Report: Free Market Road Show in Stockholm 2019
The tenth of May Svensk Tidskrift hosted the finale of this year’s Free Market Road Show in Stockholm.
Under the theme ”Reinventing freedom – 30 years after the wall” the speakers debated the future of freedom in Europe – and the upcoming elections.
Key note speaker Gunnar Hökmark recalled the struggle to give back the occupied Baltic states their independence, and the global wave of freedom sweeping over Europe in the late 1980s – what Francis Fukuyama would declare “the end of history”.
30 years later the threats towards freedom is on the rise. Russia is threatening its neighbours and Trump is undermining the international system of trade with his protectionism. Liberals and conservatives have a huge task ahead of them to defend freedom globally.
Richard Zundtrisch, Doctor of Law, University of Vienna, stated that even though Sweden and Austria were not members of the EU during the Cold War, the threats to freedom were easier to define. Eastern European countries were socialist and the western states were market oriented and democratic. Today the threats towards freedom are not that easy to define. Right-wing populist parties and EU sceptics are on the rise. On the other hand federalists are trying to give the EU more power by implementing majority decisions. To defend freedom the power of the institutions within the EU must be kept limited and the organization must become more transparent.
Richard Rahn, economist, syndicated columnist and entrepreneur, noted that Europe has problems with a lack of economic growth. Countries like Sweden and Switzerland are doing quite well, but several countries in the southern part of the union are struggling. Liberty is fundamental to both freedom and economic growth. The founding fathers in USA understood this and therefore USA is a republic, not a democracy. Liberty is the goal and democracy is the tool. The power of government should be strictly limited.
Hannes Gissuarsson, pointed out that individual freedom is easier to maintain in smaller states such as Sweden or Iceland. Trust between citizens and the government is easier to achieve. Smaller states tend to be less aggressive to other countries as well. On the other hand economic integration between nations will make the market more decentralized. Therefore, smaller states are often more in favour of free trade. The EU has a choice ahead of it, is the union going to be a common market or a closed state in the future? Collective identity is important, but it must be combined with individual rights and an open market. Not a prison, not a fortress, but a home.
Andrew Bernstein, Ph.D. in Philosophy from City University of New York, made the point that freedom and liberty are fundamental moral issues. Capitalism is morally superior to other economic systems because it is based on individual rights. Your life belongs to you. Socialism on the other hand is based on the idea that your life belongs to the state. Capitalism creates protection for individual rights, and more prosperity at the same time. Compare USA to the USSR, North Korea to the South. Entrepreneurship can only grow if you have freedom of mind, which is fundamental in a society which protects individual rights.
On the second panel Sara Skyttedal, city commissioner and top EP candidate for the Christian democrats, noted that Europe is facing a key challenge in protecting freedom and individual rights; we must fight the ambitions of a more socialist Europe. Socialists and left-wing forces are trying to shift the hierarchy to a supernational welfare state. The social pillar is a step towards more centralization. The President of the European commission, Jean-Claude Juncker has been very clear that the social pillar now should be transformed into common legislation. This is a very dangerous development. EU should not interfere in national policies on welfare and labor market. EU must focus on the common market and common challenges, not national issues.
We have freedom and need to defend it, but Europe does not need to reinvent it, stated Gustaf Göthberg, EP candidate for the Moderate Party. I was born in 1993 and my generation has never experienced anything else. Thanks to the EU we have always had the freedom to study and travel abroad, without passports or visas. The EU should struggle to expand both economic and individual freedom, not only defend it. To make this possible we must restore faith in democracy.
European integration is essencial for enterprises, stated Johan Fall, Head of the Tax department at the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise. EU need to focus on the four freedoms and the internal market. Proposals about taxation on the European level must be avoided. There must be a balance of power between the institutions and the member states. Decisions should be taken in consensus, not by a qualified majority. Taxation needs to stay a national issue, countries must be able to compete with each other to create better conditions for enterprises through reasonable taxation.