The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

President of Czech Republic speaks at UTC

The UTC campus proudly welcomed Vaclav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic and world renowned economist, who spoke to a small group of faculty and business leaders recently.  The Probasco Chair of Free Enterprise invited Klaus, who was in Chattanooga to address the The Mont Pélerin Society, which convened 200 of the world’s top classical liberal scholars to analyze the prospects for Freedom, Entrepreneurship, and Prosperity in the 21st Century.

Klaus discussed the fall of Communism and what he called the "velvet transition" to a free market system.  He said the transition has been very smooth because Communism had grown soft twenty years earlier.

"No one is a true believer in Marxism.  There are more true Marxists at the University of California in Berkeley than in my country," Klaus said as the audience laughed.  "Textbooks describe a communist society, but the reality is really, really different."

Klaus said his son had never seen a privately owned business within one kilometer of their home until after he left for college.  Now there are no government run entities in that same area, and changes like these throughout the country have been enormous.

"There is no way to describe it.  We started to de-regulate the markets the same day we liberalized free trade.  We opened three and four companies per hour!  We opened ourselves innocently, and we created many complications," Klaus said.

On April 16, 2003 the Czech Republic became a member of the European Union. 

"As the President, I am responsible, and I will be blamed for it," Klaus said. 

Since the Czech Republic is in the heart of Europe, Klaus said choosing not to participate in the EU would be very difficult.  He likened the EU to joining a golf club; to join the club, you abide by the rules and you do not bring your own conditions.  Klaus says he would like fewer countries in the EU, however the move is on to expand the number of countries from 15 to 25 by May, 2004. 

"The process of creating new rules is a heavy burden.  Drafting a constitution has huge implications; dual citizenship will be introduced.  We need economic convergence," Klaus said.