Faculty Spotlight Interview: Philipp Bagus
Philipp Bagus is professor of economics at Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid. He earned his Bachelor and Master at the University of Münster and his Ph.D. from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos with Jesús Huerta de Soto as his adviser on a thesis on deflation. He is the author of The Tragedy of the Euro – How Political Interests Created a Self-destroying System (forthcoming) and Deep Freeze: Global Credit Markets and the Icelandic Financial Crisis (forthcoming with co-author David Howden). He has published articles mainly on monetary and business cycle theory in The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics, Libertarian Papers, Journal of Libertarian Studies, The Review of Austrian Economics, Procesos de Mercado, Economic Affairs, New Perspectives on Political Economy and the Journal of Business Ethics among others. For more on Philipp Bagus go to http://www.philippbagus.com
What do you like to do in your free time? Do you have any hobbies?
In my free time I like to enjoy good company, read, watch movies or go to the opera. As hobbies I play tennis and the piano.
What drew you to the Austrian school and to the Ludwig von Mises Institute?
In high school I got involved in a German political party, the FDP. From the start I didn´t like the political business too much but was more interested in the theoretical foundations of liberalism. The think tank of the FDP edits some books on classical liberalism. I ordered them and started reading. Rothbard´s Ethics of Liberty opened my eyes. It seemed to say something obvious that no one had had the guts to talk to me about before. I also read Mises Liberalism. The book had an introduction written by Hans-Hermann Hoppe. I was intrigued that the Austrian tradition was still alive and that a German thinker would play an important role in it. Considering how socialist Germany appeared to me, that was indeed a surprise. I found Hoppe´s email address on the internet and just mailed him during my draft. He recommended me to come to Mises University which I did in 2001. That was my first contact with the Institute. It was a fantastic experience and intellectual very stimulating. Gabriel Calzada and Ingolf Krumm recommended me to come to Madrid to study with Huerta de Soto.
Who is your greatest inspiration?
Mises and the tremendous strength that he has shown in the most adverse circumstances. A great transmitter of energy and enthusiasm for me is Jesús Huerta de Soto.
What is the atmosphere like for Austrian scholars in Spain? Are they more accepted?
I think Austrians are more accepted in Spain than for instance in Germany. At least they are stronger at Universities and in the media. At our University Rey Juan Carlos Austrians are a small and respected group. We have our own very well functioning Master program in Austrian economics and collaborate well with the rest of the department. The Juan de Mariana Institute is also a powerful force for Austrian scholarship. Due to large Austrian circles the atmosphere for Austrians in Madrid is fantastic. It is the new Vienna.
Can you tell us more about your new work coming out? What is its focus and message?
I have often been asked, how does the ECB work? We have heard much about the Fed but no one talks about the ECB. In my new book The Tragedy of the Euro I answer this question and analyze the workings of the European monetary system and compare it to the Fed´s. A decisive distinction is that in the European Monetary System several independent governments may use the printing press, i.e. the ECB, in order to finance their deficits. This setup contains explosive incentives. I also explain the broader historical background of the European Union and how and why the Euro was introduced against the vital interests of the German people. The main message is that in its current form the system is self-destructive, it is a tragedy of the commons.
What kind of impact do you hope to make with your work?
I would like people to understand the perverse monetary setup of the European Monetary System. I would love to see especially Germans to wake up and to protest against this system that works to their detriment. I would like readers to understand the importance of the liberalization of the monetary system and to realize the self-destructing tendencies of interventionism and, thereby, contribute a little to the restoration of liberty in the field of money.
Are there any words of wisdom you wish to pass onto the next generation of Austrian scholars?
Ha. Ask me about wisdom in 30 years again. For now let me say that I admire the generation of Austrian scholars that came before my generation and had to find their place as scholars 20 or 30 years ago. They worked in much more adverse circumstances than we do today. My generation has it much easier. It can more easily communicate and relate with fellow Austrians, present papers, go to conferences and publish. The group is much bigger and Mises Institute and other institutions are very supportive. I am very optimistic that the next generation of Austrian scholars will have it even easier. But still, it will be an uphill battle against the establishment and statist interests. So press on and ne cede malis.