Statement on Putin’s Article

Molotov and Hitler in 1940 when the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were still allies.

Prague, 8 July - Statement of the Platform of European Memory and Conscience on the recent article by Vladimir Putin: The Real Lessons of the 75th Anniversary of World War II issued on 18 June in the media.

In his recent article, the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin wanted to show the world “The Real Lessons of the 75th Anniversary of World War II”. This text is full of mistakes, omissions, half-truths and outright lies which have been refuted by specialists in the field. In fact, Mr Putin did give the world a lesson – a lesson by example on current Russian regime propaganda and attempts to re-write history.

Even though most of the article is about the past – described in a very Stalinist way – the most important part refers to the current situation. Putting the responsibility for the outbreak of the war on almost everyone except the Stalinist Soviet Union can be interpreted as an attempt to fracture European unity, especially in the context of President Putin’s harsh criticism of the European Parliament resolution of 19 September 2019. Even more dangerous is the call to create a new world order, based on an alliance of the five nuclear-weapon states, permanent members of the Security Council. This article is a clear example of misusing the past for current political purposes.

Democratic countries of Europe are ready to discuss all aspects of the past. Historians have criticized mistakes of Western and Central European diplomacy in the 1930s many times. However, mistakes made by democratic countries cannot be used to justify aggressive actions taken by the two totalitarian regimes – Nazi Germany and the Communist Soviet Union – or even lessen their responsibility for causing the war.

Today’s Russian Federation, led by President Vladimir Putin, could not only participate in the debate but also make a significant contribution to it – by opening the World War II archives, especially those connected with Soviet-German cooperation in 1939-1941, Soviet aggressions and annexations during the war and mass crimes committed by the NKVD, Red Army and other units.

The Platform of European Memory and Conscience calls on the European Union and all European governments to:

  • fully implement the European Parliament resolution of 19 September 2019 on the importance of European remembrance for the future of Europe,
  • grant full and unhindered access to all archives related to the history of World War II and totalitarian systems,
  • secure free and fair debate on the history of World War II and other painful aspects of Europe’s past,
  • build the pan-European documentation centre/memorial for the victims of all totalitarian regimes as called for in the European Parliament resolution of 2 April 2009 on European conscience and totalitarianism.
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Mont Pelerin Society Meeting in Stanford, January 2020

From left: Arnason, Runolfsson and Gissurarson.

Three Icelanders, Professors Ragnar Arnason, Birgir Th. Runolfsson and Hannes H. Gissurarson, all members of the RNH Academic Council, attended a regional meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society at Stanford 15–17 January 2020, organised by MPS President Professor John Taylor and the staff of the Hoover Institution at Stanford.

Guedes addresses the Stanford meeting.

Still going strong at 99 years, George Shultz, Economics Professor at Chicago and Secretary of State in the Reagan administration, gave his view on contemporary issues in a talk with Professor Taylor at the opening dinner on 15 January. Paulo Guedes, Milton Friedman’s student at Chicago and presently Brazil’s Finance Minister, described his ambitious economic reform programme over dinner on 16 January. Entrepreneur Peter Thiel discussed politics and economics with Peter Robinson at the closing dinner on 17 January.

Alejandro Chafuen of the Acton Institute and Gissurarson both attended their first MPS meeting at Stanford in 1980.

Other speakers included Bruce Caldwell who described the 1947 founding of the Mont Pelerin Society, at Friedrich Hayek’s initiative; David Henderson who recalled the general meeting of MPS at Stanford forty years ago, in 1980; Robert Skidelsky, Lord Skidelsky, who presented his interpretation of the great economic controversies of the day; Niall Ferguson who lamented the deteriation in the rule of law; John Cogan who proposed solutions to the American debt problem; Samuel Gregg who argued for a deeper understanding of the moral foundations of capitalism; Bridgett Wagner who explained the aims and strategies of Heritage Foundation; and The Lord Borwick, 5th Baron, who defended Brexit. Over lunch on 17 January, Axel Kaiser and Ernesto Silva spoke about the serious situation in Chile, where after the very successful economic reforms of the 1970s and 1980s, hard-core leftists are trying in well-organised riots to force a change of course, despite the glaring example of Venezuela.

The regional meeting at Stanford was superbly organised by Professor Taylor, and the papers and the ensuing discussions were almost all of high quality. Although the MPS is not a secret society, exchanges of views at its meetings remain confidential so that speakers can explore ideas and arguments regardless of political sensitivities. Hannes H. Gissurarson (who completed his D. Phil. in Politics on Hayek at Oxford in 1985) was one of the few people at the 2020 meeting who had also been at the Stanford meeting of 1980, forty years earlier. He became member in 1984, sat on the MPS Board in 1998–2004 and organised a regional meeting in Iceland in August 2005. Past MPS Presidents include Nobel Prize winners Friedrich A. Hayek, Milton Friedman, George Stigler, James M. Buchanan and Gary Becker.

Thiel interviewed by Peter Robinson.

 

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Gissurarson Interview in New Zealand

In June 2017, RNH Academic Director Professor Hannes H. Gissurarson published an article in The Conservative, published by ECR (European Conservatives and Reformists) in Brussels, ‘Why Small Countries are Richer and Happier’. The article has been widely discussed, even by leftwing intellectuals like Nick Slater in New Zealand. On 15 December 2019, Professor Gissurarson was in a long Sunday morning interview at Radio New Zealand about his argument where he discussed the case for small states: they usually are cohesive and transparent, less aggressive, and maintain open economies which enables them to benefit from international division of labour through free trade. In some of them, like the Nordic countries and New Zealand, the Rule of Law is also a strong tradition. The chief weakness of small states is their powerlessness against larger and more aggressive neighbours (as the Baltic states discovered after the 1939 Non-Aggression Pact between Hitler and Stalin and Tibet after the Second World War), and this weakness can be tackled partly by alliances with other larger and friendlier neighbours (such as with the United States in the cases of Iceland and New Zealand) and by alliances between small states themselves: United we stand, divided we fall. Gissurarson also pointed out that Iceland and New Zealand had much in common in many ways. The Anglo-Saxon and Nordic political traditions were closely related.

