Rannsóknarskýrsla mín fyrir 2023

Ritrýnd útgáfa međ alţjóđlega skírskotun

Kápa.FourIcelandicSagasThe Icelandic Sagas. Collection of Four Short Sagas. Almenna bókafélagiđ, Reykjavík 2023. Útdráttur á ensku úr The Saga of Burnt Njal (Brennu-Njáls saga), 48 bls., The Saga of Gudrid (Eiríks saga rauđa og Grćnlendinga saga), 42 bls., The Saga of Egil (Egils saga), 35 bls., og The Saga of Gudrun (Laxdćla), 34 bls. Ásamt stuttum inngangi ađ hverri sögu. Sögurnar fjórar eru settar saman í eina öskju.

Nordic Liberalism. An Anthology. Ritstjórn og inngangur. Brussels: New Direction [lokiđ 2023, vćntanlegt í ársbyrjun 2024].

European Conservative Liberalism: North and South. Brussels: ECR, European Conservatives and Reformists [lokiđ 2023, vćntanlegt í ársbyrjun 2024].

Ritrýnt útgáfa fyrir stađbundiđ frćđasamfélag

Rćtur frelsisins. Greinasafn. Reykjavík: Almenna bókafélagiđ [lokiđ 2023, vćntanlegt í ársbyrjun 2024].

Fróđleiksmolar úr sögu og samtíđ. Reykjavík: Almenna bókafélagiđ [lokiđ 2023, vćntanlegt í ársbyrjun 2024].

Erindi á alţjóđlegum ráđstefnum

European Culture from a Conservative-Liberal Point of View. Erindi á menningarhelgi ECR, European Conservatives and Reformists, í Split í Króatíu 31. mars–1. apríl 2023.

Reforming the European Union. Erindi á alţjóđlegri ráđstefnu European Resource Bank 14.–16. apríl 2023 í Porto í Portúgal.

Champions of Liberty: Hannes H. Gissurarson. Dagskrá helguđ mér í tilefni sjötugsafmćlis míns á 600 manna alţjóđlegri ráđstefnu, European Students for Liberty, í Lissabon 23. apríl 2023.

HHG.12.05.2023.2Lokaorđ á alţjóđlegri ráđstefnu Félagsvísindasviđs Háskóla Íslands mér til heiđurs 12. maí 2023.

Can liberals and conservatives still get along? Erindi á alţjóđlegri ráđstefnu New Direction og annarra rannsóknastofnana í Madrid 21.–22. september 2023.

Erindi á málstofum og fundum

The Conservative-Liberal Approach to Some Current Problems. Erindi á ráđstefnu ECR í Lundúnum 14. janúar 2023.

GeirHHarde.HHG.OgmundurLandsdómsmáliđ. Erindi á ráđstefnu Stofnunar stjórnsýslufrćđa og stjórnmála 16. janúar 2023.

Towards a better future. Erindi á málstofu, Free Market Road Show og University of Bristol Liberty Society, í Bristol-háskóla 17. apríl 2023.

The Role of Entrepreneurs and Venture Capitalists in the Free Market Order. Erindi á málstofu, Free Market Road Show, Cobden Centre og Ayn Rand Centre, London 18. apríl 2023.

Piketty and Redistribution: A Critique. Erindi á málstofu, Free Market Road Show og IREF (Institute of Research in Economic and Fiscla Issues), í Sorbonne-háskóla, París 19. apríl 2023.

Rawls and Redistribution: A Critique. Erindi á málstofu, Free Market Road Show og Neederlands Instituut voor Praxeologie, Amsterdam 20. apríl 2023.

Nordic Conservatism in a European Perspective. Erindi á ráđstefnu norrćnna íhaldsstúdenta í Helsinki 20. maí 2023.

Nordic Conservatism. Erindi á sumarskóla New Direction, Oikos og Konservativa förbundet í Sundbyholm-höll 16.–18. júní 2023.

Greinar í ritrýndum tímaritum

The 1941 Hoff-Frisch Correspondence. Ţýđing á ensku ásamt inngangi á bréfaskiptum dr. Trygve Hoff og prófessors Ragnars Frisch áriđ 1941 á norsku um sósíalisma. Samţ. til útgáfu í Econ Watch Journal.

The Impeachment of Geir H. Haarde, Part I: Political Machinations and Legal Manoeuvres. The European Conservative, May 2023.

The Impeachment of Geir H. Haarde, Part II: A Flawed and Biased Process. The European Conservative, May 2023.

The Impeachment of Geir H. Haarde, Part III: Conclusions. The European Conservative, May 2023.

