Gissurarson: Liberty Made Inspiring Again

From left: Kolm, Gissurarson, and Zaric. Photo: Yannik Simkovicz.

Liberty has to be made inspiring again, seen as an intellectual adventure, recognised as a precondition for innovation and entrepreneurship, RNH Academic Director, Professor Hannes H. Gissurarson, said at a seminar on 13 May 2022 organised by the Faculty of Economics and Business at the University of Belgrad and the Austrian Economics Center in Vienna. He gave a brief account of the intellectual tradition he identified in his recent book in two volumes, Twenty-Four Conservative-Liberal Thinkers. The tradition of classical liberalism was articulated by John Locke, David Hume, and Adam Smith, but it became conservative liberalism in response to the 1789 French Revolution. The reason, Gissurarson submitted, why the French and the Russian Revolutions failed was that they sought the impossible, the total reconstruction of society according to abstract principles dreamt up by intellectuals, as Edmund Burke, Benjamin Constant, and Alexis de Tocqueville analysed. The English and the American Revolutions succeeded, on the other hand, because they were about preserving and extending existing liberties.


The most distinguished representative of the conservative-liberal political tradition in the twentieth century was, Gissurarson argued, Anglo-Austrian economist and philosopher Friedrich A. von Hayek. He and another renowned economist, Milton Friedman, provided many of the ideas and arguments behind what has sometimes been called ‘neoliberalism’: the reconstruction of Germany after the Second World War; the comprehensive economic reforms in countries as diverse as Great Britain under the Conservatives, Chile ruled by a military junta, and New Zealand at the initiative of social democrats; and the return to normalcy in Central and Eastern Europe, guided by Mart Laar in Estonia, Leszek Balcerowicz in Poland, Vaclav Klaus in the Czech Republic and others. Other speakers at the seminar were Dr. Barbara Kolm of the Austrian Economics Center in Vienna and Professor Christopher Lingle of Francisco Marroquín University in Guatemala. Professor Sinisa Zaric chaired the seminar.

Gissurarson slides in Belgrad 13 May 2022

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