Today I attended the Atlas Foundation's monthly International Thursday. It was a great event with individuals from a variety of backgrounds both in the audience and on the panel speaking about the prospects of liberty in the international arena. As a place to learn about the prospects of liberty from abroad, the Atlas Foundation is a great source.
One of the interesting points brought up was by panelist Damian Merlo ( at the Otto Reich Associates). He pointed out that while corruption plagues most countries in the Western hemisphere, it can be combated by companies who are dedicated to follow the rule of law. One example he provided was how a national government demanded 20% of a project's budget in a South American country for it to move forward (beyond any legal permit fees or anything like that). How did Otto Reich Associates challenge this? They did not give in, they did not negotiate, they did not try any complex scare tactics. They simply asked to meet with the President of the country to discuss the project. As soon as the request was made, the extortion demand went away and their meeting was a friendly "we're glad we both have the country's interests in mind." A mere acknowledgement that corruption is taking place and desire to bring it to light even between the government and the business was enough to make it go away.
But perhaps the highlight of the event came at the end when Alexandre Pesey, the Directing General (if the translation was butchered, I apologize) of L'Institut de Formation Politique in France pointed out that there is hope yet for his country to combat socialism. President Nicolas Sarkozy has been an advocate of liberty in the country and won his last election by a large margin of voters. Not only that, but he is a conservative candidate who supports a new economic model for France that eases government restrictions on work. Referring to discussions with many people on a one-on-one basis in France, he said that dissatisfaction with the extreme economic limitations in the country is rising significantly and the national debt is becoming so overwhelming that people are beginning to worry. Will France completely reform in the next five years? Obviously not. But the recent history of the country shows promise towards a freer society.