I cannot fully express the gratitude that I have for TFT Events, ISIL, and the Koch Foundation who generously provided scholarships that made it possible for myself and several other Grassroot Institute Interns to attend the 2nd Shanghai Austrian Economic Summit. As a student who recently graduated from Hawaii Pacific University, I have a large amount of energy and enthusiasm to put towards changing the world for the better. However, flying all the way to Shanghai for an economic summit was just a dream–a dream that became reality when the Koch Foundation awarded a grant to TFT Events and ISIL that allowed me to have what can only be described as the experience of a lifetime.Such opportunities have contributed a unique perspective, which has shaped the lens with which I see the world and equipped me with the tools needed to achieve positive change.
Because my degree is in environmental studies (with a focus on correcting environmental injustices), I was certainly in the minority at the Summit. However, while my priorities might have differed from others at the Shanghai Austrian Economic Summit, I found that we shared many of the same values. As an environmentalist, I have constantly been surrounded by well-intentioned activists who are typically critical of decentralized private entities and limited government.Within that circle, I have been a lone ranger in advocating for limited government, more free markets, and individual liberty. It was surreal and refreshing to join over a hundred like-minded thinkers from Africa, India, Italy, Nepal, Thailand, Guatemala, the United States, and even North Korea–all of whom were there to share knowledge on how free markets, individual liberty, and limited government can solve global problems.
Scholars at the summit shared a bounty of experience and knowledge that both shocked me and solidified my confidence in Austrian economic principles. TFT did an excellent job in selecting speakers that covered a wide range of topics. The three days were packed with presenters who were extremely knowledgeable, well-versed, and inspirational. Topics covered included discussion of some of China’s most pressing issues, as well as issues relevant to growth and prosperity in other parts of the world. The summit hosted over twenty-five speakers who gave presentations on a wide range of topics, including capitalism, growth, property rights, eminent domain, regulation, currency, and entrepreneurship.
The most memorable speaker of the Summit had to be Yeonmi Park, a North Korean refugee who told the story of her escape from the repressive regime of Kim Jung Un, and who continues to work for the liberation of her people despite threats from the North Korean government. Other notable speakers included Dr.Christopher Lingle and Simon Lee. Lingle effectively exposed inefficiencies of regulatory entities and revealed that the cost of US regulation is approximately 12% of the GDP. Simon Lee shared his personal insights on Hong Kong and discussed the interesting irony of why, despite being China’s most free economy, the government in Hong Kong is still extremely interventive. The atmosphere of shared ideas and the deep sense of intellectual inquiry were inspiring. I might have been overwhelmed, but was comforted to see that even Dr. Kriengsak Chareonwongsak (former advisor to the Prime Minister of Thailand and Senior Fellow at Harvard University) was taking notes.
The most incredible and humbling aspect of the summit was the opportunity to actually engage with the presenters as they shared their findings. As I spoke with the different attendees and scholars present there, the sincerity of their efforts was clear. It was obvious that they were doing what they do out of the belief that their work will help to free individuals and make society prosper. I encourage anyone with the resources to do so to attend next year’s summit in Bali. It is not only an opportunity to learn a lot but to make great global connections with other free market thinkers who are eager to help anyone that is working to advance Austrian economic values.
As I work to create waves in my own circle, I will remember that the struggle for individual liberty, accountable government, and free markets is a collective effort worldwide. Support from my new summit connections made will help motivate me to persevere not only in righting environmental injustices, but to do so in a manner that aligns with values that promote a more holistic definition of prosperity. If any readers are in a similar situation to mine, where you are constantly surrounded by opposing views, yet recognize the true benefits of free market principles, I want to emphasize the greatest point that I have taken from this summit: there are fellow freedom fighters all over the world who support and have benefited from these principles, and you are not alone in your efforts.
Emily MacNintch is a research intern for the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.