Remarks on the II Austrian School Seminar from Mises Brazil
Remarks on the II Austrian School Seminar from Mises Brazil
If the first Seminar, carried out last year, brought the freshness and the boldness of innovation, this year's edition enabled us to definitely consolidate the roots of the libertarian movement in Brazil. If we had to identify the most auspicious feature in this movement, we would, without a doubt, point at the fact that the vast majority of its enthusiasts are youngsters between 16 and 30 years of age. In a country where it is common to see its children being inoculated by the Marxism virus already from their basic education, and it is deemed perfectly normal that these citizens, after maturing, become spoiled adolescents and college undergrads, accustomed to demand state "free rides" as if they were a natural right - a right financed by the toothless and famished -, it is encouraging to witness a new batch of youngsters vigorously embracing the idea of liberty, as well as all of the individual autonomy and responsibility which it entails. Had our youth been exposed to these values in the 70s and 80s, Brazil would be a more advanced and wealthier country today.
Although it is an inevitable and much used cliché, it is always worthwhile repeating it: it is precisely the youth who will decide the future of the country our children and grand children will inherit. Hence, the whole importance of the power of this incipient and increasing libertarian movement.
There would be no better way to crown the consolidation of this movement than to announce the rerelease of Ludwig von Mises magnum opus, in Portuguese, Human Action. The president of the IMB, Helio Beltrão, who opened the event, gave the good news: the new Portuguese edition of Human Action has been rereleased, with new printing and looking much more appealing. Almost all of the 100 copies available for sale at the Seminar were completely sold out in the very first day of the event. Some enthusiasts bought up to six copies, since they wanted "to distribute among close friends, in the hope they would finally understand how the economy really works and why it must be set free". Soon, the book will be available.
After the announcement of our president, the Seminar followed its planned course. The first speaker was Professor Ubiratan Jorge Iorio. In 45 minutes Iorio traced back four centuries of the Austrian school's history of economic thought, which, before being officially founded by Carl Menger in 1871, dates back to Saint Thomas Aquinas and, thereafter, to the Spanish scholastics of the Salamanca School, being followed by David Hume, Adam Smith and David Ricardo, culminating, finally, in all of the works by Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek. Unfortunately, with the advancement of the positivist ideas, the economic thought of the Austrian school would be discarded in the first decades of the XX century. It is incalculable how much that cost, in terms of liberty and progress to the world economy.
The second speaker to take the stage was Professor Peter Klein. Being a phenomenal speaker, clear diction, confident and logically articulated, Klein addressed the entrepreneur's function in the economy. Curiously, the crucial agent for the economic development is not even mentioned in economics' textbooks, which tacitly presuppose his existence, without inquiring his motivations, let alone the hindrances to his activity. Weren't it for the entrepreneur, there would simply be no economic progress. Without the entrepreneur, there is no production and consequent supply of goods and services. So, without this agent, there is simply no way of achieving economic and material well-being. The mere discard of the entrepreneur's figure would already be sufficient to condemn to the ostracism all of the current microeconomic textbooks. Klein is presently the main Austrian economist dedicated to the research of the entrepreneur's role in the economy. His recently released book was also available for sale at the Seminar. Obviously, it didn't last long on the shelves.
The third speaker was the argentine Gabriel Zanotti, a follower of the Kirznerian line of thought. The topic was a bit more arid: despite addressing the economic epistemology, Zanotti provided us with an overview of phenomenology, including thinkers like Edmund Husserl, Max Scheler, Jean-Paul Sartre and Immanuel Kant. For those more acquainted with philosophy, it was a full platter, and, due to the abundance of transmitted information in only 45 minutes, it must be closely watched again and again (video footage available soon). It is not a usual topic, let alone trivial, thus, the initial difficulty several in the audience manifested. However, for those interested in epistemological issues - an essential tool for the economic reasoning -, it is an indispensable talk.