Vísindamiđslun á fagsviđi starfsmanns

1. Ég skrifađi fastan dálk í veftímaritiđ The Conservative:

Conservatives and Classical Liberals: Natural Allies. European Diary: The Escorial, June 2021. The Conservative 20. október 2023.

The Right Responses to the Left. European Diary: Lisbon, September 2021. The Conservative 23. október 2023.

Balzac Refutes Piketty. European Diary: Paris, October 2021. The Conservative 27. október 2023.

Vices, Not Crimes. European Diary: Akureyri, October 2021. The Conservative 27. október 2023.

The City of His Dreams. European Diary: Vienna, November 2021. The Conservative 12. nóvember 2023.

Poland’s Road from Communism. European Diary: Warsaw, November 2021. The Conservative 26. nóvember 2023.

Commercial Society Creates, Not Only Dissolves. European Diary: Budapest, November 2021. The Conservative 26. nóvember 2023.

Snorri Sturluson as a Conservative Liberal. European Diary: Reykjavik, December 2021. The Conservative 26. nóvember 2023.

When Prometheus Becomes Procrustes. European Diary: Prague, November 2021. The Conservative 26. nóvember 2023.

Threats to Digital Freedom. European Diary: Rome, December 2021. The Conservative, 8. desember 2023.

Small States Feasible, Efficient, and Desirable. European Diary: Ljubljana, May 2022. The Conservative 14. desember 2023.

Catholicism and Capitalism Are Compatible. European Diary: Zagreb, May 2022. The Conservative 16. desember 2023.

An Early Critic of Unlimited Government. European Diary: Reykholt, April 2022. The Conservative 8. desember 2023.

Make Trade, Not War. European Diary: Sarajevo, May 2022. The Conservative 28. desember 2023.

Liberty Made Inspiring Again. European Diary: Belgrade, May 2022. The Conservative 30. desember 2023.

2. Ég skrifađi ţrjár langar greinar í Morgunblađiđ:

Sérstađa og samstađa: Tveir ásar Íslandssögunnar. Morgunblađiđ 17. janúar 2023.

Afareglan um aflahlutdeild. Morgunblađiđ 19. október 2023.

Adam Smith enn í fullu fjöri! Morgunblađiđ 5. desember 2023.

3. Ég skrifađi fastan dálk í Morgunblađiđ:

Ne bid in idem. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 7. janúar 2023.

In dubio, pars mitior est sequenda. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 14. janúar 2023.

Tveir fróđlegir fundir. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 21. janúar 2023.

Atvik úr bankahruninu. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 28. janúar 2023.

Lundúnir, janúar 2023. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 4. febrúar 2023.

Reykjavík, janúar 2023. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 11. febrúar 2023.

Sjötugur. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 18. febrúar 2023.

Stighćkkandi tekjuskattur. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 25. febrúar 2023.

Refsađ fyrir ráđdeild? Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 4. mars 2023.

Sögulegar deilur. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 11. mars 2023.

Níđvísan ţjónađi tilgangi. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 18. mars 2023.

Landsfeđur, leiđtogar, frćđarar, ţjóđskáld. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 25. mars 2023.

Danskur ţjóđarandi. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 1. apríl 2023.

Split, apríl 2023. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 8. apríl 2023.

Ný sýn á gamalt mál. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 15. apríl 2023.

Höfn, apríl 2023. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 22. apríl 2023.

Brúarstćđi, apríl 2023. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 29. apríl 2023.

Lundúnir, apríl 2023. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 6. maí 2023.

París, apríl 2023. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 13. maí 2023.

Óhappamenn frekar en friđflytjendur. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 20. maí 2023.

Lissabon, apríl 2023. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 27. maí 2023.

Fólksfjölgun og hlýnun jarđar. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 3. júní 2023.

Amsterdam, apríl 2023. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 10. júní 2023.

Helsinki, maí 2021. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 17. júní 2023.

Eskilstuna, júní 2023. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 1. júlí 2023.

Jórvík, júní 2023. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 8. júlí 2023.

Westminster-höll, júní 2023. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 15. júlí 2023.

Norrćna leiđin: Montesquieu. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 22. júlí 2023.

Norrćna leiđin: Molesworth. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 29. júlí 2023.

Undrunarefni Sigurđar. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 5. ágúst 2023.

Ţrír norrćnir spekingar. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 12. ágúst 2023.

Gamansemi Grundtvigs um Íslendinga. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 26. ágúst 2023.

Upprifjun um alrćmdan sjónvarpsţátt. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 2. september 2023.

Norrćnar lausnir. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 9. september 2023.

Mćlanleg mistök. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 16. september 2023.

Tvenn örlagarík mistök. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 23. september 2023.

