The Guatemalan economic miracle and the man who helped it happen: Manuel Ayau

Interesting article and had no idea about this. We barely know anything about small economies, leave people who tried shaping/changing them.

It talks about Manuel Ayau who believed in free and prosperous Guatemala:

Unfortunately, Guatemala is a poor country, but we were richly blessed by the late Manuel “Muso” Ayau, who was born here in 1925.

……

What can an honest citizen do to change a poor country for the better? Muso knew the recipe. Let me tell you how I interpret this Guatemalan hero’s vision and how his legacy contributes toward building a prosperous Guatemala.

Our country is full of smart and passionate people. We have splendid weather, bountiful natural resources, and a strategic location with access to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. So why is Guatemala poor? The reason lies in our weak institutions and flawed ideas, not in a lack of resources. Changing ideas so people support institutional reform, and then making those institutions work in people’s favor to create a prosperous society were the challenges that Muso tackled.

…..

Muso believed in education, especially the education of intellectuals and other influencers to ensure a proper understanding of economic principles and the philosophy of freedom. Then, when these thinkers actually run public institutions someday, they would be well-prepared to succeed.

In 1958, he co-founded the Center for Economic–Social Studies (CEES), which began publishing and disseminating its own analyses of Guatemalan issues and also translating and distributing classic works in freedom literature such as Frederic Bastiat’s The Law.

Muso was convinced that a small group of people could change a whole country for good. He had heard FEE’s founder and personal friend Leonard Read say on many occasions that “every great movement has been led originally by an infinitesimal minority.” He was also inspired by the small elite of profound thinkers we call America’s Founders.

He established Universidad Francisco Marroquín (UFM) in 1971 which has made Economic Philosophy a compulsory course:

Once he set his mind on fostering a free and prosperous Guatemala, it wasn’t a deterrent to him that only a few shared his perspective. Undaunted by obstacles and skepticism, he founded Universidad Francisco Marroquín (UFM) in 1971, now a leading private university in Guatemala City, one of the finest in Latin America, and a beacon of freedom ideas. UFM, where academic excellence is a passion, is where I studied business.

Muso established a rule at the founding of the University: Every student, no matter what his or her major field of study, must enroll and pass the “Economic Process and Philosophy” courses. Those courses acquaint students with the “Austrian School” of Economics, particularly the insights of two giants among 20th Century economists, Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich A. Hayek. With that policy in practice at the university now for more than 40 years, solid free-market economic ideas have been spreading, slowly but surely, across the country.

UFM is without a doubt the most important and enduring achievement of Manuel Ayau.

A businessman and engineer by formal training, Muso learned economics on his own. He was an autodidact. A key influence on him was his friendship with Nobel laureate Hayek, who convinced him to start a university. Hayek had observed with dismay how the London School of Economics had inculcated Britain’s intellectual elite for decades with socialist ideas which then became the platform of the Labour Party. He thought Muso could do just the opposite with a university in Guatemala that focused on freedom and free markets.

UFM is without a doubt the most important and enduring achievement of Manuel Ayau. His energy and his spirit endow every building and room on a stunning campus—in particular, the Mises Library, the Hayek Auditorium, the Atlas Libertas Sculpture, and the Liberty Plaza.

The University teaches free-market economics and the philosophy of freedom to influential leaders of the future. The budget of UFM amounts to more than $30 million per year, a very significant figure for Guatemala. Visiting intellectuals from all over the world ensure lively discussions that keep the professors experts on the most innovative trends and ideas.

Fascinating bit…

 

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