The Hayek Lifetime Achievement Award 2021 goes to Veselin Vukotić
This year the Hayek Lifetime Achievement Award goes to Veselin Vukotić, “for his tireless efforts and being a pioneer in promoting Austrian Economics during transition, his advancement of economic understanding and for raising the general level of economic education in Montenegro, the Balkans, and abroad.” The Award has attained much prestige over the years. Previous awardees include Niall Ferguson, Deirdre McCloskey, Arthur B. Laffer, Mario Vargas Llosa, Peter Thiel, Richard J. Stephenson, Gloria Alvarez, Richard Rahn, Leonard Liggio, and Dambisa Moyo.
Vukotić, who is a scholar, public intellectual, and entrepreneur, was appropriately honoured by individuals that have also made their mark in both academia and public life. The Laudatio was given by Hannes Gissurarson, a renowned economist from Iceland, who outlined Vukotić’s happy conversion to the Austrian School of Economics and his deft application of the School’s principles to Montenegro. Austrian National Bank Governor Robert Holzmann also spoke in honour of Vukotić. Adding their signatures to the Award are: Barbara Kolm, Julian Hadschieff, Vernon Smith, Richard Zundritsch, Hardy Bouillon, and Prince Michael of Liechtenstein.
The Conference and Gala in Vukotić’s honour were supported by Ingo Friedrich of the Europäischer Wirtschaftssenat (EWS), without which none of this would have been possible, Philipp Baar-Baarenfels (AXA IM), Christoph Traunig (St. Stephen Capital), Stefan Zapotocky (RPR Group), Adam Lessing (LGT Bank), Franz Portisch (Sparkassenverband), and Christian Egger (7M).
A Toast to Freedom
To what does Vukotić owe his place among such esteemed company? Vukotić hails from the Balkan region. History and tumult are more recent there. Many still have all-too-vivid memories of the atrocities engendered by the breakup of Yugoslavia. A region in crisis needed stability – and ideas. Vukotić answered the call. Born in 1949 in Montenegro, Vukotić studied economics and, as with many advocates of the Austrian School, he initially became familiar with it as a school to be maligned. Friedrich von Hayek was criticized by his professors as an “Austrian reactionary”. To confirm – or disabuse himself of – his professors’ suspicions, Vukotić began reading Hayek. Little else was needed to prove that there was more to Hayek than meets the eye. Gissurarson’s experience was similar. As was mine.
Vukotić’s activities were both academic and political. He became assistant professor at the State University of Montenegro as well as a member of government and director of the Central Planning Institute, where he advocated anything but central planning. As a public official, he drafted simple and clear laws concerning privatization. As an academic, he founded the international postgraduate studies programme “Entrepreneurial Economics” in 1992, which he calls the birth of the Austrian School in Montenegro. It wasn’t enough to opt for reform in lieu of revolution; reform sometimes just masks reality. A cultural change is necessary. Education is indispensable. Accordingly, in 1998 Vukotić founded the Institute for Strategic Studies and Prognoses (ISSP), which has been invaluable in fostering the ideas of the Austrian School in Montenegro.
But what next? Vukotić then endeavoured to combine his entrepreneurial acumen with his undying devotion to education by co-founding a private university, the University of Donja Gorica (UDG). It was built on the principles of the Austrian School and it has been effective at teaching them. Its success is astounding – it boasts fully one-quarter of the student population of Montenegro. Professors from all over teach there, including AEC’s own Director Barbara Kolm. UDG has international projects and research collaborations with universities from around the world.
Vukotić’s ventures are inspiring and a model to all who desire to serve their country in a state of transition, both in the field of public service and in academia. It is for this, and his ceaseless efforts to educate his compatriots to prosperity, that we honour him.
Scott B. Nelson is Research and Strategy Advisor at the Austrian Economics Center and Hayek Institut. He lectures on politics and philosophy and publishes books, scholarly articles, and commentary. His last book is Tragedy and History: The German Influence on Raymond Aron’s Political Thought. His next book is on Cicero and prudence in politics.
The AEC’s fundamental goal is to promote a free, responsible and prosperous society. Through education and improving public understanding of key economic questions, the AEC promotes the idea of a free market economy and the ideal of a free society.