On March 5-8, 2015, university students from Slovakia and the Czech Republic gathered for the sixth annual Seminar on Austrian Economics organized by INESS, where they had an opportunity to attend quality lectures delivered by foreign and Slovak lecturers.
In a mansion in Mojmírovce, near Nitra, Slovakia, 30 selected students gained knowledge of the Austrian School of Economics, functioning of market mechanisms, and implications of state intervention to free exchange. The students along with nine lecturers discussed a wide variety of topics in long interactive discussions, from morals, philosophy and political economics to central banking or intellectual property.
The four-day seminar was opened on Thursday by Dr. Matúš Petrík with a lecture introducing the Austrian School of Economics and its methodology. He talked about the origins of economic thinking, about the most prominent representatives of the Austrian School and their ideas. The first presentation on Friday was held by Ján Dinga from INESS, who talked about the price of the state, public spending and public debt. His presentation was followed by one from Dr. David Lipka, dean of the School of International Relations and Diplomacy at the Anglo-American University in Prague. He also works as a research fellow at the Italian International Center for Economic Research (ICER). In his lecture on liberalism and its enemies, he talked about the reasons why people have the tendency to perceive free market negatively despite the fact, that it brings wealth and prosperity to a society. After the lecture, the impact of classical works and ideas of Adam Smith and other great economists was discussed.
In the afternoon, Pavol Lupták from Nethemba talked about the privacy and security on the internet. Afterwards, Prof. Michael Munger of Duke University in the USA, the keynote speaker at the seminar, proposed and discussed the “basic income” model, an alternative to the current redistributive system granting everyone a minimal income. He talked about the volume of social expenses and the ineffectiveness of their redistribution, and suggested a solution that could also motivate people into economic activity. In the evening, Juraj Karpiš of INESS talked about money and currency. He dealt with the topic of central banks, and their monopoly regarding the emission and distribution of money. After dinner, the students met with the lecturers in a less formal atmosphere, and discussed various topics they chose, such as the euro-crisis, compulsory vaccination, the role of the state as a central regulator, or Slovak economic policies.
On Saturday, Martin Vlachynský of INESS opened with online casino a lecture on energy policies and natural resources. He talked about past experience in dealing with apparently “scarce” resources. Another presentation, by Dr. David Lipka, who continued with his popularly received presentation of liberalism, followed. He took a look at the subjective preferences of people, wondering if the state, from an economic point of view, can reflect on these at all. Next on the program was a lecture by Professor Munger, which kicked off with the popular economic educational video Keynes vs. Hayek rap. The video presents the opposing opinions of these two famous economists in a very original way (and in which actually Professor Michael Munger features in the role of a security guard at the beginning). Munger talked about voluntary exchange and the morality of price creation, which he described using a variety of case studies. After that, Juraj Bednár from DIGMIA presented how decentralized internet functions. He talked about the Bitcoin digital currency and about online services and applications which simplify exchange of goods and information, and thus make the functioning of the society more effective. The Saturday lecture cycle was finished by Dr. David Lipka with a lecture “Nozick, Adam Smith, Rawls, and Liberty”, in which he explored the views on morals and ethics of these three economists and their place in the history of economic thoughts. The evening program once again gave the students the opportunity to talk less formally to their lecturers, and also included a great musical performance, when one of the students presented traditional Slovak and European songs on bagpipes. The night was a long one, with some of the students discussing all the way till the break of dawn.
The last day of the seminar was opened by Dr. Richard Ďurana of INESS, with a lecture on intellectual property. He argued that patents and copyrights are an obstacle to the technological progress and innovation, supporting his arguments with many examples from the past. The last lecture of the seminar was held by Professor Munger, with the title “Limits and problems of the sharing economy”. Sharing economy is the idea of sharing one´s property when not using it, with those who have demand for it. As well-functioning examples of the sharing economy, he presented UBER, the alternative to taxi services popular in the USA and slowly breaking through in Europe as well; and Airbnb, the community marketplace for people to list or book accommodations all over the world. After the lunch, the closing ceremony of the seminar took place. One of the students from the Czech Republic, Martina Bacíková, introduced the growing international platform Students for Liberty. She presented the purpose of the organization and the possibilities of participating in their activities. Dr. Richard Ďurana then closed the seminar by thanking the students on behalf of INESS, and together with Dr. David Lipka and Professor Michael Munger handed the students certificates for participating in the seminar.
All participants also got a nice gift package with quality economic literature and other study materials. With this we would also like to express our gratitude to the Tatra Banka Foundation for their financial support, thanks to which we could organize yet another great instalment of the seminar. We would also like to thank our medial partners – Trend magazine and the internet news portal Aktuality.sk
A report by Monika Olejárová
Translation: Peter Šinály