Vaclav Havel, the playwright who led the Velvet Revolution that ended communism in Czechoslovakia, has died at 75. At a conference in Prague in 1995, Cato research fellow Stanley Kober drew on Havel’s writings to discuss civil society, the spirit of humility, and the case for limited government. He quoted Havel on the essential quality of a free government:
I am in favor of a political system based on the citizen, and recognizing all his fundamental civil and human rights in their universal validity, and equally applied. The sovereignty of the community, the region, the nation, the state–any higher sovereignty, in fact–makes sense only if it is derived from the one genuine sovereignty, that is, from human sovereignty, which finds its political expression in civic sovereignty.
Although Havel sometimes found himself at odds with his successor, Vaclav Klaus, on the extent of the market economy, Cato vice president Jim Dorn related Havel’s commitment to markets at a conference in Shanghai in 1997:
Though my heart be left of centre, I have always known that the only economic system that works is a market economy, in which everything belongs to someone–which means that someone is responsible for everything. It is a system in which complete independence and plurality of economic entities exist within a legal framework, and its workings are guided chiefly by the laws of the marketplace. This is the only natural economy, the only kind that makes sense, the only one that can lead to prosperity, because it is the only one that reflects the nature of life itself.
Vaclav Havel helped Czechoslovakia make the transition from one of the most repressive Communist regimes to one of the most successful post-Communist countries. RIP.