Dráp Kambans. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 30. september 2023.

Hitt drápiđ. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 7. október 2023.

Tilveruréttur Ísraels. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 14. október 2023.

Eru Palestínumenn ţjóđ? Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 21. október 2023.

Jafnađarmerkiđ á ekki viđ. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 28. október 2023.

Lýđrćđisumrćđurnar í Danmörku. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 5. nóvember 2023.

Madrid, september 2023. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 11. nóvember 2023.

Hugtökin nýlendustefna og ţjóđarmorđ. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 18. nóvember 2023.

Öfgamúslimar. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 25. nóvember 2019.

Bretton Woods, nóvember 2023. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 2. desember 2023.

Nýja Jórvík, nóvember 2023. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 9. nóvember 2023.

Gyđingahatur. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 16. desember 2023.

Jólasveinarnir. Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 23. desember 2023.

Hvađ olli synjuninni? Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 30. desember 2023.

 


Liberty Made Inspiring Again

European Diary: Belgrade, May 2022

Belgrad.DanubeSava.shutterstock_2129440943Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, is located at the confluence of the Sava and Danube Rivers as well at the crossroads of the Pannonian Plain and the Balkan Peninsula. It is therefore not surprising that it is a very old city, indeed one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Europe and in the world. Belgrade means White City, and it is named after its fortress, which was built on a white ridge of strategic importance. After the fall of the Roman Empire it was conquered and controlled and sometimes destroyed by various invaders, such as the Huns, Goths, Hungarians, and Byzantines. In the 13th century it became the capital of the so-called Serbian Despotate but in 1521 it fell to the Ottomans. After the Serbian wars for independence, Belgrade became in 1841 the capital again of Serbia, first the principality and then the kingdom. In 1918 the city became the capital of the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes which was in 1929 changed into the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. This was an artificial country, jumbled together at the end of the First World War. It was basically a hostile takeover by Serbia of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Hercegovina, Northern Macedonia, and Montenegro. It was therefore not surprising that Yugoslavia broke up soon after the death of the communist leader Josip Broz Tito who had for decades ruled these diverse territories with an iron hand. But Belgrade itself has gained from diversity as I discovered when I was  there in May 2022. It is a lively and pleasant city. Being a meeting place of many cultures, it is however hard to tell whether it belongs to the East or the West.

On the Bank of the Danube

In Belgrade I was presenting my book in two volumes on Twenty-Four Conservative-Liberal Thinkers at a seminar organised jointly by the Austrian Economics Center in Vienna and the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration at the University of Belgrade. The evening before the seminar I went for a stroll from my hotel down to the Danube. I stood for a while and watched this magnificent river which flows through four European capitals, Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, and Belgrade. Originating in the Black Forest in southern Germany, it empties into the Black Sea through the Danube Delta between Romania and Ukraine. It is the second-largest river in Europe, after Volga in Russia. Indeed, the Habsburg Empire was sometimes called the Danubian Empire. Although a famous waltz by Johann Strauss Junior is called ‘On the beautiful blue Danube’, in fact the river is not blue: it is gray or even muddy. Nevertheless, the Danube was and is a great European waterway, connecting east and west, south and north. Italian writer Claudio Magris has written a book about the river, Danube: A Sentimental Journey from the Source to the Black Sea. He uses the Danube as a metaphor for life, as it winds safely from its source to the sea.

As I stood there on the river bank, I could not but reflect on the fact that sometimes history can be a burden. There are in the Balkans so many historical sources of enmity, so many battles to remember, so many betrayals to avenge, between Christians and Muslims, Catholics and Eastern Orthodoxes, Serbs and Croats, Slavs and Albanians, and so on, and between traditional allies and enemies of nearby powers, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Russian Empire, and the Ottoman Empire, and their successor states. It is only if and when the many and diverse peoples of this European frontier territory can find and develop the appropriate arrangements and political units, preferably as small as possible, that history for them will become less a burden than a blessing, full of inspiring and meaningful moments, myths, legends, songs, and tales, unifying them, enabling them to identify with a community, creating a sense of belonging.

The Courage to Be Utopian

At the seminar, I chose a somewhat different topic from what I have been talking about before in many European cities. What I now emphasised was that liberty had to be made exciting again, seen as an intellectual adventure, recognised as a precondition for innovation and entrepreneurship. I recalled Hayek’s observation in his celebrated essay on ‘The Intellectuals and Socialism’:

The main lesson which the true liberal must learn from the success of the socialists is that it was their courage to be Utopian which gained them the support of the intellectuals and therefore an influence on public opinion which is daily making possible what only recently seemed utterly remote. Those who have concerned themselves exclusively with what seemed practicable in the existing state of opinion have constantly found that even this had rapidly become politically impossible as the result of changes in a public opinion which they have done nothing to guide. Unless we can make the philosophic foundations of a free society once more a living intellectual issue, and its implementation a task which challenges the ingenuity and imagination of our liveliest minds. But if we can regain that belief in the power of ideas which was the mark of liberalism at its best, the battle is not lost.

