The Lithuanian Free Market Institute has become a winner of the Sir John Templeton Foundation’s International Freedom Project, directed by the Atlas Economic Research Foundation. The International Freedom Project aims to assist university professors from around the world in the development of semester-long interdisciplinary university courses that explore issues and concepts pertaining to the notion of freedom. A panel of international judges evaluated proposals. Fourteen courses became winners of the judges’ rankings, among them a course “Individual, Society, Freedom, Market,” submitted by the Lithuanian Free Market Institute.
The course begins with examining the role of ideas in society, with the central debate being that it is ideas that make history, and not history that makes ideas. Analysis of the idea of freedom and a glance at the great ideological battles of the past and present will follow. We will concentrate on the liberal concept of freedom, emphasizing its Western origin and premises. We will seek to come to terms with the rival versions of liberty. Two antagonistic concepts – liberal (W. von Humboldt) and totalitarian (J.G. Fichte) – will be explored. The study will also embrace modern concepts of negative and positive liberty.
The course will go on to answer the question why one cannot understand liberalism without the knowledge of economics. We will examine two distinct senses of value: judgments of value as an end and judgments of value as a means. The next part will be devoted to the origin of economics as a science of economic action. The core question will be: “Why and when does man act?” We will proceed with a brief inquire into the history and main ideas of classical economics: from Hume, Smith, Ricardo down to Mill.
The birth of neo-classical economics, or classical economics grounded in the theory of marginal utility, will come next. We will explore similarities and differences between three main schools of neo-classical economics: the Austrian School, the Anglo-American School, and the School of Lausanne. The main objective will be to elaborate on the Austrian School as a theory of economic action and not economic equilibrium and non-action. We will draw on Ludvig von Mises as the seminal thinker in the history of the Austrian School of Economics. Special attention will be given to the transition from the classical theory of value to the subjective theory of value.
As the next step we will examine the unique place of man in the universe. Our central point will be that man is not only homo sapiens but no less homo agens. We will dwell on the question why living within society and relying on social co-operation provides incomparably greater advantages than living outside it (solitarianism vs societarianism). Analysis of social division of labour and social co-operation will follow.
The course will go on to examine the unhampered market economy, socialism, and interventionism. The next part will be dedicated to the issue of society and law, or the observance of general rules as a vital precondition of a smooth operation of society. The topics will also include law and morals, law as “minimum ethics,” religion and moral, religion and theocracy. The final part of the course will be devoted to the study of the state. The main question will be: “Is the state our enemy or our best friend?” Critique of naļve anarchism will be presented, seeking to explain why society cannot do without law enforcement agencies. Discussions will focus on identifying the proper scope of government and on explaining why more government means more compulsion and less liberty. The ideas of Mises, Rothbard and Hayek will provide the basis for this inquiry.
The course will be taught at the Law Faculty of Vilnius University from February until June 2001.