Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A young Milton Friedman prize winner

For some reason the Register didn't post the editorial we did congratulating the Cato Institute for giving the Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty (which comes with $500,000!) to 23-year-old Yon Goicoechea, the Venezuelan law student who was a key leader in defeating Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's bid to change the constitution so he could have even more arbitrary power and the potential to be dictator for life. That victory in the referendum in December was a surprise to almost all observers, and it's gratifying that it came mostly as the result of activism by young people.

The subject did come up, however, at Freedom Communications' Freedom School in San Antonio today, where I am sojourning. Cato President Ed Crane gave the luncheon speech, and it was preceded by a Cato video about Yon Goicoechea. Ed gave a brief overview of American history, noting that the country was originally about freedom and individual rights, but underwent what amounts to a revolution during the New Deal, after which government grew continually grew and freedom and individual rights retreated. He managed a smidgen of optimism, noting that people are onto the teachers' unions and ready for more choice. He thinks Bush blew it big-time on Social Security by talking about numbers rather than ownership, but reminded us that the numbers dictate that something will have to be done before the system goes into default. He also stressed that the freedom movement, as Nobel economist James Buchanan noted, can't hope to be successful if it's about economic efficiency more than the ideals of human liberty.

He would be the first to acknowledge that it isn't all his doing, but Ed has really done the remarkable with Cato. It has an annual budget of $25 million and gets 40,000 hits a day on its Web site. In talking with Ed the other night, I learned that it now has blogs in several foreign languages, much of it written by people in other countries. This is largely the work of Tom Palmer, who is also here this week.

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