At a time when populist sentiments are on the rise on both sides of the Atlantic, the leader of one former Communist nation has affirmed that free markets open across borders are a blessing. In a new essay at Religion & Liberty Transatlantic, Mihail Neamtu, Ph.D., argues that the wealth created by foreign investment furthers the national interest.
In his new commentary, titled “Romania chooses prosperity over populism,” he recounts the nation’s unusually bold embrace of international capital. Urged to keep foreigners out of its economy or restrict their investment, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis replied in perhaps the most pointed manner possible:
President Iohannis – a former mayor of Sibiu, a scenic medieval town built by the Saxons – has “categorically rejected recent populist attempts to oppose foreign investments to Romanian capital, multinational companies to Romanian SMEs [small and medium enterprises],” according to Romanian press reports. On April 25, the head of state addressed a large group of business leaders, telling them that his “deepest conviction is that Romanian entrepreneurship will be strengthened by a stronger cooperation with foreign investors.”
At a pivotal moment, facing nationalist pressures within his own country, Klaus Iohannis did not say “Buy Romanian, Hire Romanian.” Why? Because everywhere in the world, smaller countries are bound to buy products they themselves do not produce.
Affirming foreign ownership is the latest setback for populists, after the defeat of Marine Le Pen in France and the re-election of Mark Rutte in the Netherlands, based in part on international economic cooperation.
Neamtu, the subject of the cover story from our the first issue of our revamped Religion & Liberty magazine, asks if modern political commentators aren’t confused in juxtaposing nationalism against capitalism. While patriots maintain allegiance to their nation, that means following its best interests, and free markets are the engine that fuel social growth and development at every level of society. Economies are built upon capital investment. Whether the funding originates inside or outside the nation, the businesses help each individual nation thrive and develop, becoming part of the national landscape.
He writes that this openness to global capital inflow is part of the long arc of Romania’s economic recovery from Marxism – although significant challenges still remain:
After 1989, the Romanian economy has recovered slowly but surely. For nearly two decades, the political elites encouraged the administrators of the welfare state to exercise monopoly over many important industries. In the most arbitrary manner, the government has offered electoral bribes to ordinary people and subsidies for its leaders’ many business friends.
After Romania jointed NATO and the EU, its economic vibrancy started to pick up. In 2016, this former satellite of the Soviet Union boasted with one of the strongest economic growth inside the EU (nearly five percent of its GDP). Foreign investments increased 20 percent from the previous year and the unemployment rate in Bucharest and Transylvania is remarkably low.
His perceptive commentary traces the many ways a free economy and the free movement of labor has benefited the Romanian people.
“The most patriotic dreams are sometimes fulfilled by economic measures that open up the space for free trade, for the free movement of people, and for the free exchange of ideas,” he writes. “The absence of a genuine competition among various economic actors and nations usurps the innovative powers of human intelligence and will.”
“At all times and in all places, individual freedom remains the bedrock of moral virtues and the long-kept secret of prosperity,” he adds.
You can read his full essay here.