KEN SCHOOLLAND is presently an associate professor of economics and political science at Hawaii Pacific University. He is an economist, academic, author, and political commentator.
He also recently served as the senior economics adviser to Hawaii Congressional Candidate Daniel Brackins. Terence Lee
of THT Perspectives spoke with him about his breakthrough economic ideas. Excerpts:
How has your experience in Nepal been?
I have been kept very busy by Samriddhi The prosperity Foundation. Samriddhi published my book ‘The Adventures of Jonathan Gullible’, in Nepali and it is now published by 71 publications in 47 languages. The book sold some 15,000 copies in Nepal, which is more than I have sold in many countries. There is even the possibility of commentary editions for teaching purposes in universities. It is a project to promote free market ideas in countries around the world in a friendly and humorous way. For this, Samriddhi has also arranged for meetings and
discussions with youths. I wish we could do something like this in every country and would like to start something like this in Hawaii. It would not just be a think tank but something very broad, involving publications and outreach and public campaigns and projects.
What do you think of the role of think tanks?
Without think tanks, there would be no hope. Their research brings evidence to the public, along with better alternatives and free market solutions. It takes courage to present the hard-earned inform-ation to the public. Organisations like Samriddhi are working
with the media to spread this information. One day, I would like to have my book in an animated movie because that’s how we
reach a broader audience. We need to tell profound stories that can make the general public start to think. They don’t need to rush to give up their liberties.
What message would you like to convey to readers and people in Nepal?
I’m not an expert on Nepal, but I do advocate some principles of market economics for the country that have worked around the world. These principles don’t only bring in a great deal of wealth and prosper-ity, but also have a humanitarian
effect. They reduce the powers of special interest groups and broaden the benefits of growth in the economy. My basic premise is that if each person owns his own life and that if I don’t have the right to use force against you, then I don’t have the right to ask someone else to do it for me. Very often, that’s what happens because governments are asked to do just that and politicians are happy to do so. The government should ideally have a limited role — simply to protect the rights of people. Otherwise, people given the power to protect the rights of citizens end up using that power against them.
How do free market policies help the poor?
Policies are presented as things meant to help the poor, but they affect the poor most. People with the lowest levels of income have the greatest to gain by a free and prospering society. One example is inflation and how governments just increase the supply of money and this hurts those who earn daily wages most. The other thing is electricity — when there is a single government monopoly, it’s not like they are ill intentioned but there is no competition and not enough incentive for performance. Wealth is not just the money or things we have. The ultimate measure of wealth is the number of choices we have. Today, we have things and choices that the richest kings 100 years ago never had. But every time the government takes the freedom of choice away from us they diminish our wealth.
Has this logic of free market economy grown more popular or reduced around the world?
I like to think the world is becoming a better place because I am an optimist. But in the last couple of years I have seen an extraordinary collapse of free market mentality. The recent fear of banking collapse has given governments huge powers to intervene in economies. Whenever there is a problem, politicians like to blow up the crisis so they can appear as the heroes to rescue us. But all their solutions end up in increasing their own power. Whenever there is a problem, I don’t ask what the
government can do. I ask — has the government done something that caused it? Usually it’s some source of government interference that created the problem in the first place. People of the world are very trusting and want to believe that governments can make things better. In my book I try to make people more sceptical about these politicians. While politicians everywhere have very low reputations, why do we hand over all such decisions to them? They are opportunists and that’s the same in every country.