of that but hardly the only one. On the other side of the Atlantic, Donald J. Trump’s election was also a huge defiance to the traditional order of “business as usual.”
What’s yet to be decided is the key of the revolt. Will it be a return to limited government or a populist expansion of political power?
The message the Free Market Road Show tries to convey, of course, is for the former. Has the EU gone too far? Yes. Is Europe drowning in a sea of regulations? Definitely. Should Brussels relinquish the mega-state powers it has today? Without doubt.
Nonetheless, probably it isn’t the best idea to abolish the EU and to replace it with a collection of anti-trade money printing welfare addicted Duce-esque figures.
This Continental conversation started in Prague in March 16th. It will continue until May 23rd.
The Prague event could not have been a better first step for this year’s Road Show.
Our new local partners of CERGE EI Foundation made a fantastic job and a packed house was the sample of their great success.
The panels themselves were also a clear example of what to expect from a Road Show event.
The event was kick started by a panel on free trade comprised by John Chisholm, Radovan Durana, Dominic Stroukal, Katerina Zychova, and Weston Stacey.
The second panel entitled “Troubled times in a divided world” featured Matt Kibbe, Enrique Fonseca, and Nikita Poljakov.
Last but definitely not least we had a third panel on liberty and security in the digital age. Jiří Schneider, Pavol Luptak, Andřej Kiska, and Erik Sorensen were the speakers.
John Chisholm, a regular FMRS speaker, launched a full assault on protectionism using the coolest cellphone as example.
He said: “Few industries, if any, can rely on inputs for only one country. The iPhone is a perfect example of this. It has 766 suppliers in 28 different countries. It would be impossible to make the iPhone in any single country.”
Radovan Durana, the chief economic analyst of INESS, explained the situation of the steel industry in his home country — Slovakia.
According to Durana, when international prices of steel fell, the national industry threatened politicians with massive layoffs. Politicians, in turn, went crying to the European Commission. And Brussels finally “discovered” that the problem was Chinese dumping and applied tariffs.
Did anybody think of the consumer? Of course not.
Weston Stacey, from the American Chamber, wondered whether the era of free trade is over.
According to him, the Trump administration doesn’t yet have a position on free trade. What is more, they even have empty desks in their offices. Policy, it seems, is still in the making.
The second panel dealt with politics and media.
Matt Kibbe opened it. He complained about the asymmetry between the political and all the rest.
He claimed that “when you go to politics it feels that you’re shopping in Caracas: there are only two options. In the rest, we have plenty.”
Enrique Fonseca, youtuber from Visual Politik, explained that “both Trump and Marx applied the same playbook. They offered solutions and people to blame.”
The last panel discussed the tension between liberty and security.
Andřej Kiska tried to raise awareness on the issue of security. He told that people are going to take their cyber-security very seriously in the near future. Automatization, self-driving, and smart houses -to mention a few examples- could become real threats if they are hacked.
Pavol Luptak bluntly said that the biggest threat to online security is the government. He detailed how both the Czech and Slovak government use malware to spy on their citizens.
All in All
Prague has been an amazing start for the 2017 Free Market Road Show.
But now we have to pack our bags. John Chisholm, Enrique Fonseca and I are travelling to Spain. There we’ll be joined by Ron Manners, Gloria Álvarez, María Blanco, among others, for a string of events. We’ll stop at Gran Canaria, Madrid, Seville, Santiago de Compostela, and Gijón.
Santiago and Gijón, by the way, are new cities for the FMRS. I’m really looking forward to those stops.
See you on the road!
* Federico N. Fernández is senior fellow of the Austrian Economics Center (Vienna, Austria), and vice president of Fundación Bases (Rosario, Argentina).
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