Writes Cristiano Chiocca;
I can still hear that laugh ringing in my ears even so many years later.
It was 2010 and we were excited about the first Brazilian conference on Austrian Economics. We had invited professors from the Mises Institute and, of course, Lew Rockwell, who was one of my inspirations for founding the institute here in Brazil.
As we were few austrolibertarians, we made the event together with the so-called Freedom Forum. If I could compare with something similar in the US, the Freedom Forum is a lobbyist-led event with freedom as a gimmick, basically what the CATO institute does in the US. But they had money and organized an event for a large audience so I was hoping that some of this audience would be interested in delving into the issues of Austro-Libertarianism that we were bringing to Brazil.
At this exchange of events, our speakers were present at the opening of the Forum, that year automakers resurfaced after receiving billions of dollars in government aid and the big star was Carlos Ghosn, the all-powerful Nissan executive. Then, during his speech, which was heard by 5,000 people in total silence, Ghosn enthusiastically defended government aid and subsidies to the auto industry. It was automatic, no meanness, just reactive; Lew didn’t hold back and laughed as if a joke had been told. The only one laughing, and that laugh echoed through the auditorium as if Ghosn had lost his microphone and only the laugh had power.
Time has passed; today, ten years after that laugh, Carlos Ghosn, once powerful, is now victim of the state, the same state he praised when it gave billions to the auto industry. It is not fitting here to get into the minutiae and net of intrigue that led Ghosn to be persecuted, but we can see all the coldness of the state monster when it directs its firepower at an individual. Ghosn underwent subhuman treatment in prison in Japan until his spectacular escape to Lebanon where he has citizenship. Some surveys say that he has already lost half of his executive wealth and that, given the various state-to-state cooperations, the other half can be confiscated at any time, along with a process of intimidating his family members.
That laugh was for me a life lesson about freedom movements; Big business owners who benefit from the state arrangement are not friends of freedom. For Ghosn, perhaps the lesson is that the state is nobody’s friend and will crush even one of its own if necessary. For Lew, I don’t know if there was any lesson, just a good and funny joke.