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There are so many myths and legends surrounding the collapse of communist totalitarianism, the nonviolent revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe and the development since then. What has really changed? And why? Are the people of the region really richer and freer today? And if so, how much?

The Cato Institute held a very informative half-day conference on these subjects featuring many reformers and experts. You can watch three videos of the panel discussions on their website, and if you are interested in the region, you should miss none of them! The keynote adress was given by Vaclav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic.

Freedom and Prosperity in Central and Eastern Europe
20 Years after the Collapse of Communism

“This year marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. A major advance in humanity’s struggle for freedom, the collapse of communism has generally led to an increase in human well-being, with several ex-communist countries becoming free and prosperous. Yet the spread of liberty has been uneven. Many ex-communist countries lag behind and some have even reverted to political repression and economic dirigism.”

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When governments are too small, they aren’t able to secure our basic rights. When they are too big, they become a drag to the economy. But what is the growth-optimising size of government? We are not sure. And the answer of course depends on what exactly government is doing. But most scientific studies have shown it is somewhere between 12% and 30% of GDP. Now another study by the bulgarian Institute for Market Economics comes to the conclusion that it is very likely to be under 25 %. This means that all OECD-governments are far too big. Even the richest societies could be much richer, had they stopped or at least slowed the growth of government in the last decades.

Here you can read the study. And here you can watch a short video about it.

But not the way most environmentalists want us to! Björn Lomborg, founder of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, an organisation which asks scientists to rank the world’s major problems and the possible solutions to them, has now asked dozens of experts and economists – among them three nobel laureates – to find a scientific answer to the question: “How can we best reduce suffering from global warming?” I will only say this much about the final results of their research: They are very likely to surprise you!

Watch Bjorn Lomborg explain the latest findings at Reason.TV

Watch Swedish writer Johan Norberg talk about his very accesible new book, Financial Fiasco: How America’s Infatuation with Homeownership and Easy Money Created the Economic Crisis, at the Cato Institute:

Cato Institute Book Forum – Financial Fiasco

ANNA J. SCHWARTZ, COAUTHOR, A MONETARY HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES:

“You don’t have to be an economist to gain a clear understanding of the diverse forces that produced the financial fiasco that Johan Norberg describes: lax monetary policy by the Federal Reserve System, overpromotion of homeownership by the government and government agencies, and transformation of the mortgage loan industry into an issuer of securities backed by a pool of mortgages of varying quality.”