Indeed, Hayek and another renowned economist, Milton Friedman, made economic liberalism inspiring again. Paradoxically, their courage to be (or at least appear) utopian turned out to be both economically practical and politically successful. Friedman once said to me: ‘First, they try to ignore you. Then, they try to ridicule you. Finally, they say that of course money matters, but that everybody already knew that.’

In the chapter on Friedman in the second volume of my book I describe the theory and practice of what is sometimes called ‘neoliberalism’: the reconstruction of Germany, Austria and Italy after the Second World War (led by Ludwig Erhard, Reinhard Kamitz, and Luigi Einaudi, respectively, all members of Hayek’s Mont Pelerin Society); the comprehensive economic reforms in countries as diverse politically as Great Britain under the Conservatives, Chile ruled by a military junta, and New Zealand at the initiative of social democrats; and the return to normalcy in Central and Eastern Europe, guided by Mart Laar in Estonia, Vaclav Klaus in the Czech Republic (both members of the Mont Pelerin Society) and other economic liberals. Speakers at the seminar included Dr. Barbara Kolm of the Austrian Economics Center in Vienna and Professor Christopher Lingle of Francisco Marroquín University in Guatemala. Professor Sinisa Zaric was the Chair.

An Evening in Belgrade

After the seminar, on my last evening in Belgrade, I went with a friend to one of the city’s finest Michelin-star restaurants, Salon 1905, close to the Sava River as it joins the Danube. We walked from the hotel. I found it extraordinary that a street on the way, Gavrila Principa, is named after the assassin of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie in Sarajevo in 1914. Gavril Princip committed one of the foulest crimes of the twentieth century, with terrible consequences. Be that as it may, the restaurant itself is in a magnificent, ornate house in the old town, built in 1905. This house was then the headquarters of a bank, directed by one of Serbia’s greatest capitalists at the time, Luka Ćelović. The food was delicious and the service impeccable. Capitalism has returned to Serbia. Hopefully it will connect East and West, and turn the burden of history into a blessing.

(The Conservative, 30 December 2023.)


Make Trade, Not War

European Diary: Sarajevo, May 2022

Sarajevo.CityHall.shutterstock_788937649Sarajevo! The name reminds us all of the First World War (originally called the Great War) which broke out after the heir to the Habsburg throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated in the city on 28 June 1914, with his wife, Duchess Sophie von Hohenburg. The perpetrator was a Bosnian Serb, Gavrilo Princip, a young, fanatical nationalist with close ties to the Serbian secret service (which supplied the weapons to him and his accomplices). Serbian nationalists were hostile to Franz Ferdinand because he wanted to turn the Danubian Monarchy into a federal union which probably would have greatly reduced discontent among the many Slavic peoples under Habsburg rule, such as Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Slovenes, Croatians, Bosnian Serbs, and Bosnian Croats. Serbian ultra-nationalists had in 1903 stormed the Royal Palace in Serbia’s capital, Belgrad, shot the pro-Austrian king, Alexander I Obrenovich, and his wife, Draga, stripped their bodies and mutilated them, before throwing them out of a second-floor window into a pile of garden manure. A long-time enemy of the Obrenović family, Peter Karachorchevich, was proclaimed king of Serbia as Peter I. He was hostile to the Austrians, and pro-Russian. After this macabre event, Serbia pursued aggressive nationalist policies, aimed at creating a Greater Serbia by extending her rule to all Slavic peoples in the Western Balkans, then under Habsburg rule. Since Serbian participation in the assassination of the Archduke and his wife was considered almost certain, after the assassination Austria-Hungary issued an ultimatum to Serbia which was not met, whereupon Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, followed by her ally, Imperial Germany. France and Russia subsequently declared war on Austria-Hungary and Germany.

