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The Golden Umbrella Awards

Many of the Samizdatistas attended the Stockholm Network‘s Golden Umbrella Awards last night, an event that was described to me as the ‘Free Market Oscars’. The intention is to encourage the people working in the varied pro-market think-tanks and advocacy groups around the world by acknowledging their contributions to the cause of liberty.

In truth I attended with moderate expectations as I have struggled to say awake through all too many award ceremonies, but was surprised at how well the event was managed and produced and although it may damage my credentials as a cynic, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Helen Disney, the Stockholm Network’s CEO, is one of the most focused and appealing people on the free market scene and her team, such as Tim Evans (who as many of you know, also wears a Libertarian Alliance hat), should be congratulated on managing such a great event. The Master (Mistress, surely?) of Ceremonies was Dr. Karen Horn of the Cologne Institute for Economic Research and former economics editor for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. She was an outstanding choice, attractive, witty and very engaging, thus setting a wonderful tone for the evening.

The after-dinner speech was delivered by C. