Recipient of the 2014 Milton Friedman Prize: Leszek Balcerowicz

April 17, 2014

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Leszek BalcerowiczWashington, D.C. (April 17, 2014) – The Cato Institute announced today that Leszek Balcerowicz, former Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister of Poland, will receive the 2014 Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty, a $250,000 biennial award presented to an individual for achievement in promoting freedom and individual liberty.

Balcerowicz has been widely credited with the economic transformation of Poland. He liberalized the prices of most consumer goods and initiated sound fiscal and monetary measures designed to balance the budget and end hyperinflation.

A former member of the Polish United Workers’ Party, Balcerowicz became Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister in 1989 under Tadeusz Mazowiecki, Eastern Europe’s first non-communist leader since the end of World War II. He held those positions again from 1997 to 2000.

From 2001 to 2007, Balcerowicz served as the chairman of the National Bank of Poland. 

“Leszek Balcerowicz’s contributions to the advancement of liberty and free markets in Eastern Europe cannot be overstated,” said Cato CEO John Allison.  “Poland now serves as a model that other countries may follow in transitioning from socialism to a humane economy based on individual responsibility and the rule of law.”

He has been awarded Poland’s highest decoration, the Order of the White Eagle, for his contribution to the country’s economic transformation. As the Wall Street Journal noted, “As an economic crisis manager, Leszek Balcerowicz has few peers. When communism fell in Europe, he pioneered ‘shock therapy’ to slay hyperinflation and build a free market. In the late 1990s, he jammed a debt ceiling into his country’s constitution, hand¬cuffing future free spenders. When he was central-bank governor from 2001 to 2007, his hard-money policies avoided a credit boom and likely bust.”

Poland was the only country in the European Union to avoid the 2009 recession, and it has been the fastest growing E.U. economy since.

Balcerowicz holds a Ph.D. from the Warsaw School of Economics. He has authored several books and numerous journal publications, and is most recently the author of Discovering Freedom, an extensive collection of foundational essays from leading classical liberal thinkers that includes everyone from Adam Smith and Alexis de Tocqueville to F. A. Hayek and Milton Friedman. The book was a bestseller in Poland.

Established in 2002 and presented every two years, the Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty is the leading international award for significant contributions to advancing individual liberty. 

The prize will be presented during a dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York on May 21, 2014. Garry Kasparov, former world chess champion, Russian pro-democracy leader, and global human-rights activist, will deliver the Keynote Address.

Previous winners include Chinese economist Mao Yushi; Iranian writer and journalist, Akbar Ganji; leader of a Venezuelan pro-democracy movement, Yon Goicoechea; former Prime Minister of Estonia Mart Laar; Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto; and the late British economist Peter Bauer.

Leszek Balcerowicz was chosen to receive the award from a public, worldwide nomination process.  The members of the 2014 International Selection Committee are:

  • John A. Allison, President and CEO, The Cato Institute
  • David Friedman, Professor of Law, Santa Clara University
  • Giancarlo Ibárgüen, Board of Trustees, Universidad Francisco Marroquín, Guatemala
  • Václav Klaus, Distinguished Senior Fellow, Cato Institute and Former President, Czech Republic
  • Mao Yushi, Economist; Recipient, 2012  Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty, China
  • Leo Melamed, Chairman Emeritus, CME Group and Chairman, Melamed & Associate
  • Mary Anastasia O’Grady, Member, Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal
  • Parth Shah, Founder & President, Centre for Civil Society, India
  • Vernon L. Smith, Nobel laureate, Professor of Economics and Law, Chapman University