A World Lost

The French were not really concerned about Serbia: they wanted to take revenge on the Germans for their humiliation in the 1870 Franco-German war and to regain the territories then lost. Nevertheless, this would have remained mostly a Balkan affair, if the United Kingdom had not made the fateful decision to join France and Russia in supporting Serbia, with the United States entering the war on their side in 1917. This turned an almost certain swift victory of Austria-Hungary and Germany over Serbia and Russia into a prolonged, vicious, sanguinary world war, leading to the collapse of four empires, and the Bolshevik Revolution and the disintegration of the liberal international order. In retrospect, it is amazing not only how catastrophic the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and his wife turned out to be, but also how entirely evitable it was. The Archduke was supposed to be opening the state museum in Sarajevo which had as the capital of Bosnia flourished under Austrian rule since 1878. On his way from the Train Station to the Town Hall a bomb was thrown at his car, bouncing off its back hood and exploding under the next car in the motorcade, wounding the people in it. The Archduke and his wife escaped unharmed. After a reception at the Town Hall (depicted above), the Archduke wanted to visit the victims of the bombing. On the way to the hospital, his driver made a wrong turn, and when he realised this, he applied the brakes, stopping the car on a side street just where one of the would-be assassins, Princip, happened to be. Princip could therefore shoot the couple at short range.

The collapses of the Russian and Ottoman Empires were certainly not to be lamented, as many oppressed nations now were able to establish their own states. (For better or worse, a nation may require a state. What is the difference between a language and a dialect? That the language is supported by a navy.) The collapse of the Danubian Empire meant however the disintegration of a large area of free trade and common currency in Europe’s midst, under a relatively liberal regime. One of Princip’s co-conspirators, the Bosnian Serb Vaso ÄŒubrilović, only seventeen at the time, was released from prison at the end of the war and became a historian and in Communist Yugoslavia a government minister. Looking back after fifty years, he expressed regret about the conspiracy. ‘We destroyed a beautiful world that was lost forever due to the war that followed.’ This was a world eloquently described in Stefan Zweig’s The World of Yesterday. On the 100th anniversary of the assassination, a prominent journalist, the Bosnian Croat Fedzad Forto, denounced it in an interview with the BBC, British Broadcasting Corporation. The Bosnians had been much better off under the Habsburgs than under the Yugoslavian (Serbian) kings and the communists, he said. ‘You can look at the historical records and see how Austria-Hungary cared about issues like the rule of law. We lost so much in 1918.’

Two Ways of Keeping Peace

It was therefore appropriate that I discussed trade, war and peace at a seminar on 12 May 2022 in Sarajevo, organised by the Sarajevo School of Science and Technology, SSST, and the Austrian Economics Center in Vienna. I repeated my argument, made elsewhere, that small states may be feasible and, in many cases, more efficient and desirable than larger political units, but that they are vulnerable, as the recent Russian attack on Ukraine showed. The events that unfolded in Sarajevo more than a century ago demonstrated this, as Czech writer Milan Kundera once commented:

The Austrian empire had the great opportunity of making Central Europe into a strong, unified state. But the Austrians, alas, were divided between an arrogant Pan-German nationalism and their own Central European mission. They did not succeed in building a federation of equal nations, and their failure has been the misfortune of the whole of Europe. Dissatisfied, the other nations of Central Europe blew apart their empire in 1918, without realising that, in spite of its inadequacies, it was irreplaceable. After the First World War, Central Europe was therefore transformed into a region of small, weak states, whose vulnerability ensured first Hitler’s conquest and ultimately Stalin’s triumph.

Being vulnerable, small states must form alliances with one another and with stronger states.

There are essentially two pillars of peace, I observed in Sarajevo. One is free trade. Your propensity to shoot at your neighbour diminishes, if you see in him a potential customer. And, when goods are not allowed to cross borders, soldiers will. There is truth in this observation, but it is not the whole truth. The other indispensable pillar of peace is preparedness, as the Romans knew: Si vis pacem, para bellum. If you want peace, prepare for war. (Or as the Anglo-Irish army officer and writer William Blacker exclaimed: ‘Put your trust in God, my boys, and keep your powder dry!’) The free countries of the world, under the leadership of the United States, must be powerful enough that nobody dares attack them. This was the main idea behind NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the defence alliance of the West. If we do not all hang together, we shall all hang separately. What we are faced with now, I said in Sarajevo, is that China and Russia seem to reject democratic capitalism, with its tolerance, decentralisation, diversity, and respect for human rights and with the peaceful means of replacing bad rulers with better ones. The very existence of individual freedom and democracy is seen by oriental despots as external threats.

What We are Defending

I concluded my talk in Sarajevo by stressing that the West has to know what it wants to defend. I have myself recently published a book about Twenty-Four Conservative-Liberal Thinkers who had since the Middle Ages articulated the political tradition of limited government, private property, and free trade. It was a tradition which included philosophers and economists as different as St. Thomas Aquinas and Ayn Rand, Ludwig von Mises and Robert Nozick, Herbert Spencer and Karl Popper, not to mention its two best-known modern proponents, Friedrich von Hayek and Milton Friedman. It was, and is, a tradition which has encouraged economic growth, innovation and entrepreneurship, but also the development of individual skills, abilities and talents, enabling individuals to live meaningful lives and flourish. It was a tradition which recognised the many intermediate institutions, habits, manners, conventions and customs which had developed spontaneously in the moral space between individuals and the state, and the several ties, commitments and attachments they inherited and formed, outside the realm of contract.

