Free Market Roadshow: the world after Brexit and populism

Juan de Mariana Institute

The Rafael del Pino Foundation collaborated with the Juan de Mariana Institute in the organisation of the Free Market Road Show on 22 March 2017.

In recent times, certain developments are unsettling the world: Britain has decided to leave the European Union, Donald Trump has been elected as the new president of the United States and populism has become the fashionable political phenomenon. How will these developments affect free trade, development and prosperity in Europe? What changes are being observed in our society and its values? Is individual freedom at risk?

The event took place according to the following programme:

16.30-16.40: WELCOME


16.50-17.00: Opening of the panel: "30 years of global progress", Juan Ramón Rallo, Director of the Instituto Juan de Mariana

16.50-17.50: Round table discussion

John Müller, Assistant to the Editor of El Español newspaper

Participants in the colloquium:
Ron Manners, Director of Mannwest Group.
Daniel Lacalle, investment fund manager (to be confirmed).
John Chrisholm, CEO of John Chisholm Ventures.
Diego Sánchez de la Cruz, economic journalist.


17.50-18.00: Opening of the panel: "Liberal populism", Carlos Rodríguez Braun, Professor of History of Economic Thought at the Complutense University of Madrid.

18.00-19.00: Round table discussion

María Blanco, Professor of History of Economic Thought at CEU San Pablo University.

Participants in the colloquium:
Gloria Álvarez, political scientist.
Federico Fernández, Senior Fellow at the Austrian Economics Center.
Adrián Rodríguez, philosopher and psychologist.
Enrique Couto, financial analyst and co-founder of VisualPolitik.


Francisco Capella, Head of Science and Ethics at the Juan de Mariana Institute.

Participants in the colloquium:
Jaime Rodríguez de Santiago, General Manager of BlablaCar for Spain and Portugal.
Andrea Martos Esteban, biochemist specialising in pharmaceutical engineering and design.
Sara Rodríguez, Public Affairs and Institutional Relations Manager at Sharing España.


