November/December 2007

Let Freedom Ring — in China, Ghana, and the Crimea

This summer saw Cato's Global Freedom Initiative bring the ideas of individual liberty, rule of law, and freedom of trade and travel to areas that have so far had little experience of them. Spanning Asia, Africa, and post-Soviet regions, the seminars brought together local scholars and eager students to discuss the timeless ideas of liberty and prospects for its local application.

In the heart of Ghana's historic capital of Accra lies Ashesi University, which this August played host to the seminar "Inspiring African Transformation," cosponsored by Cato's Center for Promotion of Human Rights and the Imani Center for Policy and Education. Sixty-three students learned from local voices of liberty including Kenyan documentary filmmaker June Arunga, producer of "Africa's Ultimate Resource" (2005), who spoke on how her medium can be used to spotlight government corruption. The students were also treated to lectures of regional importance, such as "The Mystery of Property: How Property Rights Conquered Poverty in Rich Countries" and "Why Africa Should Forget Foreign Aid."

The China leg of the Global Freedom Initiative, "Summer School on Property Rights, Public Policy, and Constitutionalism," held in Beijing August 14 to 16, was appropriately titled. Hayek scholar Liu Junning gave a wide-ranging lecture stressing the importance of property rights, the rule of law, and constitutionalism. Junning further stressed that if China's ascent is to continue, these drivers of economic growth must continue to be fostered.

Cato's Global Freedom Initiative summer tour ended by taking the ideas of freedom to the former Soviet city of Alushta, Crimea. From September 2-8, a sparkling cast of libertarian luminaries spoke to students drawn from throughout the Russian-speaking world. Speakers included Andrei Illarionov, former economic adviser to Vladmir Putin and now a senior fellow at the Cato Institute; Johan Norberg, Swedish author of the Cato-published In Defense of Global Capitalism, recently issued in Russian by Cato.ru; Tom Palmer, director of Cato's Center for Promotion of Human Rights; and Georgian state minister Kakha Bendukidze. The seminar included breakout sessions on styles of leadership, how to influence mainstream media, how to build a blog presence, and the use of new media strategies generally. Mikhail Dubov, author of the popular Russian economics blog Ruconomics, said he was floored by the presence of Andrei Illarionov and similarly impressed by the caliber of his fellow participants: "All of my classmates demonstrated the ability to think for themselves — to make their own conclusions. This is rare in presentday Russia."

Thinking clearly on policy issues will be promoted in 2008 as a result of the work of Cato's Center for Promotion of Human Rights, as a part of Cato's Global Freedom Initiative. The Center's fruitful partnership with the Imani center will continue with additional African seminars for English-speakers to be held in 2008. A seminar for French-speakers is planned for North Africa. In partnership with the Institute for Economic Studies-Europe, Cato will sponsor several seminars across Europe. A Winter School is being held in Shanghai and more programs are being planned for China. Lastly, Cato's first book has been published in Brazil, under the Ordemlivre.org brand, and many more programs for Portuguese speakers are planned for 2008. Stay tuned!

Says Tom Palmer, "We're laying the plans for a very, very busy 2008."