Juan Bautista Alberdi (1810 – 1888)
During the Mont Pèlerin Society meeting in Guatemala in 1991, Professor Leonard P. Liggio after exalting the contribution of John Adams (1797-1801), asked if there were any similar figures in Latin American history. He argued, “It is necessary to identify them, then re-examine their analysis of constitutions and institutions and show North and South America the value of their contributions. Classical liberals have an important Latin American research agenda before them.” Juan Bautista Alberdi (1810 – 1888) is one such founding father of Latin American liberties. If we do not have more freedoms in Latin America is because tyrants of yesterday and today have been conducting a continuous conspiracy of silence toward his work. Rather than being required reading across the continent, Alberdi’s works are largely ignored, even in his native country, Argentina.
Like many of his compatriots, Alberdi spent more time outside than inside Argentina. He was a towering intellectual figure. He was a member of the Economic Society in Paris, as well as the Historical Institute of the French Geographic Society; member of the Academy of History in Madrid; member of the Geographic Society of Berlin; Envoy and Minister of the Argentine Confederation to the Court of London. Alberdi was the greatest champion of economic freedom in South America. After the adoption of the Argentine Constitution in 1853, his native country saw a period of unprecedented economic development which lasted until the 1940’s. He warned us about the dangers of war in his magnificent essay, “The Crime of War” and of totalitarian governments in his, “The Omnipotence of the State is the Negation of Individual Liberty.”
As “The Crime of War” showed, Alberdi was not afraid to criticize his own country, even during war time. Though a great champion of the republican system of government, he was aware that not all people would use political freedoms properly. He wrote, “I do not share the un-experienced fanaticism, if not hypocritical, that calls for a full load of political liberties for populations that only know how to employ them to create its own tyrants.” He recommended beginning reforms with civil liberties, especially economic freedoms. Author of countless books, monographs and newspaper articles, and even musical works, he is one of the greatest champions of freedom ever to walk this world. It is fitting then that this first award, conferred to him by the Hispanic American Center for Economic Research and its panel of independent judges, is going to Alvaro Vargas Llosa. Latin America needs new Alberdis, and what better way than to call renewed attention to his contributions, and reward the new generation of authors who are courageously defending liberty in America with his same courage and sometimes even greater eloquence.
The winner of this first Alberdi award is one of the great standard-bearers of liberty today. He was born in Latin America, and has traveled the world disseminating the ideas of liberty. Historian and talented journalist, he has carried his ideas forward through the most prestigious North American, European and Latin media outlets. He has reached multitudes with his convictions that prosperity depends on one basic winning formula: give individuals the power to choose.
He is a member of the International Foundation for Liberty, Fundación Internacional para la Libertad, Director of the Center for Global Prosperity of the Independent Institute and, as a superb speaker and communicator he is in constant demand to address global economic and political issues. He has become one of the most recognized voices around the world promoting personal freedoms.
The winner this year has written several outstanding books and his most recent bestseller, Liberty for Latin America, won the 2006 Sir Antony Fisher Award given by the Atlas Economic Research Foundation. The Alberdi award is a new recognition added to Alvaro Vargas Llosa’s illustrious career in the world of ideas and the promotion of liberty.