iMaverick & Daily Maverick's Ivo Vegter finalist for Bastiat Prize

Top South African writer Ivo Vegter joins journalists from The Economist, The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg, as a finalist for this year's Bastiat Prize for Journalism. In its tenth year in 2011, the Bastiat Prize is awarded by the International Policy Network and aims to recognise writing that explains, promotes and defends the principles of the free society.
The journalism's finalists for this year are Ivo Vegter (The Daily Maverick), Thomas Easton (The Economist), Jeff Jacoby (The Boston Globe), Takis Michas (The WallStreet Journal, Cato Institute), Virginia Postrel (The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg), and Salil Tripathi (Mint, The National).

Established in 2002 the writing prize inspired by Frédéric Bastiat, a 19th century French philosopher who is notable for his defence of liberty and ability to communicate complex economic issues to the general public.

The columns that Vegter entered for the award include "Gautrain's PPP: political patronage profiteering" published in Daily Maverick; "Welcome Walmart" published in Daily Maverick; and "An entirely futile tax" published in CAR Magazine.

"I try to tackle difficult or controversial questions from the perspective of individual liberty and free-market capitalism," says Vegter who is guided by economic thinkers such as Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, Friedrich Hayek, Henry Hazlitt, and Frédéric Bastiat himself.

"Applicability and explanatory power, especially when applied to new phenomena, is the true test of any great economic theory. Bastiat set out a principle in his 1850 essay, "That which is seen, and that which is not seen", which was restated by Henry Hazlitt in a book that should be required reading for all journalists and politicians: "Economics in One Lesson". It says that the art of economics involves considering not just the immediate effects of a policy but also its long-term consequences, and its impact not just on one group, but on all groups. By applying this principle to everyday issues, I try to show that economics is not arcane wizardry involving incomprehensible statistics, but should make intuitive sense to ordinary people and policy makers," Vegter says.

"History shows that the prosperity of a nation is highly correlated with the degree to which it is economically free. This is true not only for the wealthy, but even more so for the poor, whose standards of living have risen markedly in free-market conditions. This ought to be the most important outcome of economic policy. By contrast, socialism, corruption and war all impact negatively on prosperity, and aggravate poverty levels and despair," the writer says.

"South Africa's history of unjust dispossession makes socialist quick-fixes all too tempting. Worse, the present government has largely perpetuated the unsustainable economic policies of the past. Best described as national socialism or crony-capitalism, this policy of protection and state intervention wasn't enough to sustain a small minority then, and it has no more chance of sustaining all South Africans today. To ensure real long-term development, it is important to show that these measures are misguided, and will not create a better life even just for the ruling party's constituency, let alone "a better life for all". It is not within the power of the state to deliver on this promise," Vegter says, adding: "By writing about these ideas I hope to spur discussion and debate, and bring a fresh perspective to those who may have associated socialism or state intervention with justice and prosperity, but are finding out the hard way that it offers neither."

The previous judges of The Bastiat Prize include former Conservative British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher and Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman.

In celebration of its tenth anniversary, the Bastiat Prize for Journalism increased its purse and has a total prize fund of $70,000, with a first prize of $50,000, second prize of $15,000 and third prize of $5,000.

The winners of the prestigious journalism award will be made known, and honoured, during a dinner to be held in New York this November.

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18 Oct 2011 12:55