The fourth speaker was the unmatched Hans-Hermann Hoppe. As expected, his speech was brilliant. Distinguished - and unrivaled - in the art of building argumentations in a Cartesian fashion, Hoppe minutely explained - starting from the basic example of Robinson Crusoe in his island and arriving at the current arrangement of modern society - why a state law society is good only to those encrusted in the bureaucratic machine, being, consequently, a terrible setup to the individuals belonging to the productive spectrum of society. Hoppe has the special gift of knowing how to irritate his detractors: for as much as they do not agree with him, there are simply no flaws one can identify in his logical reasoning. Creator of the so-called "argumentation ethics", it is impossible for an individual to affirm he's not in agreement with the theory developed by Hoppe without resulting in auto-contradiction - what is technically classified as "performative contradiction".
When one is not able to logically debate someone, calumny and libel are the only artifices left. What explains the vituperations, of which he is a frequent target.
With nimbleness and self-assurance, Hoppe talked at length about topics such as the judicial monopoly of the state, private security agencies and the role of insurers in a social arrangement with no state, what he terms the "natural order" or "private law society". In the Q&A session, Hoppe pontificated about current affairs, like gun ownership, and commented on the recent massacre at Realengo, Rio de Janeiro. A society is only genuinely free when its citizens are allowed to bear arms. Unarmed citizens are easy preys either for thugs or their government, who can, then, easily implement totalitarian measures, without fearing a popular upheaval. A true civilization lesson.
The last speaker of the Day was the sensational Jörg Guido Hülsmann. Apart from being the author of Ludwig von Mises' monumental biography, impeccably written, and being regarded as the main living monetary theorist, Hülsmann proved he masters numerous fields of the social sciences. His lecture was a compendium about liberty's progress (or regression) throughout human history, as well as religion's role in these events. Hülsmann pontificated about the Middle Ages and Enlightenment, and how the latter represented an attack against individual and religious liberties, paving the way for the later aggrandizement of the state. The Middle Ages, though, contrary to what is generally perceived, far from being the Dark Ages, represented an ample period of individual liberties' flourishing. In parallel, Hülsmann's exposition sketched a frame of economic thought along the centuries, reaching the apex of theoretic correction with the classical liberals from the XVIII and XIX centuries, but which unfortunately led to the current neoliberalism, a simple façade for the adoption of the usual socialist policies, under a new title, though. Neoliberals are mere statists in new clothing and must be attacked and unmasked as they really are: enemies of individual and economic liberties.
With the end of the first day, our foreign visitors were introduced to the typical gaucho culinary, overindulging in an endless all-you-can-eat barbecue. "If I eat one more slice, I'll explode", confessed Klein, begging for mercy. "I'll take more salad to offset this protein overdose", said an untamed Robert Murphy. "Very nice!", concluded Hoppe. "This is paradise! More meat, please!", begged an insatiable Hülsmann.
On the following Day, the Seminar restarted with a talk by Leonidas Zelmanovitz on "Inflation Targeting", which is neither new nor effective, although it is advertised as such. Zelmanovitz, who holds a Masters in Austrian Economics from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid and is currently a PhD candidate, exposed the main problems and fallacies behind inflation-targeting policies, present in almost every country, however, more celebrated in Brazil, where the press apparently still believes in it. It was a talk full of relevant historical data on monetary policies, deserving close attention.
The following lecture, once again the impeccable Peter Klein, but this time speaking about the internet and how it is revolutionizing the world economy. The internet simply revokes the distance between people, making every economic transaction more transparent, as well as instantaneous. A few decades ago it was virtually impossible for an average citizen to transact with another person from its own state without employing a considerable logistic effort. Nowadays, however, anyone can purchase a good from a Hong Kong seller, for instance, with the click of a mouse button. The economic implications of this recent facility cannot be emphasized enough. Nevertheless, always in earnest, , Klein also talked at length about some myths which surrounding this economic phenomenon created by the internet, which is far from being a panacea.
