Tuesday, April 25, 2006

A Fantastic Justification for my nom de keyboard

I found it at the end of Alvaro Vargas Llosa's acceptance speech for the Sir Antony Fisher International Memorial Award, entitled The State of Freedom: 2006:
What is needed at this stage in Latin America is probably akin to what took place in 18th-century England when old Whig reformers decided to undo much of the statute book—and the agencies attached to those laws and norms legated by previous generations. By the third quarter of the 18th century, more than 18,000 norms had been repealed—some four fifths of the laws passed since Henry III. The process was dictated by the principle of individual liberty—most of the norms that undermined individual liberty and personal responsibility were done away with to the effect that the power of the state over the citizens was dramatically reduced. The result was a long period of prosperity that we now partly associate with the Industrial Revolution.

That's the penultimate paragraph. Here's the conclusion:
Around 2,400 B.C., a man known by the name of Urukagina led a people's revolution against the oligarchic state in Lagash, one of the city-states of Sumer, in Mesopotamia, accusing special interests-court priests, administrators, the governor—of acting for their own benefit and either usurping the property of others or simply enslaving them. "The priest no longer invaded the garden of a humble man", says the document that conveys his reforms and gave the human race the first recorded word for liberty: amagi (literally "a return to the mother", referring to an idyllic past in which the gods wanted people to be free). He banned the authorities, both ecclesiastical and civil, from seizing property from commoners, did away with most of the tax collectors, curtailed the power of judges to rule in favor of oligarchs trying to exploit the weak, and got the government out of proceedings such as divorce. Although Lagash thrived, Urukagina's reign succumbed to a rival king after a decade.[sic] It stands as perhaps the first case of reform along classical liberal lines (to use a much more recent paradigm) and a very early example of struggle against collectivism, plunder and conquest. Something of the spirit of Urukagina, the first free-market reformer in recorded history, needs to impregnate the popular and intellectual discussion so that decision-makers can begin the process of "undoing" much of what has been done over the last few centuries. That process will liberate African and Latin American societies from the constraints that today impede their development even as other regions of the world—less endowed by nature and with less impressive histories—are moving in the right direction.

In the body of the speech he discusses the recent growth of Freedom and Prosperity in Ireland, New Zealand, Chile, El Salvador, China, India and some other Far Eastern nations, as well as Eastern Europe. He highlights particularly the advances in Botswana. He also discusses backward steps taken in Russia, the US and Western Europe, ominous signs in China and the resurgence of interventionist-populism and socialism in Latin America.

I have an aversion to mining all the nuggets out of a brilliant piece. RTWT. But I especially liked the "call to arms" in paragraph 16, which I paraphrase without emendation marks to make it stand better alone:
Intellectual entrepreneurs see more clearly than others the cornucopia that awaits countries that adopt limited government and let people produce and exchange value, and that let the spontaneous order breathe comfortably, you find creative ways of forwarding your ideas in order to change the mindset of others who still cling to political and economic superstition.

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