Other speakers at the Sarajevo seminar were Austrian economist Dr. Barbara Kolm on globalisation, American businessman Terry Anker on business regulations, and American Professor Christopher Lingle on entrepreneurship. Professor Vjekoslav Domljan, Dean of the Economics Faculty of the SSST, chaired the meeting. Sarajevo, the capital of a Bosnian kingdom in the Middle Ages, under the Ottomans between 1461 and 1878 and  the Habsburgs between 1878 and 1918, now seems peaceful. But a visitor can sense how strongly many Bosnians want to be a part of the West.

(The Conservative, 28 December 2023.)


An Early Critic of Unlimited Government

European Diary: Reykholt, April 2022

Reykholt.SnorriIn my recent two-volume work, Twenty-Four Conservative-Liberal Thinkers, I define conservative liberalism by four principles, private property, free trade, limited government, and respect for traditions (evolution, not revolution). These principles existed of course before four British thinkers, John Locke, David Hume, Adam Smith, and Edmund Burke, presented their systematic defence in seminal books. For example, arguments for private property and limited government are found in two eminent thirteenth century writers who could be called ‘proto-liberals’, the Icelandic chronicler Snorri Sturluson (1179–1241) and the Italian philosopher St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274).

A Talk at Snorri’s Place

My interpretation of Snorri as a Nordic pioneer of classical liberal and conservative thought has aroused much interest in Iceland where everybody is familiar with Snorri’s works; an integral and much-appreciated part of the Icelandic heritage, they are read and discussed in all schools: Edda, a treatise on Nordic mythology, Heimskringla, the history of Norwegian kings, and the Saga of Egil, the story of a larger-than-life Icelandic warrior-poet of the tenth century. I was therefore invited to give a talk on 19 April 2022 in Reykholt, the place where Snorri lived and wrote most of his works. This was where he was killed in 1241 on the order of King Haakon IV of Norway who was angry at him for resisting attempts to make Iceland, an independent Commonwealth since 930, a Norwegian tributary. The Argentinian poet Jorge Luis Borges, an admirer of ancient Icelandic literature, has written a well-known poem about Snorri’s execution.

Reykholt is about one-and-a-half hours’ drive from Reykjavik, and the site of a church, a school, a hotel, and an institution devoted to Snorri’s memory. The Icelandic name of the place would in English be ‘Smoke Forest’, because it had both a forest (holt in Icelandic), now mostly disappeared, and some hot springs which emit smoke. It also has a statue of Snorri (depicted above). In my talk I pointed out that it was nothing new to regard Snorri Sturluson as a critic of royal power. This has been argued by scholars before, for example by Professors Sigurdur Lindal, Birgit Sawyer, and Magnus Fjalldal. But what I did in my book was to place Snorri in the conservative-liberal political tradition, alongside Aquinas. They had in common the twin ideas that kings were no less than their subjects under the law, and that they could be deposed if they broke the implicit social contract, in Snorri’s case as determined by customs and conventions and in Aquinas’ case as determined by the natural law. Snorri went even further and argued in Heimskringla, in a famous speech he put into the mouth of an Icelandic farmer, Einar from Thvera, that it was best for the Icelanders to have no king but the law.

New Insights

In my talk I added several considerations to the account in my recent book of Snorri’s thought. For example, in the Book of the Icelanders, composed by Ari the Learned in the 1120s, a reference was made to the inherent conflict in Scandinavia between peaceful and thrifty farmers on the one hand and bellicose and profligate kings on the other hand. This was the ‘Icelandic exceptionalism’ which could also be seen in Snorri’s works. Again, Snorri’s tale in Heimskringla of Iceland’s four ‘protective spirits’ was a subtle intimation to King Haakon IV of Norway not to invade Iceland, as he was for a while planning to do, after skirmishes between Norwegian merchants and Icelandic farmers in the late 1210s. I told the audience that I found it most likely that Snorri had originally written the saga of Olav the Fat (995–1030) who was the first Norwegian king to try and take control of Iceland, and that he had then added sagas about the king’s predecessors and successors. I also suggested that Snorri might himself have composed some of the poems in the Saga of Egil, the first real saga of the Icelanders.

