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Apr 10 - 12

In order to recognise the efforts of the best pro-liberty student leaders in Europe, we announce that as part of this year’s ESFLC in Berlin, we will be awarding the very first European Students For Liberty Awards!

The three categories are:

  • European Student of the Year
  • European Event of the Year
  • European Group of the Year

The first step in this process is nominating your friends. Do that by filling out the nomination form bellow.

The nominating process will end on March 20. Then the nominees will be revealed and students from across the continent will be invited to vote for those most deserving of the rewards!

The winners will be announced at the 2015 European Students For Liberty Conference in Berlin, Germany on April 10-12. Be sure to sign-up and attend to see which students will win the awards!

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Healthcare expenditures are rising globally, and policy makers are looking for a cure. In most cases, either more centralization or rationing have been prescribed to tackle this problem. Nations with more planned economies are especially struggling to adjust their domestic health systems to market realities. Most post-communist countries still lag behind the industrialized world in health outcomes and also experience a high degree of corruption and informal payments.

Over the course of the past eight years, the Republic of Georgia’s health system developed a unique approach towards health reform and has experienced great success so far. Formerly one of the most dysfunctional and corrupt countries to receive care in Europe, Georgia has emerged as the leading health system in the sphere of post-Soviet powers.

Georgia broke the old reform paradigm of gradual change and instead introduced bold, market-based reforms in a short time period that the country’s healthcare system largely hadn’t seen before.
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ESFLExecDescription

The ESFL Executive Board oversees the organization’s principal programs in Europe. ESFL Executive Board members are responsible for growing the student movement for liberty in Europe: providing resources to students across the continent, organizing Regional Conferences, and generally supporting students in the cause of liberty. Selection to the ESFL Executive Board is highly competitive, and participation on the Executive Board should be seen as an opportunity to make a meaningful difference, which carries significant responsibilities. The Executive Board requires a minimum commitment of 20 hours per week and involves both collaborative group efforts with leaders thousands of miles away as well as individual work to complete projects and prepare events with little supervision. Full proficiency in written and spoken English is mandatory, as all ESFL activities are conducted in English.

The deadline for applications is April 1, 2015.

Following your submitted application, you may be invited for a Skype interview with current members of the European Executive Board. Final decisions will be made one week after the European Students For Liberty Conference, taking place April 10-12.

If accepted, European Executive Board members are expected to attend ESFL’s Leadership Retreat May 3-6 in Gummersbach, Germany.

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When in 1986 former minister of labour and social affairs Norbert Blüm promised that “one thing is certain: the pension,” he made a promise many Germans were willing to believe. The system appeared to be stable. Change was thought to be unnecessary. After the devastation of World War II, the newly founded Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) entered a new age of prosperity in the 1950s and 60s. Rampant inflation was stopped by a radical currency reform and government pulled back from the economy, sharply lowering taxes on incomes. Furthermore, rationing, especially for foodstuffs, was abolished. All these policies, driven by the ordo-liberal minister of economics, Ludwig Erhardt, had a vitalising effect. What followed was an increase in productivity, wages and thus living standards. The newly-found prosperity also led to another sort of growth; the West German population started to increase greatly. While the war-ravaged FRG had a population of around 51 million in 1950, this number increased to around 60 million in 1968. After 1968, though, the number stagnated on a level of around 61 million until the reunification of Eastern and Western Germany.

What is the problem, anyway?

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We have seemingly come a long way round from the question of the desirability of an alliance between libertarian and conservative forces as posed in the first part of this series to my treatment of objective ethics in the last post. I consider this detour necessary, however, as this is one of the most serious (or popular) objections of conservatives to liberalism, which they view as an academically dressed-up version of the nihilistic “anything goes.” It is therefore adequate to respond to this in detail.

Having already pointed out why liberalism does not lead to, necessitate, or logically contain relativism elsewhere, part (2) of the series concluded that we do not need to rely on objective values to defend liberty. We may now investigate to which extent it could nevertheless be helpful to do so.

So we’ll have to start with the obvious. What on earth could these objective values even be? Do they exist, and if so, are they genuinely libertarian? This might be one of the most controversial issues in the history of liberalism, with outstanding representatives on either side of the discussion. Does libertarianism logically follow from natural rights that exists independently of time and space, like Locke and Rothbard argued, or are the latter merely “nonsense on stilts”, as Jeremy Bentham famously called them (liberal giants such as David Hume and Ludwig von Mises would surely agree with him)?
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Photo credit: Ringai on Flickr.

Photo credit: Ringai on Flickr.

In early January, 4 people died[i] in the United Kingdom as a result of what seemed like ecstasy (MDMA) use. Before understanding why the war on drugs contributed to, not prevented, these 4 people’s death, let’s take a look at ecstasy in itself.

MDMA was synthesized for the first time in Germany in 1912 as weight-loss drug, but was ignored until the 1960s when it was used as an aid for psychotherapy. The drug was then called “empathy” and no one would have thought of using it for recreational purposes. It was only in the 1980s when it began to be sold under the name of ecstasy in night clubs that it became popular. Like amphetamines, ecstasy gives its users huge energy boosts which makes it particularly prevalent in party settings. Like psychedelics, it also creates feelings of warmth and empathy towards others. A rush of euphoria can also be felt.

