Towards a Bosnian Spring?

A Bosnian Spring seemed to be breaking out. For days, people all over the country demonstrated against the government and called on public officials to quit.

But then the demonstrations turned dark. Buildings and roads burned. People and police officers were hurt. The archives in Bosnian institutions were in flames. The whole administrative system was about to collapse. In a highly bureaucratic country like Bosnia, the loss of documents means total collapse.

Unlike other places, these demonstrations are not redirected against a tyrant. People protest because they are hungry — they don’t have jobs. Officially, about 40 percent of Bosnians are unemployed. Many people over 30 years have never had even one day of official employment.

The reason for this dire situation is obvious. According to the Fraser Institute’s latest Economic Freedom of the World Report (PDF), for 2011 Bosnia ranked 91 out of 152 countries. It performs specifically bad in the area of size of government (122) and business regulation (120).

Starting a business is a nightmare in Bosnia. The costs are huge. To register a limited liability company requires almost three months’ average pay (average monthly net pay is €420), and after registering, one has to pay annual contributions of about a month’s average pay. On top of that, at least two people must be employed at a minimum gross salary of €300. Even volunteers cost the company money — the employer must pay a minimum of about €100 per month to the state. And as if that is not enough, a VAT needs to be paid before the seller receives any money from his customers.

But the biggest nightmare occurs when government inspectors visit your business. Tiny omissions can cost you a small fortune. In my neighborhood, a bakery closed down after an inspector found that the owner had failed to prepare a monthly summary of his employee turnover for the tax office, though he did send daily reports. The fine was €1,000, which the owner could not and did not want to pay. As a result, my neighborhood lost its bakery, and the owner and his family are back in the labor market competing with other people for the relatively few jobs available. Shops, bars, and other businesses are being closed because they marginally do not fit the prescribed space standards. This country with fewer than 4 million citizens has 65,000 blocked bank accounts for 40,000 companies. Companies owe the government more than €700 million in various taxes (PDF) (counting only companies owing more than €25,000).

The government’s cronyism has also created hardship, but unfortunately this has produced demands for more government intervention. For example, in Tuzla about 600 people accused the authorities of turning a blind eye to the collapse of a number of state firms after their privatization and demanded that the government save the companies to ensure these people’s continuous employment and salaries. Additionally, many unemployed people demand that the government create jobs for them, ensure all graduates employment, impose a one-person/one-job limit, provide universal health care, and generally create a better tomorrow. These are the standard impossible demand of socialists and communists. The only reasonable demand is to cut the pay of high-ranking politicians (it’s twice as high as in neighboring Serbia and up to 5 times higher than the average Bosnian’s income) and to simplify the bureaucracy.

The demonstrations all over Bosnia show that people have had enough of the current mess, but their demands show that they are on the wrong path to a solution. Should the politicians agree to these demands, we would have an even-more-onerous government.

What Bosnia and Herzegovina needs has been identified by the great economist Ludwig von Mises: The way for underdeveloped nations to become richer is not through material aid. Prosperity is not simply a matter of capital investment. It is a spiritual, intellectual, and ideological matter. What the underdeveloped countries need first is the philosophy of economic freedom and private enterprise.

If we fail to achieve that, the demonstrations will not bring a better future for the Bosnian people, but a far worst future.

This article first appeared on AtlasOne.

LLI in Armenia!

Leadership School in Yerevan

On March 12 and 13, the Leadership School founded by Samvel Movsisyan organized 2 events for LLI (in cooperation with Armenian Youth for Liberty founded by Inessa Shahnazarova) at the Congress Hotel in the capital of Armenia, Yerevan. The first was an evening with about a dozen members of the school to show the movie “Call of the Entrepreneur”, followed by a lively discussion on the topic of entrepreneurship and the role it can play in Armenia.

The second event was also at the Congress Hotel in the centre of Yerevan. Featuring Andy and Glenn, who presented an hour each, this event was open to the public. Over 200 people came to hear about entrepreneurship, including social and intellectual entrepreneurship, as well as the meaning of money and highlights of the philosophies of Ayn Rand, Frederic Bastiat and Friedrich Hayek. It was a real pleasure to have several students from past Liberty Camps in the audience and to establish new contacts and friendships. Thanks to Samvel and Inessa for making these events happen!