Yet another consideration applies to Snorri’s Edda. It is that the heathen gods, the aesir, were more like a community of equals than a tyranny where just one god had absolute power. The gods met and deliberated, like judges do, and did not take orders unquestioningly from their acknowledged king, Odin or Wutan. In a perhaps primitive manner this was somewhat like the kingship which Aristotle contrasted with tyranny, or the monarchy which Montesquieu contrasted with despotism.

A lively discussion followed my talk with perceptive comments by psychiatrist Ottar Gudmundsson, the author of a book in Icelandic about the personalities of Snorri and his contemporaries from a medical point of view, and the Reverend Geir Waage, former Pastor of Reykholt, an avid reader and interpreter of ancient Icelandic literature.

My forefather

It is an insignificant but amusing fact that I, like almost all Icelanders, can boast of Snorri Sturluson as a forefather. Iceland is unique in that we have reasonably accurate records of most Icelanders over the centuries, from the very settlement of the country by Norwegian vikings in 874, and a well-designed data base run by a private company, deCode Genetics. I am 22nd in line from Snorri. Note that most Icelanders do not have family names: they are just sons or daughters of their fathers. Snorri was for example the son of Sturla, as I am the son of Gissur. The lineage goes like this:

Snorri Sturluson (1179–1241)

Thordis Snorradaughter (c. 1205)

Einar Thorvaldsson (1227–c. 1286)

Unnamed girl Einarsdaughter (c. 1250)

Erik Sveinbjornsson (c. 1277–1342)

Einar Eriksson (c. 1320–1382)

Bjorn Einarsson the Pilgrim (c. 1350–1415)

Kristin Bjornsdaughter (1374–1468)

Solveig Thorleifsdaughter (c. 1415–1479)

Jon Sigmundsson the Lawman (1455–1520)

Helga Jonsdaughter (c. 1511–c. 1600)

Thord Thorlaksson (1543–1638)

Thorlak Thordson (c. 1615)

Gudmund Thorlaksson (c. 1650–c. 1687)

Thorlak Gudmundsson (c. 1682)

Steinthor Thorlaksson (1728–1813)

Bjarni Steinthorsson the Rich (1761–1841)

Kolfinna Bjarnadaughter (1785–1863)

Bjarni Snaebjornsson (1829–1894)

Asta Bjarnadaughter (1864–1952)

Holmfridur S. Jonsdaughter (1903–1967)

Asta Hannesdaughter (1926–2000)

Hannes H. Gissurarson (b. 1953)

(The Conservative, 8 December 2023.)


Threats to Digital Freedom

European Diary: Rome, December 2021

Rome.PiazzadeSpagna.shutterstock_500304586It is always a pleasure to visit Rome, the eternal city. I first came to Rome in the autumn of 1986, stayed at a hotel above the Spanish steps and the Trevi Fountain and used my few days in the city to the utmost, looking in awe at all the monuments, churches, palaces and ruins in what was for many centuries practically the capital of the Western world and where the headquarters of the Catholic Church are still located. At the initiative of my friend, Professor Antonio Martino, I returned in the spring of 1994, to be a Visiting Professor at LUISS, Libera Universitŕ Internazionale degli Studi Sociali. Martino was then busy campaigning for Forza Italia, the political party founded by Silvio Berlusconi and him to save Italy from a communist takeover, seemingly likely after all the established parties had collapsed as a result of revelations about widespread corruption. In the 1994 elections, Berlusconi and Martino succeeded, and Martino became Foreign Minister in Berlusconi’s government which however did not last long. Later Martino was Defence Minister for five years in subsequent Berlusconi governments. Martino was an eloquent, elegantly-dressed, polite and witty scholar and gentleman, whereas Berlusconi was exuberant, energetic, lively and cheerful, with a strong desire to be liked, a strength in a politician but perhaps a weakness in a statesman.

Arguments for Freedom of Expression

On 10–13 December 2021, I found myself in Rome yet again, at a conference on digital freedom, organised by ECR, European Conservatives and Reformists. I enjoyed the warm hospitality of Antonio Giordano, the ECR Secretary General, and Katia Bellantone, the ECR Chief of Staff. Having lived and worked in Rome for many years, they knew everything worth knowing about where to go and what to see in the city. They took me to lovely local restaurants. At the conference itself, I argued that the new social media, especially Twitter and Facebook, had gone too far in trying to censor content on their platforms. I recalled John Stuart Mill’s three exemplary arguments for freedom of thought and expression: that fallible censors might suppress sound ideas; that some ideas contained both errors and truths and that a free discussion was necessary to eliminate the errors; and that even if an idea was totally wrong, it would be worthwhile to try and refute it vigorously. I added two further arguments: that in a democracy freedom of expression was an indispensable constraint on government; and that it could also serve to vent off frustrations which otherwise might lead to violence.