The next panel brought together Dalton Gardimam and Antony Mueller for an interesting debate. Gardimam is the Chief Economist at Bradesco BBI (Bradesco Broker) and responsible for the Fixed Income Research. Mueller is economics professor at the Universidade Federal de Sergipe and adjunct scholar from Ludwig von Mises Instittute. The debate had as its focus the future scenario for the world economy: will we have price inflation or deflation? Mueller, based on the quantity theory of money, argued for the inflationary scenario: all the money being created by central banks around the world will inevitably reach the real economy pushing up prices. Gardimam, on the other hand, bets on a scenario of a not necessarily continued deflation, but one of lull and mild price fluctuation. His argument is as follows, despite the hyperinflationary intentions of central banks, the markets will neutralize the growth in the monetary base, deleveraging this credit structure at the same rhythm or even to a greater extent than central banks are able to create bank reserves by force. Watch it closely.
Next on the line was the priceless Robert Murphy. One of the main stars of the current Austrian School, Murphy is an economic encyclopedia. Responsible for writing the "interpretation manuals" for treatises like Human Action and Man, Economy and State, Murphy, had his fame recently leveraged after publicly challenging Paul Krugman to a debate on the Austrian Business Cycle Theory and the ongoing economic crisis. Obviously, Krugman keeps declining the invitation, notwithstanding the fact that all of the raised money for the realization of this debate (over 70 thousand dollars have been donated) have been promised to a charity organization, in case Krugman accepts the offer. Apparently, the Keynesian Krugman has no social conscience.
Murphy spoke about how the economic crisis is a practical example of both the superiority of the Austrian Business Cycle Theory and the sheer incapacity of the Keynesian framework to explain such events. To prove the practical usage of the Austrian theory, Murphy cited numerous economic data provided by the very same Krugman in his blog, and showed how these figures confirm - instead of refuting, Krugman's original intent - the Austrian theory. The very empirical evidence proves, indisputably, the accuracy of the Austrian theory, while at the same time buries the Keynesian theory, which totally ignores the capital structure and the time factor, focusing exclusively on mechanized and amorphous aggregates - which, by being precisely mechanized and amorphous, has no explanatory power. A lesson in 45 minutes.
Lastly, our final talk. What a marvelous way of closing the Seminar than with another lecture from Hans-Hermann Hoppe, this time minutely explaining the whole mechanic of the economic cycles, which are created by central banks and its money printing machines and the consequent interest rate manipulation. Once again, the exposition was brilliantly and minutely articulated, narrated as if it were a novel, starting from a barter economy until the current arrangement, with central banks and its unbacked money-issuing monopoly. Hoppe explained in detail how this Money creation mechanism generates periods of economic expansion, that will necessarily be followed by crisis and recessions. Always.
Furthermore, the main living methodologist of the Austrian school also explained why the abolition of the gold standard and the consequent implementation o four current banking system - totally cartelized by central Banks - is perfect for governments, which can then finance its deficits through the mere Money creation, ignoring the need to honor its debts, which are continuously rolled over. The whole thing to the benefit of the bureaucratic classes and to detriment of the productive sector of the economy, which generates wealth and prosperity. Standing ovations.
This year's lectures brought us deeper and more complex subjects than last year. If in the previous Seminar the main goal was to provide the audience with an overview of the Austrian School and its ramifications, like the libertarian theory, this year's lectures were intended to offer more profound expositions on current topics. Less initiated people had some trouble in a few talks, what is perfectly comprehensible. The organizers satisfactorily ended the event with ample praise, criticism being only punctual - in everything human, nothing can be perfect.
We would like to thank the presence of the almost 200 people who attended the event, flying from distant cities like Manaus, Fortaleza, Recife and Salvador - flights which require a connection via São Paulo. It is truly gratifying to notice this disposition and goodwill from all of you towards our event.
To the remaining who weren't able to come, we extend our sincere gratitude. You are responsible for this site's success, in continuous growth - certainly due to the mouth-to-mouth advertisement, the most effective way. We hope to see an even greater number of participants in next year's Seminar.
Once again, thank you for everything.
P.S.: here you can find almost two thousand pictures from the event.
Photos: Daniela Villar
Translated by Fernando Ulrich