The key to achieving a free society is, first and foremost, to change the climate of ideas. That’s the lesson that Atlas Network founder Sir Antony Fisher drew from Nobel laureate economist Friedrich Hayek before he abandoned his electoral ambitions to begin work founding and supporting think tanks that would assemble the analytical nuts and bolts of classical liberal thought, apply them to practical policy solutions, and thereby build a worldwide freedom movement.
In a monetary regime of sound money — as opposed to our present discretionary fiat monetary arrangements — the boom and bust of the U.S. housing industry during 2002-09 could not have happened. The damage done to the national economy by the bursting housing bubble can be understood only in the context of the government’s role in fostering that bubble.
The free-market think tank community generally relies on two broad strategies to achieve a free society. First, they focus on spreading the ideas of liberty and building the cultural foundations of freedom. Second, they do the heavy lifting of policy analysis, studying the actual effects of government policies and suggesting reforms that foster individual liberty and prosperity in a more direct, practical sense. Fostering a societal climate of freedom makes policy success more likely, and longer-lasting.
Malaysia has a tradition of classical liberal thought at its core, dating back to its 1957 Proclamation of Independence, which stated that the nation should be “founded upon the principles of liberty and justice and ever seeking the welfare and happiness of its people and the maintenance of a just peace among all nations.” Even so, reactionary forces have vast influence in modern Malaysia, with a government that arrests journalists for “sedition,” crackdowns on religious liberty, calls for Internet censorship, and a political system often divided along racial lines.
With more than 460 Atlas Network partners in 96 countries, the movement to advance individual liberty, free markets, the rule of law, and peace is worldwide and cross-cultural. Each partner faces both unique challenges and opportunities within its own geographical area, but the opponents and strategies involved are often strikingly similar across the globe.
The people gathered to see the emperor, who had magnificent new clothes and would show them off presently. The palace grounds were packed full of courtiers and the simply curious, waiting excitedly. The door opened and the emperor stepped out. Although he was stark naked, the public was breathless with admiration and oohs and ahs. Only a little boy was unimpressed. “But the Emperor has no clothes!” he declared.
Alexis de Tocqueville visited the United States as a young man in 1831. He is credited for having observed in depth, and accurately described, not only the political system of this new republic, but, beyond this, the principles of the democratic system and broader society. This work was done with a view, undoubtedly, to educate European countries, because historical circumstances had left most of them with centralized governments and a large public sphere.
With a diverse array of cultures and political systems all in close proximity, the people of Europe face both unique challenges and opportunities in spreading the ideas of liberty. The fourth annual European Students for Liberty Conference (ESFLC) welcomed more than 500 participants from 43 countries to Berlin in April to exchange ideas about freedom and the issues facing Europe today.