Recent Unjustified Restrictions

In my talk, I agreed that the social media might adopt some restrictions on what could be expressed on their platforms, for example a ban on child pornography and on any incitement to violence. But the recent ban of President Donald Trump could hardly be justified in such a way. He had often been rude and offensive publicly, but freedom of expression was also the freedom to be rude and offensive. If the social media were strong enough to disconnect the leader of the most powerful nation in the world who had received almost 75 million votes in a recent election, how could they then treat others? Another example was the ban imposed by both Twitter and Facebook for a while on any speculation that the corona virus had escaped from a Wuhan laboratory and not been transmitted from an animal to a person. This now seemed the most plausible explanation of the pandemic which had turned the world upside down for the last two years. This was a matter of vital importance, and yet the social media did not for some time allow their users even to mention it.

Social Media as Common Carriers

I discussed the common response that Twitter and Facebook were private companies; and that therefore they could decide which rules to apply when offering their services. This was only partly plausible, I observed: they were also common carriers like phone companies, private roads, and hotels. A phone company could not refuse to connect individuals because they spoke nonsense; the owner of a private road might charge a toll for its use, but he could not prohibit women from driving on it; a hotel could not refuse to serve people of colour. Moreover, Twitter and Facebook, and for that matter also Amazon, were so dominant in their fields of activity that there they enjoyed a near monopoly. You could go somewhere else if a newspaper refused to print your submission, but where could you go in cyberspace if Twitter and Facebook jointly decided to close your accounts and if Amazon refused to carry your books?

Over the last few years all three companies had shown a left-wing bias, I added. Either the social media had to define clearly some fair, narrow and transparent terms of use or they could risk losing the legal immunity that they enjoyed in the United States by which they were not held responsible for opinions and ideas expressed on the platforms they provided. Censors were fallible, including journalists and social media managers. The choice was between censorship and freedom of expression.

(The Conservative, 8 December 2023.)


Hvađ olli synjuninni?

Í greinargerđ, sem ég tók saman fyrir fjármálaráđuneytiđ um bankahruniđ 2008, reyndi ég ađ skýra, hvers vegna Íslendingum var ţá alls stađar synjađ um lausafjárfyrirgreiđslu nema í norrćnu seđlabönkunum ţremur. Jafnframt gengu bresk stjórnvöld hart fram gegn Íslendingum. Miklu hefđi breytt, hefđi seđlabankinn íslenski getađ tilkynnt, ađ hann hefđi gert gjaldeyrisskiptasamninga viđ bandaríska og evrópska seđlabankann, til dćmis upp á tíu milljarđa Bandaríkjadala. Spákaupmenn hefđu ţá varla haldiđ áfram ađ veđja á fall bankanna og lćkkun krónunnar.

Skýringar mínar voru margvíslegar. Bandaríkjamenn höfđu misst áhugann á Íslandi, eftir ađ landiđ hćtti ađ vera hernađarlega mikilvćgt í ţeirra augum. Bresku stjórnmálamennirnir Gordon Brown og Alasdair Darling vildu sýna skoskum kjósendum sínum, ađ sjálfstćđi í peningamálum vćri varasamt. Evrópskir seđlabankamenn töldu íslensku bankana fjárfrekar bođflennur á evrópskum mörkuđum og ógna innstćđutryggingakerfi Evrópulanda. Raunar hefur síđan komiđ í ljós, ađ sumir ţeir bankar, sem bjargađ var međ lausafjárfyrirgreiđslu í fjármálakreppunni 2008, voru verr staddir fjárhagslega en íslensku bankarnir og međ ýmislegt á samviskunni (peningaţvćtti og vaxtasvik), til dćmis RBS í Skotlandi, UBS í Svisslandi og Danske Bank.

Í grúski mínu rakst ég nýlega á enn eina hugsanlega skýringu á fjandskap evrópskra seđlabankamanna í garđ Íslendinga. Á fundi Evrópuţingsins 13. janúar 2009 var ţess minnst, ađ tíu ár voru frá upptöku evrunnar. David Corbett, leiđtogi breskra jafnađarmanna á ţinginu, sagđi viđ ţađ tćkifćri: „Evran hefur veriđ stöđug eins og klettur, og má hafa til marks um ţađ misjafnt hlutskipti Íslands og Írlands.“ Vildi evrópski seđlabankinn ef til vill sýna, hvađ ţađ gćti kostađ ađ standa utan evrusvćđisins?

(Fróđleiksmoli í Morgunblađinu 30. desember 2023.)


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