Som annonceret (og siden hen diskuteret) her på Punditokraterne skal Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty uddeles i år. Vinderen er netop blevet udpeget og det blev Estlands tidligere premierminister Mart Laar, der tilskrives æren for Estlands økonomiske mirakel.
Fra motivationen hedder det bl.a.:
Throughout his public life, Laar has embodied the values of liberty and free choice recognized by the prize, and his dedication to these ideals helped him to lead his country to economic prosperity through a radical free market program.
Today, Estonia is hailed as a model for emerging democracies and is cited as an example that ailing Western European economies should follow too. Consistently near the top of the Economic Freedom of the World Index, Estonia is now a member of NATO, the EU and the WTO, with well over 90 percent of its formerly state-run economy privatized.
When Laar took the reins of power of the newly independent country in 1992, he was only 32 years old, and Estonia was struggling to heal from the wounds of Soviet occupation. Laar believed that the way to ensure success for Estonia was to cultivate freedom and self-determination. In only two years in office, he negotiated the withdrawal of Russian troops from Estonian soil and introduced the kroon, one of Eastern Europe's most stable currencies. He also instituted a flat tax rate, a move which has been widely copiedeven in Russia. Under Laar, Estonia removed price controls, discounted useless regulations, and saw the largest real per capita income of any of the former Communist states.
But as Laar, who served two terms as prime minister, has pointed out, he is not an economist: "I had read only one book on economicsMilton Friedman's Free to Choose. I was so ignorant at the time that I thought that what Friedman wrote about the benefits of privatization, the flat tax and the abolition of all customs rights, was the result of economic reforms that had been put into practice in the West. It seemed common sense to me and, as I thought it had already been done everywhere, I simply introduced it in Estonia, despite warnings from Estonian economists that it could not be done. They said it was as impossible as walking on water. We did it: we just walked on the water because we did not know that it was impossibe".