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Leszek Balcerowicz: "Economic Freedom: Fundamentally Important and the Most Attacked"

"I dedicated this essay to the memory of a great liberal thinker and a statesman, Luigi Einaudi. I start with noting the conceptual confusion surrounding such basic terms as freedom, state, law, democracy. I stress against this background that conceptual clarity is of great analytical and political value. I then discuss the tendency, present both in the pub-lic and in academia, to treat the state as a deity, while criticizing its functionaries. The next section deals with individual freedoms and links its variation to various institutional systems. I then discuss political and civil liberties. This is the stepping stone to the analysis of economic freedom, and especially of the threats this freedom is exposed to, even in democratic capitalism. The next section is dedicated to a more thorough discussion of economic liberty as this concept is far from clear in most debates. This brings me to the Paradox of Economic Freedom to the fact that this liberty is especially important because of the consequences in its variation to the millions of ordinary people, and, at the same time, the most attacked under democratic capitalism. I then discuss the importance of economic freedom by pointing out how socially costly are the restrictions of this insti-tutional variable, i.e. consequences of various statist regimes. The next section deals with the attacks on economic freedom coming from the statist pressure groups. The essay ends with a note on how to defend economic freedom under democracy and capitalism."

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