Mark Skousen, editor of Forecasts & Strategies, an Eagle Publishing sister publication of HUMAN EVENTS, recently was invited to speak in Mongolia. Here is his report on his journey to that Communist country. “Aren’t you being a little too ambitious?” I asked my host when he told me he had rented the “UB Palace” in Mongolia, a hall that holds 3,600 people and normally reserved for rock concerts, for my student lecture on the story of free-market economics. I thought for sure it would be an expensive mistake . . . there’s no way in the world you could get over 3,000 students to hear a lecture on economics . . . . Several months ago I had received an invitation from libertarian businessman P. Tsenguun to travel half way around the world to Mongolia to speak about my book, The Making of Modern Economics, which my hosts had recently translated into Mongolian. I had no idea what to expect when I arrived at Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia. For the next two days, I was treated as a celebrity or head of state. My picture and book were plastered on buildings and telephone poles all over the city advertising my appearance. I met with the U. S. ambassador, the president of the Central Bank, a former Prime Minister, and many other dignitaries, and was interviewed extensively on nationwide TV. As we approached the UB Palace, I couldn’t believe my eyes . . . hundreds of students lined up to get into the largest concert hall in Mongolia. . . by the time I began my speech, over 3,000 students have filled the hall almost to capacity. . . and they listened intently for two hours as I told the story of Adam Smith, Karl Marx, John Maynard Keynes, Ludwig von Mises, and Milton Friedman . . . . My lecture was followed by an intense question and answer period. No one left. Everyone wanted to know more about the free market and how to achieve economic prosperity . . . . Hundreds of students had bought my book, now in its second printing in Mongolia. After the formal lecture, I was inundated with students demanding my autograph and photograph. I had bodyguards who whisked me off to a book signing, more picture taking, and then a TV interview. . . . It was madness. My son, Tim, who accompanied me (along with his bride Autumn), said, “Dad, you’re a rock star.” I met the president of the Central Bank, who was a member of the Communist Party. He spoke of free-market reforms and privatization. I asked him, “How can you talk of free markets and democratic capitalism when you are a member of the Communist Party?” He responded, “I am a capitalist first and a Communist second.” Mongolia is a poor agriculturally based country trying desperately to compete and advance in the new world of globalization. Landlocked and sandwiched between two belligerent powerhouses, the Soviet Union and China, it has sought an independent way since gaining its freedom in 1991. The Heritage Foundation’s 2003 Index of Economic Freedom gives it a 3.0 and a “mostly unfree” (yellow) rating, a designation Mongolians angrily dispute. They say the Heritage data is out of date, and Mongolia has privatized many state-owned enterprises and opened its borders to foreign investment. In my address the next day before 200 economists, government officials, journalists, and business people (who paid $75 each to attend), I told them Mongolia needs to do more: aggressively cut corporate income taxes (currently at 40%), privatize more state-owned enterprises, adopt an anti-inflation currency board, and discourage corruption (a serious problem after 60 years of Communist rule).
Check out HUMAN EVENTS newest sister publication, the Skousen Hedge Fund Trader, edited by Mark Skousen, here.
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