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Austrian Academy 2023

Fabian Bogg - Event report for those interested in opportunities to learn more about market functioning, libertarian thought, and contemporary threats

Not intended to rob readers of the scarce good called “time”, I must start off by stressing that the event is almost fully held in German. While I wholeheartedly invite everyone to keep reading yet, the proficiency of the language is a participation requirement for the event. Before jumping to my experience as participant, I will spend a few lines to answer the self-evident question “What is the Austrian Academy?”.

The Austrian Academy is an annual event organized by the Austrian Institute of Economics & Social Philosophy. The topical focus lies on individual liberty and free market though as well as philosophical implications. Topics are covered in presentations by renowned lecturers and corresponding discussions.

Usually held in September south of Vienna for 4 days, the Institute handpicks around 20 excellent and intellectually curious people using a question-based online application process. Practicing what it preaches, the Institute’s process is meritocratic. The lucky few selected that way are generously invited to the event with all costs (excl. transportation) covered.

Keeping aside the immaculate organization before the event had even started, what really stroke me at first was the group of attendees selected for the Austrian Academy 2023. Undoubtedly, this was not an average group but instead the cream of the crop. To just point to a few properties, the group included a designated COO of a medium-sized company, one if not several ongoing diplomats, and the founders of a libertarian youth association – let alone, the many people with outsized influence in the political or economic sphere. While this would be an exceptional group under any circumstances, it must be kept in mind that the program is not open to anybody older than 30.

Luckily, the lecturer’ quality did not blur that picture in any way. We had the pleasure to attentively follow lectures by ubiquitous experts like Franz Schellhorn, founder of the classical liberal think tank Agenda Austria, or Claudia Wirz, an active journalist with more than 2 decades of experience including stints at the world-renowned NZZ and authorship of several books. While one might reasonably argue that there are also other ways to listen to these experts, what truly distinguishes the Austrian Academy in my eyes is the chance to get to know lecturers outside the formal setting of the “classroom”. What that means is that lecturers not only visit for their 90 minutes of speech and subsequently leave. Instead, they stay with the attendee group for a longer period – often till the end of the Academy – joining them for dinners and other societal activities and listening to some of the further lecturers. This enabled our group to get to know the lecturers better, ask numerous questions in an informal setting and develop a personal relationship that is invaluable.

My absolute highlight of the academy, however, were Stefan Kooths’ ingenious explanations bringing together the concepts of opportunity costs and comparative cost advantages. His inferences of how economic growth likewise helps less and not innovative market participants were breath-taking. This presentation of concepts developed by Ludwig von Mises creates appetite for more. (After 5 years of university and several dozens of economics lectures,) I did not know economics could be so logical and intuitive!

All in all, I can only suggest to each curious adolescent to take his chance to join the academy. Not only does it broaden your economic and philosophical horizon, but also does it allow you to create a great network of unique individuals.

“A few lines of reasoning can change the way we see the world.” – Steven E. Landsburg

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