Report: Free Market Road Show in Blagoevgrad 2019

The Free Market Roadshow returned to the campus of the American University in Bulgaria for the third year. The event was live-streamed to an audience of over 6,000 viewers. There were nine reports on the Roadshow in the Bulgarian media, including an interview with one of the panellists on Bulgarian National Radio.

Provost Emilia Zankina welcomed the speakers and the audience. She explained that the Roadshow is important because in the age of populism we need to take a step back from politics and talk about ideas. Ideas should be the foundation of politics.

The first panel was on the proper role of government. The first panellist, Gloria Álvarez, explained that “the role of government is only to be the referee.” She explained that though people today are obsessed with material inequality, the inequality that harms the poor and the disadvantaged is inequality under the law. The proper role of government, Álvarez explained, is to ensure equality under the law. The second panellist, Craig Biddle, focused on the moral foundations of government. Biddle explained that protecting individual rights means leaving “the individual free to act on his or her own judgement and to pursue the values that he or she sees fit for his or her life.” The third panellist, John Chisholm, told students that it is up to them to determine what is the right government for Bulgaria. Chisholm went on to explain to students that they already have the resources that they need to accomplish their goals. The fourth panellist, Diego Lucci, explained that John Locke spelt out the basic rights that the state must defend – life, property, and freedom. He warned that in countries like Italy and the US people had put themselves in the hands of populist politicians who aim at asserting a strong role for the state.

The second panel considered whether Europe is a continent of freedom. The first panellist, Magdalena Bernaciak, highlighted the various ways in which Europe has become freer since the fall of the Berlin wall. She warned against taking these freedoms for granted. The second panellist, Nima Sanandaji, noted that Bulgaria has the lowest level of economic development in the EU. Sanandaji explained that this fact means that Bulgaria has the greatest opportunity to become rich and successful. He encouraged students to reduce business regulations because the data shows that with more economic freedom there is more prosperity.

The third panellist, Federico Fernandez, offered a note of optimism, explaining that certain pro-government and anti-freedom pillars are melting into air, such as state media and state education. The fourth panellist, Jean Crombois, explained that Europe is fortunate because we live in a continent that is doing well, but he warned students not to take their freedoms for granted.

Each panel was followed by questions from the students and robust debate among the panellists.