Mannkal Economic Education Foundation

Mannkal Student Internship Blog

Liberty Forum of Greece

Chris Hendrickson | The Final Countdown | Week 8

Chris Hendrickson, 27 February 2017

It may not be snow covered, but it's still quite a view

It seems a week can’t pass without disruptions to the public sector. Many public transport employees went on strike on Thursday with little cause, although from what I could find out there were two reasons made very clear. The first was protesting to the addition of commercial and retail stores within train and metro stations.

I’m not sure if this is a legitimate reason, or simply something to whinge about. Although it seems as if these public servants abhor increased economic output. The second reason was to turn a long weekend into a potential 5 day weekend, by striking Thursday and having “other issues” on the Friday, or so I was told.

The Liberty Forum hosted an interesting event this week presented by Professor Hatzis, discussing Liberalism and Economic Inequality. I didn’t have a chance to understand everything that was said since it was all in Greek, but I certainly noticed when Australia got an honourable mention for having ‘the most efficient welfare system in the world’.

It was also pleasant to see many other university students in attendance at this event. I hope in the future there will be events dedicated to educating Greek students on liberty, the free market and how beneficial they are to society.

I could see my apartment, I think

Sadly, I didn’t get the opportunity to spend my final free weekend atop the snow covered mountains at Parnassus. The bus company I booked transport with decided to cancel the bus, last minute and it wasn’t until later that morning I found out.

I awoke at 4 am, ready to catch the bus and waited until 6.30 am before giving up waiting. It was quite disappointing not going, so instead I climbed another mountain, much closer to Athens, Mount Lycabettus.

Amphitheatre at Lycabettus

I nearly managed to hitchhike a ride up to Parnassus; on the way back to my apartment, I came across another gentleman in full ski gear, carrying his ski’s on his shoulder. I stopped him to ask if he was going to Parnassus by bus; he was going by car with others and promptly called them, without me asking, to ask if there was space for me in the car.

His gesture of kindness was very unexpected and one I won’t ever forget.

Preparing to leave has been difficult. I’ve made many good friendships with the people I’ve met and worked with, and saying farewell is always difficult. I will definitely return to Greece in the near future, especially to enjoy ouzo and souvlaki again with my new lifelong friends.

"Save Water, Drink Raki"

Chris Hendrickson | There is no rest for the free | Week 7

Chris Hendrickson, 20 February 2017

As another week whizzes by, I find myself only getting busier. Although relatively quiet in regards to events, I am reminded of an old childhood game; “Heads down, Thumbs up”, except there has been no time for thumbs up, all of my fingers have been furiously typing away in preparation for my final week.

Left-Imperialists against the IMF and EU

Being in contact with the FNF has granted me a unique opportunity in the form of an invitation to attend a conference hosted by the European Liberty Forum (ELF) and organised by the Greek chapter of the European Liberal Youth (LYMEC).

I will spend my last two days in Greece at this conference discussing the migration and integration of “The New Europeans”; those fleeing from neighbouring regions into Europe.

The “entry fee” to this event is, a minimum 1000 word, article relating to the topic. I hope to offer a unique Australian perspective on migration, hoping that the European policy makers can learn from our history and avoid the same mistakes as we did regarding the White Australia Policy.

A mass protest happening just around the corner from the office

A disruptive highlight of the week was a large protest on Tuesday, which saw the gathering of hundreds of agricultural workers from all over Greece. I didn’t feel too comfortable sticking around; given that the crowd identified as the Populist Left-Imperialists, being somewhat liberal among this crowd seemed almost suicide.

There was a large police presence around the scene, cutting off a large part of central Athens and creating some very heavy traffic, thankfully the protest didn’t turn violent.

I was slightly disappointed that the farmers didn’t drive their tractors into the city though, which, I am told, actually happened last year causing even greater disturbances in the city.

Although, it turns out many workers from the public sector were allowed to leave their jobs to join the protest. It would have been a bad day to need something from any of the public services.

My  free time this week at home has been spent busily arranging my final, free, weekend. I have planned to travel to Parnassus mountain for some snow activities, as well as a day trip to ancient Delphi which is a short drive east from the ski slopes.

I anticipate spending a lot of time on my backside as I get reacquainted with a snowboard, though there won’t be time for neither rest nor complaints as I have much to prepare before I leave next week.

I'll certainly miss walking through these doors

Chris Hendrickson | A Lifelong Dream | Week 6

Chris Hendrickson, 13 February 2017

The birthplace of the Modern Olympic Games

Six months ago I wouldn’t have imagined being where I am today. I have been so lucky to intern in Athens, the foundation of western civilisation and culture. Yet here I am, alongside champions of liberty in a time of statism, fighting for what their forefathers believed in; freedom and truth.

February’s edition of the the Liberty Forum’s “Tuesdays with KEFiM” saw the gathering of many great minds to discuss the Greek banking system and new business landscape. Encouraging the Greek youth to participate in the discussion of liberal ideas was also a topic mentioned in the Q&A time.

