On 10 May 2022, an international event entitled Free Market Roadshow took place in the Great Hall of the Faculty of Law and Business Studies. The event was held under the theme The Future of Europe: Major Challenges Ahead. The guests and participants were welcomed by the Dean of the Faculty, Dr. Mitja Steinbacher, who moderated the event. Europe facing another challenge and Liberty and responsibility – quid pro quo?
The first session was opened by Keith Miles, Honorary President of the British-Slovene Society and recipient of the Order of the British Empire, which he received from the Queen of England for his services to the establishment of British-Slovenian relations. In his address, Keith Miles highlighted the entrepreneurship of small businesses during the pandemic and the fact that, despite the common practice of imposing stringent measures in some countries, they have nevertheless had fewer restrictions and a not dissimilar number of deaths as a result of the pandemic. He cited Sweden and the US state of Florida as examples. He illustrated his entrepreneurial spirit by giving the example of the introduction of plastic barriers in shops, restaurants and related industries, which allowed these businesses to operate in a relatively normal way and limited contact between customers and employees. The introduction of this original and effective solution was, like Keith Miles, established overnight and without the dictates of government officials.
The debate was continued by Dr Barbara Kolm from the Austrian Central Bank. She described inflation trends in the Euro Monetary Area and pointed to the high level of public debt in the Euro Monetary Area countries. Such policies have been developed hand in hand between the center of political power in Brussels and the center of monetary power in Frankfurt. It has reiterated the need to raise interest rates in the euro monetary area in view of the very high levels of inflation that we are witnessing at the moment. The first signs of rising inflation were already being seen before the pandemic period, driven by the European Central Bank’s policy of monetary easing. In her view, the congestion in supply chains due to the restriction of economic activity during the pandemic period must be linked to the inflationary policy. On the other hand, the monetary authorities in the US and the UK have already begun operations to raise interest rates gradually, unlike the European Central Bank, where there is a certain hesitancy and excuse-making around interest rate rises. In her view, in the EU, structural reforms are needed to raise the productivity of the European economy and deregulation is needed to increase competition. Fiscal policy and monetary policy should work independently of each other, which is not the case in the euro area.
The third speaker was Terry Anker, a successful entrepreneur from the United States. He began his discussion by noting the prevalence of bureaucratic modes of thinking among leading politicians in the US and around the world, which, in his view, is a consequence of the complete lack of experience of politicians working in corporations. These politicians then perceive the rule of law as the existence and creation of laws. He argues that in this way we cannot develop into free, adult and responsible human beings, but rather into legal-procedural persons who seek justice through the courts in a flood of laws. The flood of laws, he argues, encourages the phenomenon of rent-seeking – rent-seeking. He illustrated his view of the effectiveness of free enterprise in relation to state bureaucracy with the example of the supply of rapid tests. The same tests purchased by the most advantageous company under a state tender cost several times more than the same tests on the free market. Possible reasons for this difference in the price of rapid tests, he argued, could be found in the lack of knowledge of bureaucrats, or even in the direct rent-seeking between bureaucrats and suppliers. In response to a question from the audience on how to promote free markets among political parties, Mr Anker gave an example of growing up. People who are subject to control cannot develop their own identity. He identifies two types of parents: i) parents who crave control over their children and ii) overprotective parents. Both prevent their children from developing their own identity. The children of these parents are lost in life and are unable to face responsibility for their own actions.
The second session was opened by the popular American author and philanthropist Craig Biddle. His presentation highlighted the link between one’s actions and one’s own moral principles. Capitalism, he argued, allows people to act freely and to dispose of the results of their own efforts without being constrained by the state. The only thing that capitalism should not do is inflict violence on other people. He says that moral principles which discourage concern for personal well-being and which put sacrifice for the well-being of others first and foremost are not natural to human beings. The word altruism was introduced by the secular philosophers of utilitarianism. Neither the religious nor the secular authors of the idea of sacrifice for others succeed in demonstrating the need for these values to exist. On the other hand, there is much evidence of the need to create new value, to use it and to exchange it voluntarily between people. Biddle encourages a constant questioning of innate and innate moral principles and an open debate on the fundamental characteristics of moral principles. Self-interest, he argues, cannot be achieved by sacrificing oneself to the interests of others. In his view, the individual is the fundamental unit of morality and political life, not the group. In his view, states should not be involved in any way in the sudden emergence of a pandemic of the Covid-19 type. Every individual is capable of obtaining advice from his or her doctor about Covid-19 and of adapting his or her conduct accordingly. The moral obligation of the state, in his view, is not to protect people’s lives, but to protect the rights of all people, irrespective of sexual orientation, religion, race. The state must prohibit violence and prevent it accordingly, but it must not order people around. In a pandemic, therefore, states would be expected to warn that there is a pandemic among us and that those from more vulnerable groups should be particularly vigilant. What would happen? In the absence of state reassurances about how things are under control, if we behave according to their dictates, people would quickly discover that they have to adapt and try to protect their children, their parents, their grandparents, which he believes we are capable of doing without state command. We would have done much better, perhaps in terms of the number of deaths, but above all in terms of the invisible negative consequences, for example, for all those who did not get to their doctors, or for the children who, because of the masking of their faces, were unable to develop empathy for their fellow human beings.
Craig Biddle was followed by Dr Hannes Gissurarson, Professor of Political Economy at the University of Iceland. His main theme was the effectiveness, desirability and feasibility of a lean state. In his speech, he pointed out that economic integration requires political disintegration. The latter is understood as the reduction in size and the increase in the number of political entities that have taken place in the world over the last 75 years. Economic integration offers small countries the enormous benefits of an international division of labour. Small countries, he notes, are more homogeneous than large countries and there is more mutual solidarity between people. In small countries, he argues, people are closer to the holders of political power than in large countries, which allows for more transparency and flexibility in policy implementation than in large countries, where there is greater distance between the political centres and the people. Small countries, such as the Nordic countries, also often have lower costs of maintaining law and order among the people. However, Gissurarson points out that small countries are more vulnerable than large ones, which is why they need to seek alliances. He paraphrases the old Roman saying, “Si vis pacem, para bellum”, which means if you want peace, prepare for war.
The last speaker of the evening was Dr Žiga Turk, a well-known Slovenian intellectual and professor at the University of Ljubljana. In his discussion, he stressed the importance of the premise of the emergence of social theory, which he underlined with the elements of the slogan of the French Revolution: ” fraternité (fraternity), egalite (equality), liberté (liberty)”. Whoever starts from the premise of fraternité will, in his view, place the nation at the heart of an own social doctrine (the nationalist); whoever starts from the premise of egalité will place equality at the heart of an own social doctrine (the socialist); and whoever starts from the premise of liberté will justify his judgments by referring to liberty (the liberal). In his view, all three are making the same mistake. The social world, according to Turk, operates on the principle of the survival of the fittest. The conditions for the functioning of the selection of social norms in a social system are, according to him, stability and the freedom to practice something new. He points to responsibility and tradition as important sources of stability in the selection of social norms. He then discusses the relationship between freedom and responsibility, indicating possible combinations between the two. For example, he described communism as an absence of freedom and responsibility, fascism as an environment with some freedom and responsibility, and progressivism as an environment with a lot of freedom and little responsibility, while classical capitalism as an environment with a lot of freedom and responsibility.
Both sessions were complemented by an interesting debate between visitors and guests. Visitors in the hall showed a high level of involvement and interest in the issues discussed with their reflections, questions, points of emphasis. Their thoughts nicely complemented the main topic being discussed.