Tuesday, August 19, 2014

EFN Asia 40: Liberalism, Growth and Reducing Inequality

The Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia will hold its annual conference this coming November 6-7, 2014 in Hong Kong. The theme is very timely,  'Liberalism: promoting growth, reducing inequality'.

EFN annual conferences are sponsored by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF), in partnership with a local think tank/s of the host city in Asia. So for this conference, the Lion Rock Institute (LRI), Hong Kong's first free market think tank, will be the co-sponsor. 

Among the prominent speakers will be HK Finance Secretary John Tsang, a high official from the FNF headquarter in Germany, the FNF Regional Director for East and Southeast Asia (incoming) Siggi Herzog, who replaced Rainer Adam who has been promoted to head the FNF Regional office for east and central Europe. Rainer has splendidly solidified a mass base among political parties and independent think tanks and individual scholars in Asia in advancing the philosophy of liberalism and individual liberty, free market and rule of law, tolerance and human rights.

Other prominent speakers will be Fred McMahon of the Fraser Institute in Canada, who will discuss the results of the Economic Freedom of the World (EFW) Report 2014. Also Tom Palmer of the Atlas Economic Research Foundation in the US, Barun Mitra of Liberty Institute in India, Wan Saiful Wan Jan of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS), the first and only free market think in Malaysia. I think  IDEAS is also the biggest and  most dynamic free market think tank in  the ASEAN.

It will be a largely think tanks' event on November 6th to morning of 7th. In the afternoon, there will be a joint session with the Council for Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD), the network of political parties and politicians advocating liberal and democratic ideas, also sponsored by the FNF.

Friends and readers, I urge you to attend this forum on  November. It  is  open to  the public, even if they are not members of the network, just pay for your own hotel and plane fare. Registration fee is normally waived.

About inequality, may I share here four useful materials.

One is from a PBS article, July 17, 2014, written by Dr. John Nye of George Mason University in the US. John wrote,

"I make two claims: that in a very fundamental sense, real inequality has almost certainly declined over the last few decades, despite the problems brought on by the financial crisis, but that improvements due to stronger growth, productivity, and higher incomes will only alleviate some of our concerns while exacerbating the perceptions of inequality — perceptions that I predict will surely grow in the coming decades."

John further argued that technological advancement has benefited the poor and hence, reduced social and economic inequality because the price gap of personal computers, cell phones and  TVs has declined, allowing the poor to have more access to more  information.  

Two, from the New Republic last July 23, 2014. Larry Summers. a former US Treasury Secretary, wrote,

"Fiscal stimulus is one important aspect but there are others such as export promotion and removal of barriers to private investment that are important to achieving increased output and employment." 

Yes, remove or abolish barriers to investments and we will have more investments, more job creation. When more people have jobs, inequality is reduced, or at least the condition of the poor improves, as they work their way up.

Three, from a NYT article last July 10, 2014. Tyler Cowen wrote, 
"...globally minded egalitarians should be more optimistic about recent history, realizing that capitalism and economic growth are continuing their historical roles as the greatest and most effective equalizers the world has ever known."

This chart is from The Vox, Global income distribution: From the fall of the BerlinWall to the Great Recession, May 27, 2014. Authors Christoph Lakner and Branko Milanovic described this as

"Indeed we are comparing relatively poor people in the US with relatively rich people in China, but given the income differences between the two countries, and that the two groups may be thought to be in some kind of global competition, the comparison makes sense."

Ultimately, governments must liberate the poor -- liberate them from too many burdensome business bureaucracies and taxes, and liberate them from entitlement and welfare dependency from the state and politicians. The poor can stand up on their own, they are rational. If there are incentives to  more entrepreneurship, they will become micro or small entrepreneurs, but if there are incentives to dependency, then  they will become complacent and welfare-dependent.

On another note, there will be an Economic Freedom of the World (EFW) Network, Annual Conference this coming October 5-7, 2014 in Brussels, Belgium. The theme of the conference will be "Does the EU enhance Economic Freedom in Europe?" and it is jointly hosted and co-sponsored by Dialogue Programme Brussels, FNF, and The Fraser Institute.

See also: 

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