Ecstasy releases those effects by way of releasing serotonin and dopamine in the brain and central nervous system. Serotonin is a natural neurotransmitter (a chemical that helps carry messages around the brain) and helps regulate sleep, appetite, muscle contractions, mood and intestinal movements. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter of pleasure. Users begin to feel the effects of MDMA 30-60 minutes after its ingestion, and the effects last between 4-6 hours.

Does ecstasy kill? The first deaths that involved ecstasy came from youngsters dying of dehydration[ii]. Several studies have shown that MDMA’s neurotoxicity comes from the rise in the body’s temperature[iii]. This rise of temperature is particularly important for badly ventilated nightclubs where ecstasy users dance.
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There is no tax hike more regressive than that of a cut in interest rates. Whether it be the simple act of printing money or the more in vogue Quantitative Easing, inflationary economics builds growth on the back of the poorest amongst us.

One cannot but see inflation as a tax. Every year that prices increase, the value of a worker’s pay packet decreases. The government actively, if covertly, steals those precious few extra pounds under the cover of monetary darkness.

What exactly is inflation? Simply put, it is a rise in the price of goods. How does it come about? It occurs when the amount of money in circulation increases, meaning that more money is chasing the same quantity of goods and services, thus pushing prices up.

It is not hard to see how this might be seen as a tax. If the price of a basket of goods goes up, it is those who earn the least that bear the brunt. Of course, this would not be the case were the poorest to get their fair share of this new ‘money.’ But how can they? The only way governments increase the money supply is via methods that benefit either their own balance sheet, or those of the banking sector. So why do seemingly progressive governments embark on this course?
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Swedish currency. Photo credit: Flickr user Paul Frankenstein.

Swedish currency. Photo credit: Flickr user Paul Frankenstein.

When the U.S. housing bubble, fueled by easy access to cheap credit, burst in 2008 it turned into an avalanche threatening to tackle and bury not just the U.S. economy but those of other countries as well. These devastating effects stemmed from U.S. federal government policies created to enable borrowers who would normally be seen as untrustworthy to have access to loans they would be unlikely to repay and spend this cheap, borrowed money on products they normally could not afford. An illusion of wealth was created and the bubble inflated as things seemed to be going well.

Like any other government intervention into the market, these policies eventually led to a disaster of a scale not envisioned by any government official. The bubble burst, interest rates on loans could not be paid back, families and businesses lost large sums of money, the U.S. economy was hit hard. Through it the international banking industry the rest of the world were dragged into the abyss, too. Even stable countries and regions, such as Europe, were among the victims and countries such as Greece, Italy or Spain fell into a state of shock so severe it will probably take many more painful years for a full recovery.

But not all of Europe was hit equally hard. Apparently the northern countries of Scandinavia seemed to have escaped the devastation of the crisis and Sweden is being heralded as a “rock star of the recovery.” At a first glance, Sweden with its welfare state, high tax rates and incredibly low inflation rates seems to be the poster model of a very successful economy that not only weathered the storm of the global financial crisis but also serves as an example other countries should follow.

Will the “Swedish Way” prevail?

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Jean Baptiste Say

Jean Baptiste Say

Many young libertarians know who Frédéric Bastiat is, but there are few familiar with his most significant predecessor and one of the greatest classical economists – Jean-Baptiste Say. Nowadays, Say is a historical figure that is systematically overlooked but had a tremendous influence in the early 19th century upon numerous economists from continental Europe and the U.S. Say was also one of the favorite economists of Murray Rothbard, who regarded him as the most significant predecessor of Austrian Economics before Bastiat and a proponent of what could be termed an early version of the Austrian method of praxeology.

Jean-Baptiste Say was born on the 5th of January 1767 in Lyon, France. He was originally supposed to follow a commercial career and in 1785 was sent along with his brother to be educated in England. After he finished his studies at a private school in Croydon, Say was then employed by a merchant in London. In 1787 he returned to his native France and started working in a life insurance company.

Say began to write on the topics of liberty and economics around this time. His first pamphlet, on freedom of the press, was written in 1789. In 1793 he became a secretary to the current finance minister. A year later he became the first editor of the journal La Decade Philosophique which was the flagship publication of the most influential laissez-faire intellectual group at the time – the philosophes.

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Chances are your views on the environment and appropriate government policy do not result from a careful scientific and economic analysis but rather reflect “a broader set of basic assumptions about the future, about the role of government in the economy and about the relationship of humans to the planet.”

Two visions of the future

In The Bet Paul Sabin recounts the story of two men and their opposing visions of the world. Ehrlich, an influential environmentalist, believed that the continually growing world population would cause a rapid depletion of resources, eventually resulting in massive famines. Therefore, governments would have to intervene and address this alleged problem by determining a stable optimal population size and adopting policies to achieve that size. Public policy should discourage large families, for instance by imposing tax increases instead of deductions for couples with children. Moreover, he advocated the expansion of recycling and a limit or ban on wasteful lighting and heating technologies for the sake of energy conservation.

Julian Simon, on the other hand, rejected these fears and actually embraced the demographic trends. He and other economists emphasised human ingenuity along with technology and innovation. Markets would successfully manage the depletion of resources by discovering new resources, developing substitutes and inventing technologies to make their use more efficient. So even though mankind is exploiting more resources with every year that goes by, it has more resources available for use today than at any point in history before. Contrary to common sense, resources were getting more abundant rather than scarcer, said Simon.
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