Liberty Camp Armenia 2013

From 14 to 18 March, our third Liberty Camp in Armenia took place at our usual mountain resort of Tsakhkadzor, the top ski resort in Armenia, some 60km north of Yerevan.

This year, the Liberty Camp was a joint venture of LLI, Friedrich Naumann Foundation (South Caucasus), and Armenian Youth for Liberty. Some 29 students from Georgia and Armenia attended the camp at a conference center owned by Yerevan University. The weather over the 4-day period varied from bright blue skies to rain and, on the last night, to heavy snow with temperatures averaging around 2 degrees C. Perfect weather for an indoor camp!

The program featured our usual lectures on classical liberal philosophy, including John Locke, Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, Ayn Rand, Frederic Bastiat, and F.A. Hayek, free market economics, entrepreneurship, as well as a comparison of European versus American political systems given by Yasemin Pamuk from FNF, an exercise in giving an “elevator pitch” of your idea to a potential sponsor or investor, led by Inessa, and a lecture on the morality of capitalism in an Armenian context, given by Vahagn Khachaturyan, a former mayor of Yerevan.

We also watched “Call of the Entrepreneur” and a Stossel video together, had debates on the role of the state in the areas of law, justice and police, and made a visit to a nearby monastery, in which we happened to witness an Armenian wedding that had just started.

All in all, a great 4 days, making new friends and meeting up with old ones, one of the highlights of each and every Liberty Camp! Thanks to all participants and organizers for making this another successful and memorable event spreading the ideas of liberty all around the world!

John Mackey at the 2013 ISFLC

In February, Students for Liberty hosted their annual International Students for Liberty Conference at the Grand Hyatt, in Washington, DC. Students from all over the world gathered to learn and share in liberty-minded lectures, discussions, and workshops.

The conference featured many prominent pro-liberty individuals such as John Mackey, Magatte Wade, and John Stossel. There were a series of breakout sessions and a total of over 1,400 students in attendance.

John Mackey, co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods, gave a keynote speech at the conference. Here’s an interview of Mackey with Nick Gillespie of Reason:

Our First Liberty Camp in America

In early February 2013, LLI had the privilege to conduct its first Liberty Camp in America: in beautiful, sunny Miami (when the rest of America was shivering) at the University of Miami, Coral Gables Campus. This event was organized by The Cuba Corps (TCC), an organization dedicated to the cause of a free Cuba, and offering humanitarian support to groups already working for a civil society in Cuba. TCC, supported by The Atlas Society, did a great job organizing this seminar at Casa Bacardi, the official home of the Institute of Cuban and Cuban-American Studies (ICCAS), led by Dr. José Azel, author of Mañana in Cuba.

The participants at the seminar were a mix of recent arrivals from Cuba, some of whom had been in jail as political prisoners, less than 12 months ago, and representatives of the Cuban-American population in Miami, Florida. Hearing the philosophical basis for the concept of individual freedom for the first time, many of the recent arrivals from Cuba, born and brought up after Castro’s 1959 revolution, were astonished that there has been an established philosophical framework for freedom for several centuries already. When you are living in a society that consistently denigrates the idea of individual liberty, it is easy to think that you are not “normal” for wanting to express your individuality and your desire to live your life as you please and not as the State pleases.

For the LLI presenters, including Jaroslav Romanchuk from Belarus, still suffering under a current dictatorship, and Jacek Spendel from Poland, itself freed from communism less than 25 years ago, it was deeply rewarding to share the good news of individual liberty, free enterprise, free markets, and entrepreneurship with people who have suffered so much in this so-called Caribbean “paradise” of Castro and communism. LLI fully supports the vision of The Cuba Corps to establish a civil society in a Free Cuba and wishes them every success!

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Welcome to the New LLI Website!

Welcome to the new LLI website! We are proud to introduce our redesigned web presence and hope it’s a useful tool for those who want to follow our activity and spread liberty throughout the world. We’ve executed many successful Liberty Camps these past few years and will now be integrating a dynamic presence on the web, utilizing the latest software and social media resources.

Be sure to bookmark this website and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. There’s more good to come so stay tuned!

Thanks to our webmaster Tony Escobar, whose design talents made this possible. Check out his other projects at AMTG Solutions.