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Gissurarson: Free Trade with Brazil

RNH Academic Director, Professor Hannes H. Gissurarson, published an article online, both in 1818 and in Initiative for Free Trade, in December 2019 where he argued that there were ample opportunities for free trade between the United Kingdom once she left the European Union, and Brazil. Gissurarson first briefly explained why the UK had chosen to leave the EU. It was when the EU embarked upon political integration in addition to economic integration—when it began to transform itself from an open market to a closed state. The natural place of the UK should be with the three richest countries of Europe, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland.

Gissurarson who resides in Rio de Janeiro half the year pointed out that Brazil, with her large economy, should also be regarded with interest by the UK. However, despite some economic reforms implemented during the Presidency of Fernando-Henrique Cardoso, from 1995 to 2002, the Brazilian economy still remains overprotected and overregulated. It scores low on a competitiveness index, and maintains towering trade barriers. Nevertheless, the present government, under President Jair Bolsonaro and Finance Minister Paulo Guedes, wants to liberalise the economy and facilitate free trade.

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Critique of Rawls and Piketty

Piketty.

The French scholarly journal Journal des Économistes et des Études Humaines, published by De Gruyter, has put out an online version of a paper by RNH Academic Director, Professor Hannes H. Gissurarson, on ‘Redistributionism in Theory and Practice’ where he criticises the two main icons of the intellectual left, John Rawls and Thomas Piketty. The paper’s abstract reads like this:

Rawls’ theory is about prudence rather than justice. It is about the kind of political structure on which rational people would agree if they were preparing for the worst. Other strategies, such as confining redistribution to upholding a safety net, might also be plausible. Rawls’ theory is Georgism in persons: the income from individual abilities is regarded as if it is at the disposal of the collective and could be taxed as rent. This goes against the strong moral intuition of self-ownership. However, Rawls’ question, where the worst off are as well off as they can be, is interesting. According to the Index of Economic Freedom, it actually may be under relatively unfettered capitalism. Unlike Rawls, Piketty is chiefly worried about the rich, seeking to impose confiscatory taxes on them. But the rich are not a fixed, unchangeable group of people who can effortlessly watch their capital accumulate. Capital is precarious, as is vividly illustrated in Balzac’s novel Père Goriot which Piketty quotes. Different as the approaches of Rawls and Piketty are, both of them agree that their ideal society has to be closed: It must become ‘socialism in one country.’

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Gissurarson: Conflict Between Groups, Not Man and Nature

A distinction has to be made between wise-use environmentalism and ecofundamentalism, Professor Hannes H. Gissurarson, RNH Academic Director, argued in a paper on green capitalism at the conference Weekend Capitalism in Warsaw 23–24 November 2019. Wise-use environmentalists want to utilise natural resources efficiently and therefore seek to reduce environmental damage such as pollution and overfishing. One of the most effective ways to do so, according to them, is to define private property rights (or exclusive use rights) to natural resources, thus appointing stewards, custodians or guardians. Protection requires protectors. Ecofundamentalists on the other hand believe that man and nature are in conflict and that the environment has independent rights against man.

Gissurarson pointed out that environmental conflicts are usually not between man and nature, but rather between different groups. One example was the whale in Icelandic waters. One group wanted to harvest it and eat it. Another group wanted to preserve it, even if whale stocks in the Icelandic waters are quite robust. For them, whales seem to be like sacred cows under Hinduism. Whales, however, eat more than six million tonnes of seafood in the Icelandic waters, including small fishes. The Icelanders, in contrast, only harvest a little more than a million tonne of fish. The demand by whale preservationists is therefore in fact that the Icelanders feed the whale for them withouth themselves being able to utilise it. They are like the insolent farmer who drives his cattle to his neighbour’s meadows, expecting him to feed them.

Another example analysed by Gissurarson was the rainforest in the Amazon. Ecofundamentalists wants to preserve it intact. The arguments for this are not strong, however, Gissurarson said. It is not correct that the rainforest produces a lot of oxygen, and biological diversity could be maintained in a much smaller area than the rainforest occupies at present. But let us assume that the arguments hold and that the Amazon forest is critical to man’s existence on earth. Then of course the rest of the world’s population should pay the Brazilians for maintaining the forest.

Gissurarson Slides in Warsaw 24 November 2019

Weekend Capitalism was organised by Tomek Kołodziejczuk for The Centre of Capitalism and for the Mises Institute Poland. It took place at the Warsaw Stock Market, and was sold out. The Freedom Lounge, a libertarian bar close to the Stock Market, in the former headquarters of the Polish Communist Party, was open in the evenings, offering cocktails with the names of libertarian and conservative activists. Gissurarson used the opportunity in Warsaw to see two old friends, Dr. Pawel Ukielski, Deputy Director of the Museum of the 1944 Rising, and Professor Leszek Balcerowicz, former Finance Minister and Governor of Poland’s Central Bank and the main author of the plan by which Poland escaped from the quagmire of socialism. Gissurarson’s participation in the conference formed a part of the joint project by RNH and ACRE, the Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe, about ‘Bluegreen Capitalism’.

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