On 22 March 2017, the Rafael del Pino Foundation hosted the annual edition of the Free Market Road Show which, on this occasion, focused on the rise of populism. The event included three panel discussions: one on the possible end of free trade, a second one that analysed the polarisation that is taking place in today's societies, and a final one in which regulation was debated. PANEL 1: Are we facing the end of free trade? According to Ron Manners, Director of Mannwest Group (Australia), the bad reputation of free trade is due to the actions of special interest groups, who work hard to achieve their own ends. For John Chisholm, CEO of John Chisholm Venture (United States), the evidence suggests that a process of de-globalisation may be underway, at least in the short term. Nevertheless, he believes that the world will rediscover the benefits of free trade, not least because of technological advances. In the short term, the problem is that the benefits of protectionism are clearly identifiable, while the benefits of free trade are widely distributed and not so easily seen at first glance. Domingo Soriano, a journalist for Libertad Digital, believes that there will be an attempt to roll back free trade. However, he thinks that the image of globalisation is not so bad. He also believes that the enemies of free trade will not have as many opportunities to erect barriers against it because the change we are experiencing is much faster. Diego Sánchez de la Cruz, an economic journalist, indicated that in the four hours of the Free Market Road Show, 35,000 people around the world would be lifted out of poverty thanks to the globalisation that the defenders of the poor vilify. He is optimistic about the future of free trade because there is an institutional system in the United States that can stand up to Donald Trump. In his view, it will be difficult to move forward with globalisation, but it will not be a step backwards. Globalisation, however, has winners and losers. For Manners, there are losers, but because change requires new skills and because of all that the state eats up in taxes. Chilsholm, for his part, points out that there are some short-term losers, but in the long term, we all win. In the last few centuries, he said, people lost their jobs in agriculture, but found them in other sectors. In addition, global value chains allow end products to be cheaper and he gave the example of the iPhone, which would have a much higher price if it were produced entirely in the United States. Soriano believes that the problem lies in the regulation of the labour market, because globalisation has not affected it that much, although people feel that it has. And for Sánchez, globalisation levels the playing field for everyone and brings thousands of people into the world of work. The problem lies in the rigidities in the labour market that societies impose on themselves. Chilsholm added that globalisation cannot be blamed for the decline of the entrepreneurial class that generates jobs and wealth, but rather the opposite. The more globalisation there is, the more opportunities there are for entrepreneurs. On the question of whether defensive protectionism is legitimate, all the members of the table were against this idea. Carlos Rodríguez Braun, Professor of History of Economic Thought at the Complutense University of Madrid, then intervened, indicating that liberalism cannot be populist; what it can and should be is popular. In this sense, it is necessary to look at the substratum of people's values and principles, which can help liberalism to connect with them more than they think, as was shown, for example, by the demonstrations against inheritance tax in Oviedo and Seville. There is therefore the possibility of seeking a popular liberalism, which connects with aspirations that are popular and legitimate. PANEL 2: Difficult times in a polarised society The second panel began with the intervention of Federico Fernández, senior fellow at the Austrian Economic Centre, who said that it is possible to distinguish between left-wing populism and right-wing populism, but that the differences are very subtle and tend to fade the longer one or the other is in government. In fact, all populism ends up being anti-market and anti-democratic. Adrián Rodríguez, a philosopher and psychologist, pointed out that there is a misconception of what populism is. Attempts have been made to criminalise it without understanding the context in which it is taking place. The new axes that people are looking for after the fall of the Berlin Wall are beginning to be tested with populism because the old certainties of left and right no longer work. Populism, in this sense, is an emerging force with a new discourse. Gloria Álvarez, a political scientist from Guatemala, pointed out that the traditional and conservative right in Latin America, instead of implementing market freedom, what it did was to build crony capitalism. But for the great masses, inclusion in the market was only as consumers, not as entrepreneurs. That right wing doesn't sit well with the millennials, the most tolerant generation in history. That is where these 'alternative right' movements come from. In Latin America there is also the conservative leftist. Many people become pro-greens because they don't understand that the individual is worth as an individual, with the right to life, liberty and patrimony. Enrique Couto, financial analyst and co-founder of Visual Politik, commented that one thing is populist rhetoric, which respects institutions, and another is the populist movement, which moves towards totalitarian democracy and tries to exclude the minority. The first ingredient of populism is frustration. He also indicated that if the EU does not establish a framework of competition, then it will be a breeding ground for populism as a result of people's frustration. In Fernández's opinion, if there is institutional weakness, populism will take hold. The big problem in Europe, in this sense, is the populisation of politics. Rodríguez blames the advance of populism on the fact that we continue to be governed by the old globalist elites, such as the UN and the EU. In his opinion, the top-down axis is in motion and is contradictory to the left-right axis. Álvarez, on the other hand, believes that the problem is that the pro-green does not analyse the ultimate consequences of his ideas and remains with the easy solutions. The battle of ideas is his Achilles' heel. From there, the only discourse they have left is denigration and insult. Populism is a mechanism of manipulation used by the Marxist guerrillas when they ran out of funding after the fall of the Soviet Union. And the right saw that populism was a way to win elections. Couto believes there is hope, but outside, in international trade. Liberalism may not be cool in Latin America or Europe, but it is cool in Asia. There, support for capitalism is overwhelming. Moreover, 21st century socialism is already collapsing in Latin America and this may cure Europe of the evil of populism. PANEL 3: Bureaucracy versus prosperity: from the rule of law to the regulatory labyrinth The panel began with the intervention of Adrià Pérez Martí, Economist and founder of the Escuela La Travesía, who spoke about the regulation of education in Spain. He said that the current rules in our country are quite harmful because they make the system more rigid and interventionist, which prevents the development of an educational project. The composition of the teaching staff is determined ex ante by legislation, because what is sought is standardisation. But what needs to be done is to enhance the differences between children. Andrea Martos Esteban, a biochemist specialising in pharmaceutical engineering and design, spoke about the regulatory aspects of research and highlighted the problems of funding science. There is a tendency to see everything in terms of spending as a percentage of GDP and to think that this leads to better results. But there is no distinction between public and private funding. When this is not taken into account, it is a disincentive to innovation. There is also the whole issue of approval of new medicines. It is positive that there is a certain degree of standardisation in the process, but one has to ask whether all drugs should go through the same licensing process. Sara Rodríguez, Manager of Public Affairs and Institutional Relations at Sharing España, explained that Sharing España is a collective of companies working in the collaborative economy and indicated that people think that there is no company behind the collaborative economy, when the reality is that there is. The platforms provide a service, which consists of putting those who have something in contact with those who demand or need it. The first battle in this field has been the funding platforms. The first thing that was done was to regulate it and companies are grateful for this because it gave them legal certainty. There are reputation and trust systems on the platforms, he added. Therefore, they should be left to self-regulate and grow. Hyper-regulation is prevalent in established sectors, but one has to bear in mind that platforms are not the same as the underlying services. Platforms do not have flats or cars, for example. In this area we are fighting against traditional mentalities. There will be winners and there will be losers, so we will have to make the transition peacefully. Finally, Jaime Rodríguez de Santiago, General Manager of BlablaCar for Spain and Portugal, referred to the fact that Spain is the only country out of the 22 in which the company operates in which the company has been taken to court and has been sanctioned by an administration. The focus of the conflict comes from confusing the platform with the underlying service and trying to apply a regulation that does not fit with a new project. The incumbents have called for a ban on the entry of new players.

The Rafael del Pino Foundation is not responsible for the comments, opinions or statements made by the people who participate in its activities and which are expressed as a result of their inalienable right to freedom of expression and under their sole responsibility. The contents included in the summary of this conference, written for the Rafael del Pino Foundation by Professor Emilio González, are the result of the debates held at the meeting held for this purpose at the Foundation and are the responsibility of the authors.

The Rafael del Pino Foundation is not responsible for any comments, opinions or statements made by third parties. In this respect, the FRP is not obliged to monitor the views expressed by such third parties who participate in its activities and which are expressed as a result of their inalienable right to freedom of expression and under their own responsibility. The contents included in the summary of this conference, written for the Rafael del Pino Foundation by Professor Emilio J. González, are the result of the discussions that took place during the conference organised for this purpose at the Foundation and are the sole responsibility of its authors.