One of the projects I have been working on in collaboration with the Freidrich Naumann Foundation and Students for Liberty, I hope, will significantly impact the LFG’s efforts to include the Greek youth in future events.

A Gold Medal for Liberty

I was surprised this week too, when I was asked by Alexander Skouras to assist him with analysis work. One of the Atlas Network and the LFG social media projects is the LearnLiberty.gr Facebook page. The online resources of LearnLiberty.org are subtitled in Greek and distributed via the page, a brilliant source of information for budding economists and libertarians alike.

Taking data from Facebook’s insights feature, we hope to understand more about the pages viewers to better deliver the resources and increase the reach of our ideas to the wider community.

The five page long article I have been writing only needs to be translated into Greek before it can be distributed. The primary aim of the article is to shine a light on the Greek economic crisis, from a non-statist perspective; a view not popular with many Greeks.

Despite the unexpected dominance of SYRIZA,an extremely left-wing party, in the 2015 election, I have found many Greeks are disillusioned with their government. Facilitating discussion of liberal ideas on saving Greece is the secondary goal of the article. Repairing Greece, One Policy at a time.

The Vaulted Passage; Cave of the Olympic athletes

I was truly inspired over the weekend during my visit to the Panathenaic stadium, the birthplace of the Modern Olympic games, the first of which was held in 1896 in that very stadium. For almost a millennia this stadium, adorned with white marble, was the centre of tradition unrivalled in the ancient world.

During the rise of Christianity in Roman times, the stadium, regarded as a pagan ritual site, became derelict. It wasn’t until until 1894, when a French aristocrat organised International Olympic Conference and the President, a Greek, persuaded the delegation to host the first modern Olympic games at the stadium, 1700 years after its sad fall from glory.

In four years time, my resolution to be standing on the podium in Japan receiving the gold medal for baseball, representing Australia at the 2020 Olympics, has never been stronger. It’s been a life long dream to represent Australia at the Olympics. Standing in the same stadium where the ancient and modern Olympic games were hosted I experienced an epiphany. My name could, one day, join the ranks of countless other athletes who had become champions at the highest level.

Chris Hendrickson | Week 5

Chris Hendrickson, 6 February 2017

My third New Years cake

As time flies by, I still find myself learning more about my hosts here in Athens. We ended last week with our annual budget meeting with Markus Kieser and Athanassios Grammenos of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation.

Since the reestablishment of the Liberty Forum of Greece as an independent think tank five years ago, the FNF (Friedrich Naumann Foundation) has been financially supporting projects and the growth of the organisation.

After speaking with Nicos Rompapas, I have even been given the freedom to pursue one of the projects I have been working on, to collaborate with the FNF office here in Athens.

I am hoping that this project will eventuate in Mannkal-style educaton and discussion seminars for students here in Greece. Though we must first find students to invite to this seminar! The first part of my project being to create and conduct a survey to find these students.

Local Young Liberals (more like Students for Liberty) and new friends

Making new friends with Ouzo

Meeting with the scientific board of the Liberty Forum this week has been a valuable experience. Discussing my article in depth and having noted academics reviewing my work has certainly improved the quality as well as given me valuable insight into the current Greek crisis. I am hoping to finalise and publish my article next week, so keep an eye out for some light reading.

Chris Hendrickson | Week 4

Chris Hendrickson, 30 January 2017

It’s hard to believe that this week marks the halfway point of my time here in Athens with the Liberty Forum. Time seems to be flying past.

Charging my phone with a bike at Brussels Airport

This week began with a good discussion with Nicos Rompapas about the projects I’ve been working on. His support for the project ideas that I’d had and praise for my work was motivating. My next step for the two projects I’ve been working on, is to contact the scientific board and ask them to review the work I’ve done.

Their input will improve the quality of my writing as well as help me to translate it all into Greek; translation, a difficult task. However, our chat did indicate one thing to me about the article I’ve been writing; I needed to restart it. It was a long article, written in a scholarly format whereas it needed to be more of a story, something that people want to read for enjoyment and not because they’re researching for a thesis.

The following day, I completely re-wrote my article. From 8.50 am, when I showed up to the office, I was in the zone. It turns out the re-written article is longer than the initial article. Although, I hope, it is far more engaging. The article looks at the Asian Financial Crisis of the late nineties, compares Greece’s financial crisis to the Asian crisis, and suggests policy changes to combat the crisis.

Naturally, these suggestions revolve around tax reduction and ways to effectively use the free market to promote GDP growth.

Lunch in Lyon with old exchange friends

One of the many perks of being in Europe, is the close proximity of the European countries. Taking full advantage of this, I spent the weekend in Lyon with some close friends, more like extended family, from my student exchange in Taiwan.

Unfortunately many other friends were unable to join us, though we had an amazing time catching up. Many years later, nothing has changed between us, we are all still as close as we were on exchange.

