Hard work and great satisfaction

Touring with the Road Show can be tough…
but also very rewarding

The fourth week of the Free Market Road Show was definitely tough. And the fifth too so far. That’s why I’m writing these lines Thursday May 14th 11:15 pm. To give you an idea of how tough it has been, it has happended in a few occasions that we wake up in one country, do the event in another, and go to sleep in a third one.

We started it with the Vueling & Norwegian Airlines fiasco which prevented us from going to Stockholm. Luckily for us, the event was co-organized with Timbro -a very professional think tank- and in Stockholm we were represented by two true Road Warriors: Richard Rahn and Dan Mitchell.

Tuesday very early in the morning we could finally leave Barcelona and we arrived to Denmark. In Copenhagen we teamed up with Cepos, another very much respected Scandinavian institute.

The event had a very high level of energy. Here you can see what I wrote for the FMRS page. Now I would like to refer just two things I heard there.

Firstly, what Anders Krab-Johansen said about the ratio of private and public economy in Denmark. According to him, “public employees plus people on social benefits outnumber people in the private sector.” That’s a huge burden on the shoulders of workers. Denmark is a net exporter of oil, though not at a Saudi Arabia level. However, if you add the social numbers plus the presence of oil, they should consider themselves very lucky that they’re no Venezuela. There might be something rotten in the state of Denmark, but it’s not the resource curse what smells. At least for now.

The second thing that really caught my attention was Terry Anker’s presentation. As he mentioned, to be an entrepreneur is no cake walk. These guys have on them the constant pressure of failure and endangering the security of their loved ones. It’s really hard to be an entrepreneur. We should remember this, especially when the state becomes eager to tax once they succeeded. It’s great to be partners after the entrepreneur made it.

After Copenhagen we split. I went to Vilnius and the rest of the team went to Amsterdam. I’m told that the FMRS stop in Amsterdam went great. It was a debut, like many that we’ve had so far. No wonder why we’re visiting 35 cities in this edition.

I know it may sound too sentimental but it’s always sad when people leave the Road Show. When we took separate routes from Copenhagen, some of the speakers left and it was the last time I saw them. Fortunately, all of them are great — both intellectually and personally. So one kinda miss them when they’re no longer part of the tour. The good thing though is that they’re replaced by other excellent people so that makes it easier.

Vilnius (Lithuania) was the first city which hosted Deirdre McCloskey during this Road Show. She’s one of the keenest minds within the Libertarian movement.

McCloskey believes that it was neither capital accumulation nor an internal change of people that drove the industrial revolution. For her, the key issue was a change in the mindset of the people. Entrepreneurial activities and innovation started to be positively seen. “People”, she says, “could have a go.” The rigid structures of society changed and gave people room to experiment, start a business, and innovate. Thus, it’s economic freedom the underpining of economic growth.

Her books on the bourgeois era are marvelous so don’t forget to take a look at them.

After Vilnius came Warsaw and I had my heart broken in Poland. Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not talking about something related to love. In fact, I’m in a very committed and happy relationship with the most wonderful woman in the world. No, what metaphorically broke my heart in Poland was something Adam Martin said.

First things first, Adam is a brilliant guy who is part of one of the best academic institutes that we have — The Free Market Institute. If you’re contemplating the possibility of pursuing an academic career I strongly recommend you to consider a PhD at Texas Tech University.

Now, at his talk Adam very rightly said that experimentation and the elimination of failed experiments are very important for enriching a society. Entrepreneurs should have the freedom to start whatever business they want but their projects should be quickly eliminated if unsuccessful. And he continued by saying that this is also the way in which science proceeds.

Thus far I was in total agreement with what he said. In fact, this sounded very popperian. But then he mentioned the “p” word. He said something like in science we challenge the existing ones and obtain new paradigms which are better.

That a lucid guy like him thinks in terms of paradigms shows the magnitude of Karl Popper’s defeat against Thomas Kuhn. The latter was the popularizer of the word “paradigm” in his book “The structure of scientific revolutions”. The problem is that paradigms aren’t anything you want to challenge. In fact, Kuhn was a staunch enemy of criticism in science and believed that the adoption of a paradigm was preceded by something like a “religious conversion”.

For Kuhn a paradigm is a totalizing set of key theories and assumptions and scientists who dare to criticize it are nothing more than dangerous pariahs who should be cast away.

Anyway, we spent the weekend in Poland, in Gdansk to be more precise. On May 8th we celebrated Friedrich Hayek’s birthday there and we could also visit the new museum about Solidarity.

During that weekend, Vladimir Putin was celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Soviet victory over its twin totalitarian brother Nazism. The massive military parade served as an excuse to show the whole world the military muscle of Putin’s Russia.

What that sort of spectacle really shows is how authoritarians like and need masification. These parades are an excellent way to subsume individuals in geometric shapes that can only be appreciated as a whole.

Moreover, modern warfare has given us monuments to unknown soldiers. We have to honor unknown soldiers since thousands, and sometimes millions, can take his place.

Anyhow, the fourth Free Market Road Show week was a lot of work. In this regard, I’d like to mention the great effort our speakers make. The trips, the quasi sleep deprivation, and the long hours of conference and interviews are part of their daily Road Show lives. I’ve literally seen some of them trying to get some sleep at the venue before the event starts. This isn’t the rule, but it happens from time to time.

And these aren’t regular people. These are individuals with tremendous achievements who are willing to spend time with us to promote the ideas of free markets and open society.

By the way, this crazy schedule isn’t restricted to us roadsters. I very well know that without people back in the Vienna office, things wouldn’t go as smoothly as they do.

In the end, it’s very encouraging to see how this work is growing. The FMRS is seriously taking off. From the five cities visited during the week, three were debuts. We’ve had packed houses event after event. The media coverage has been wide.

Europe is in extreme need of our ideas and we’re ready to spread the message whatever it takes!

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