On May 4th, Svensk Tidskrift hosted the Free Market Road Show in Stockholm. It was a lively discussion about the state as an entrepreneur and how we protect the free market from politics – especially in times of turmoil.
After a two-year pandemic, the Free Marker Road Show could finally embark on a physical tour again, and on Wednesday, it was time for Stockholm.
Gunnar Hökmark, chairman of the think tank Frivärld and former MEP, set the agenda with a keynote on the value of freedom at a time when more and more people want to limit it – both with regulations and weapons. Last week, Hökmark visited FMRS Kyiv, a speech we are pleased to republish in this column, and now concluded that Vladimir Putin has succeeded in the seemingly impossible – uniting the West.
We have surprised Putin with our unity and determination. Still, we have also surprised ourselves – and reminded ourselves of the importance of the strategic partnership between Europe and the US, Hökmark argued. For Ukraine, peace and freedom are not intellectual concepts, which we need to remember as we work for freedom in both small and large ways.
The panel discussion included Martin Gundinger, Austrian Economics Center, Mitja Steinbacher, Faculty of Law and Business Studies, Catholic Institute Ljubljana, and Christian Ekström, CEO of the Taxpayers’ Association. The moderators were Anders Ydstedt and Amanda Wollstad from Svensk Tidskrift.
Christian argued that it is essential to fund the fundamental things in a nation. He mentioned that entrepreneurship by states had failed almost every time states tried it. He warned of more protectionism coming our way. When it comes to what should be done, he said we should enable people to save and invest more.
Mitja argued that one of the most critical questions is how to arrange our institutional setup so that it will be able to serve the needs of entrepreneurs and protect fundamental human rights. He also mentioned that the rising prices are a consequence of policy failures in the past.
Martin argued that the situation we are in now does not require protecting freedoms but instead requires fighting to get our freedoms back. Creating alternative structures is critical here. He also said that the current crisis provides an opportunity for change, but it is essential that this change comes from entrepreneurs, not politicians.
The discussion revolved around how we can protect free markets and free trade in times of unrest and fear – after two years of pandemic and now during a war of invasion in our neighborhood. States and supranational bodies such as the EU are happy to shift their positions in times of unrest, and temporary solutions such as subsidies, trade support, and export barriers risk becoming permanent – and preventing the necessary changes that must occur to ensure our long-term well-being.
In any case, the panel completely agreed on one thing – states are lousy entrepreneurs. Martin Gundinger recalled how Milton Friedman warned that the sand would run out if you put the state in charge of the Sahara.
Svensk Tidskrift is the Swedish partner to Free Market Road Show. This year we will discuss how to protect free markets from states trying to expand their power after the pandemic and not the least in time of war. The EU Commission has far-reaching proposals on regulating the labor market and corporate governance. There are plans for creating public owned big production plants for e.g. microchips and new regulations of the financial market will affect investments (EU taxonomy for sustainable activities).