Atlas Network recently caught up with Alexander Skouras, its former director of external relations, who will become president of the Center of Liberal Studies (KEFiM) in Greece starting September 1. Originally founded in 2011, KEFiM’s mission is to increase the influence and support for policies that promote individual freedom.
Atlas Network: What are a couple of the most significant challenges in Greece?
Skouras: The country has two major problems: its government is too big and some very influential groups use the apparatus of the government to secure concentrated benefits for themselves at the expense of the many. The size and scope of Greece’s government require it to spend more than half of its GDP on government programs. The people who depend on government for their incomes (for example, public servants and pensioners) outnumber those in the productive sectors of the economy. Secondly, Greece has struggled for decades with the issues of corruption, cronyism, and statism. As a result, Greece ranks near the bottom of the EU when it comes to transparency and the rule of law.
What is KEFiM doing to remake Greece’s sociopolitical climate?
Skouras: KEFiM was rebranded in 2016, and we want to make sure that the average Greek is aware of the problems I mentioned and the challenges those problems bring to our economy. We want to make very clear that unless the Greek economy opens up with more market-friendly policies, Greece will never rebound from its current crises.
A very good example of this is our study of the Greek Tax Freedom Day, which we predicted this year to occur on July 23. The response of the Greek people and media was incredible. Everyday people had access to high-quality research presented in an easy-to-consume way, and they embraced it. Our study made multiple front-page newspapers and most evening news broadcasts. We even had major German newspapers and the biggest Chinese news agency mentioning our study, and that shows that what we do matters.
What project are you most excited to begin work on?
Skouras: The Center for Liberal Studies is at a very critical point and a very pleasant position to be in. What started as a small group of principled volunteers from 2011 to 2015 is now a fully professional and impactful think tank that is addressing critical economic issues and driving public debate around economic freedom at a national scale.
Our biggest challenge and the thing I’m most excited about is our three-year goal to create, present, and advocate for a comprehensive free-market reform agenda that will act as a roadmap for Greece in order to claim a free and prosperous future while at the same time focusing on the most important battle we have ahead of us: the battle of ideas.
This project is named “Greece 2021: An Agenda for Growth and Prosperity,” and it’s a banner under which we will execute two main initiatives. First, we will create a scientifically rigorous and politically viable reform agenda. Second, we will try to demonstrate to the Greek public that the ideas of classical liberalism are engrained in our country’s founding. Modern Greece will become 200 years old in 2021 and this is not only a very important milestone for the Greek state but also a perfect opportunity to have a public discussion about our ambitious platform of reform.
Both pillars of “Greece 2021” evolve around the central idea that free markets under the rule of law have been the constant success recipes for every aspiring country. Greece’s “fundamentals” are sound. We have a well-educated workforce, an ideal geographical location for trade and tourism, a rich and well-branded agricultural industry … but what’s missing is the right policy mix. If we get that right, there’s no reason why our country couldn’t be as prosperous as Ireland or New Zealand.
How is KEFiM poised to make a difference in Greece’s intellectual and sociopolitical climate?
Skouras: We have all the requisite elements to achieve long-lasting impact. Our team has received top training from the Atlas Leadership Academy. We have some of the country’s top academics filling up our academic board; we have independent and honorable businessmen on our board of directors; we have a vast international network through Atlas Network and our other partners that are invested in our success; and the media seems eager to get its hands on quality research and policy proposals.
In addition to that, there is a wonderful opportunity for us that arises from the fact that, based on recent polls, Greeks seem more willing now to embrace free-market ideas and policies than at any other time in recent memory. We are in the middle of an ideal opportunity where we are able to drive this public discussion around policy and the ideas of freedom, and both the media and the Greek people are willing to listen.
How has your time at Atlas Network helped to prepare you for your new role?
Skouras: My time at Atlas Network has been the greatest time of my life. I had the chance to work with an excellent team of freedom champions who are committed to and knowledgeable about the role of think tanks in society. And as director of external relations I had the opportunity to interact with, learn from, and support other freedom champions around the world. This is a network that I will carry with me in my new venture as president of the Center for Liberal Studies, and I can’t imagine success without this experience.
At Atlas Network I had the opportunity to learn how to effectively grow and manage a think tank, and I got to meet with leaders of the global liberty movement as well as think tank gurus, so this experience at Atlas Network has enriched me in virtually every perspective.