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Viva Francisco Marroquin University!

By J. Bradley Jansen
web posted September 24, 2001

U. S. State Department officials should not be undermining American interests and values such as the Rule of Law, individual rights, free markets and respect for civil liberties. Even more importantly, the U.S. embassies should not be undermining these American interests and values.

Prudence Bushnell

Unfortunately, the Wall Street Journal has reported that U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala Prudence Bushnell has been personally circulating a memo to officials at other embassies smearing the good name of Francisco Marroquin University and one of its founders, Manuel Ayau.

I had the privilege of meeting Manuel Ayau at a Liberty Fund colloquium on deflation some years back and found him to be intelligent, knowledgeable and respectful, as well as a kind and generous man. A few years later, I met several students from Francisco Marroquin University in Guatemala at a weeklong economics seminar. I was very impressed with their economic and historical understanding and genuine intellectual curiosity.

I am embarrassed that our own ambassador in Guatemala has less understanding of economics and apparently does not do her homework. Her idea of the Rule of Law is to demand that the Guatemalan legislature pass labor laws designed to increase labor costs there so workers would not be as competitive with U.S. workers--in an effort to placate American labor unions.

The memo circulated by Ms. Bushnell shows a clear disdain for individual rights. Francisco Marroquin University teaches the same principles of the founding fathers of the United States including a healthy distrust of politicians and vested interests. The philosophy is the same as that found in our Declaration of Independence, the original Constitution, the Federalist Papers and the political philosophers of the Enlightenment who believed in equality before the law and opposed protectionism.

The Bushnell memo demonstrates at best a shallow understanding of free market economics and competing schools of economic thought. While Milton Friedman was a member of the Mont Pelerin Society founded by F. A. Hayek, which Manuel Ayau headed for a time, the perfect competition model of the monetarist approach is incompatible with the market process analysis of the Austrian school. Milton Friedman once said, "I am an enormous admirer of Hayek, but not for his economics." When Ms. Bushnell lectures other diplomats that Friedman is a disciple of Hayek, all she communicates is her own ignorance.

The infamous memo asserts that the emphasis of the Austrian approach at Francisco Marroquin University and its emphasis on individual freedom and responsibility "have prevented positive civil action." Is it better to defend the mercantilist approach of government dictates to protect vested interests? The memo intimates that civil society and social trust come through government planning.

Of course, rational people pursue their own self-interest, and only each individual can know what their particular self-interest is. Hayek argued against central planning by technocrats and emphasized the "spontaneous order" and prosperity generated by individuals using their own specialized knowledge and pursing their own self-interest.

Along with Ayau, Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and many others have confessed that Hayek strongly influenced their views. A quarter century ago, Hayek remarked, "Both the influence of socialist ideas and the naïve trust in the good intentions of the holders of totalitarian power have markedly increased."

This controversy with our ambassador comes just as Jesse Helms is retiring from the Senate. He has always argued for freedom over tyranny. Hopefully our government will heed that advice.

As Jesse Helms once remarked: "Compromise, hell! That's what happened to us all down the line--and that's the very cause of our woes. If freedom is right and tyranny is wrong, why should those who believe in freedom treat it as if it were a roll of bologna to be bartered a slice at a time?"

J. Bradley Jansen is deputy director of the Center for Technology Policy at the Free Congress Foundation.

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