Alex speaks to honor students
John Paul II, who was recently beatified, began his pontificate by saying “non abbiate paura” do not be afraid. I will start with the same words: “Be not afraid” to take what you have learned to new heights, to fulfill your most ambitious dream, and to become the best that you can be. You are completing an important step in life. Most of you will use your knowledge, that valuable set of tools provided by the Universidad Francisco Marroquin (UFM), to find a job, join a company, or perhaps create a business, where in exchange of your work, you will receive and income to continue to grow.
Whatever honest product or service you will help create is a gift good enough for society. But some of you will be called to more. I suspect several of you, like the founders of UFM, will have the vocation to help build a better Guatemala. You will want to give, and you will choose to make a sacrifice. Some free-market champions do not want to use the word sacrifice. But Ludwig von Mises, the great intellectual after whom you named your library, wrote that:
"Mankind would never have reached the present state of civilization without heroism and self-sacrifice on the part of the elite. Every step forward on the way toward an improvement of moral conditions has been an achievement of men who were ready to sacrifice their own well-being, their health, and their lives for the sake of a cause that they considered just and beneficial. They did what they considered their duty without bothering whether they themselves would not be victimized. These people did not work for the sake of reward, they served their cause unto death." from Bureaucracy
When I think of sacrifice in this auditorium, I think of Manuel “Muso” Ayau and all those who joined him in the task to build this great university.
I recall the first time I visited Guatemala, almost three decades ago. I had heard news about political violence and I asked Muso how safe it was. He told me that the country was calm. When I arrived to the airport, Muso came to pick me up with an armored Jeep Wagoneer. He had a remote control starter. I got in the car, and saw some switches near the shift stick . . .”do not touch, that is a grenade launcher.” I do not know if he was teasing, but midway in our journey, he stops in a parking lot inside a warehouse, we jump into another small car, and puts on a wig. And we kept moving. A few kilometers ahead, I see that he is speaking through a walkie-talkie with someone, I asked him with whom was he speaking: I have a someone on a motorcycle ahead of me, checking to see if there is any threat on the road to warn me. . .“Didn’t you tell me it was safe?” Alex, he told me, “be not afraid.”
You have all learned about the importance of free-markets, but free-markets do not take place in a vacuum. They need a legal framework.
Less than a year ago, Atlas sponsored a program with three Nobel Laureates: Elinor Ostrom, Amartya Sen, and James Buchanan. Buchanan said at that meeting that he was baffled by a new kind of free-market champions who have the simplistic view that markets create their own rules. That was never the thinking of the great Classical liberals. The legal framework needed for the market to operate needs an independent judiciary, a division of power that prevents the executive from abusing its power, a police that helps to enforce contracts rather than bribes, or price controls.
To be able to improve that legal framework some of you will need to get involved in the political arena, as Manuel Ayau did.
Be not afraid to become an integral part of Guatemalan civil society.
Be not afraid to say no to receiving privileges from government.
Be not afraid to join in associations with people who have different views but who share some basic principles with you.
Be not afraid to fall or fail, and to start again.
I congratulate all of you for your academic achievements and again,
Be not afraid to take what you have learned to new heights to fulfill your most ambitious dreams, and become the best persons you can be.