The cathedral of Saint Jean

Chris Hendrickson | Week 3

Chris Hendrickson, 30 January 2017

Theodora and I taking centre stage

Getting a taste for the real working world is both exhilarating and terrifying. Exhilarating as every day is different and challenging, but terrifying because it is all such a new experience.

Every day I am fortunate enough to meet more and more people who are responsible for the Liberty Forum’s inception, creation and functioning. I was invited to a social evening by the Liberal Alliance, a small political group here in Greece, where I met many interesting people and took part in a local tradition. Within the party are many people who are involved behind the scenes with my hosts as beneficiaries or board members. This is despite the Liberty Forum being non-partisan and without political affiliation. It is important for us to not be seen as a political organisation, especially a liberal one, since the “Anarchists” are known to randomly attack people with associations to the right. I’ve been told this is especially important for my own safety as my accommodation here in Greece is at the heart of the Anarchist territory. Though, this is not something to be concerned about as they only become violent when they protest, which has generally been when more austerity measures are passing through government or bailout conditions, set by Greece’s creditors and the IMF, are being implemented.

A local tradition; the coin in the pie brings fortune for a year

I am also lucky enough to be visiting France to meet with some old friends, from past travels, in Lyon for the weekend. I will try to not make everyone jealous about the Nutella crêpes and fresh croissant I plan to be enjoying, though I can’t make any promises.

Discussing ideas on liberalism with Liberal Alliance members

Chris Hendrickson | Week 2

Chris Hendrickson, 16 January 2017

The Ancient Parthenon of the Acropolis

Be the first to arrive and the last to leave is an old proverb I’ve learnt through my travels and I’ve always kept this philosophy in mind. Though, I did not expect to arrive home after midnight on Monday after a long day at the office. This was not because of the freak snow storm, but an event hosted at The Hilton by the Liberty Forum.

I’ve found the most difficult thing about doing a project is waiting for replies to your emails asking for information. I can’t do much more without the information I’ve requested, yet I was not without a something to do for long. I unexpectedly received a call at the office from a member of the board of directors and one of the directors at the Atlas Network, Alexander Skouras.

We spoke briefly about the work I was doing up to that point, offered me his support and, in collaboration with the Liberty Forum’s executive director Nicos Rompapas, discussed projects I would work on in the coming weeks. I was asked by Mr. Skouras to come up with ideas of my own and to email him the results, at which point I jumped with excitement and quickly wrote down some ideas in my notebook to explore. I am hoping to pitch my ideas and, if successful, begin working on them on Monday.

The Odeon of Herodes Atticus

The entrance to the Acropolis of Athens

The weekend was even more interesting than my week at the office, if that’s believable. I took myself on a tour around some of ancient Athens, including the Ancient Agora, the Acropolis and National Archaeological museum. The preservation of these sites and the artefacts on display was incredible, especially considering the Turkish used the Parthenon as a gunpowder magazine. In 1687 the magazine was hit by artillery during a siege and it exploded, causing great damage to the site.

Enjoying the snow storm in Athens

I was also invited to an evening drinks event by the Liberal Alliance, one of Greece’s libertarian political parties, on Thursday night. This was again, another late night of networking and socialising. However, liberal ways of thinking are severely shunned by many in Greece and so the group is small. For now.

Chris Hendrickson – Athens | Week 1

Chris Hendrickson, 9 January 2017

To be early, is to be on time are the words that echoed in my mind when I arrived at the office early on Tuesday morning, ready to begin my time with the Liberty Forum of Greece. But after an email and short phone conversation with my operations manager, I realised I was twenty four hours too early.

Athens is a historically rich city, with its fair share of museums and historical sites all within thirty minutes walking distance from my apartment. Despite signs of the recent economic crisis, life continues as normal for the people of Athens. Although in my short time here, it is clear to me that the people of Athens have been deeply impacted by the crisis. The closure of many local businesses as I walk the streets to the office or for just a causal stroll, is the first and most obvious sign.

For those businesses that are still open, cash is the preferred method of trading. When I enquired why this was the case, I was told it is a result of high commissions set by banks. Additionally, it is the preferred method as cash sales are more easily hidden and businesses won’t have to pay as much tax as they would with electronic fund transfers. Which is the next, albeit more hidden, indication of the crisis.

The highest tax rate I have seen so far was 24%, which I saw on the receipt after dinner on my first night, though it is possible that it’s higher in other industries. These high taxes were put in place to bolster government coffers so that Greek national debts can be repaid to their benefactors in time, without need for another bail out. The few people I have spoken to about this have said that they don’t pay taxes if they can avoid them, not because they do not wish Greece to be out of debt, but because they themselves do not have money to pay them. With an unemployment rate at 23.1% as of last September, it does not bode well for the future of the Greek economy.

The first project I have been given to work on at the Liberty Forum is a mapping task. I have been searching for  influential Greeks  in Australia and reading about their impacts on its development. Monday morning I shall contact the Embassy and the Chamber of Commerce with Thomas Gazis, operations manager at the Liberty Forum, for a list of Greek entrepreneurs and businesses. For my tasks next week, we will sort through information we are given for what we need.