The Atlanticist

Last Wednesday I attended the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s 24th annual dinner in Washington at which Czech President Vaclav Klaus was given the Julian Simon award and delivered the keynote address “Is Schumpeter’s Vision of the End of Capitalism Relevant?” Klaus received rousing a standing ovation when CEI’s Fred Smith introduced him and again at the conclusion of his speech. Like Julian Simon, Klaus is an economist and courageous thinker willing to stand against fashion and the herd. In 1980 Simon famously bet author of The Population Bomb and enthusiastic Malthusian pessimist Paul Ehrlich that a basket of commodities selected by Ehrlich: tin, nickel, tungsten, chromium and copper, would be cheaper a decade hence. All were.

Simon believed in the immense ingenuity of man, technology and free-market dynamism to harness nature. Ehrlich had a dour, static and fundamentally fatalistic view of mankind and our world.

In Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy Schumpeter contended capitalism sowed the seeds of its own demise in creating a class of elites and intellectuals hostile to capitalism and freedom. Whereas in the past enemies of free markets and private property railed against “the immiseration of the masses” now they decry “the immiseration of the Planet.”

Klaus grew up under the Bolshevik heel of oppression and knew firsthand the greatest menace to liberty in the last century.

Today Klaus stands almost alone among European, indeed among world political leaders in warning that radical environmentalism and global-warming alarmism are the transcendent threat to freedom and prosperity at the top of the 21st century.

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