The Tallinn European Young Leaders’ seminar got off to a rip-roaring start with a opening session on the global economy under the title “Navigating a New World Order: Re-thinking Neoliberalism.” The debate was kicked off by two special guest speakers with markedly different views.
Steve H. Hanke, Co-Director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, & the Study of Business Enterprise, and former White House senior advisor, put forward a defence of the market, pointing to host-country Estonia as a fine example of how a free-enterprise approach can improve lives:
“If you increase economic freedom, you increase GDP per capita and you increase health. Economic freedom is really good for your health, that’s the bottom line,” he told the group.
Taking a radically different line, was Jason Hickel, Anthropologist at the London School of Economics.
He called for a radical overhaul of the world economic order to fight poverty, reduce inequality and protect the environment. Society has to turn away from an obsession with economic growth, he argued.
“Income equality continues to get worse, this is the legacy of neoliberal globalisation, this is really the reason why our world is shot through with pain,” Hickel said. “It’s going to require major structural reform to make the work fairer for the majority.”
Not surprisingly, the speakers triggered a lively response from EYL participants who - for the first time - included Young Leaders from North America and the Middle East and North Africa regions, as well as from Europe.
“The market economy is a model that has been fairly successful, but we need equality in that model,” said Ozan Yanar, Member of the National Parliament of Finland. “We need a market economy which is more equal and is green.”
Kirsten Brosbøl, Danish Member of Parliament & former Minister for the Environment, also emphasised the importance of striking a balance between economic, social and environmental concerns.
“Countries are starting to look at ways we can develop GDP that also take into account the pressure we are putting on our natural resources, so it’s still an economic concept, but it’s trying to evaluate the cost to the environment,” she said.
After the opening session, the participants split into two groups, taking turns to learn more about Estonia’s digital success story with a visit to the e-Estonia showroom, and to have a brainstorming discussion on what qualities go into making a good leader.
Trust, passion and vision were among the traits highlighted as being essential to good leadership, but participants also stressed the importance of the moral dimension.
“You can be effective, you can accomplish your goals, you can do all these things and have all these traits, but at the end of the day, make sure there’s a morality issue governing your actions,” said Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Minshew.
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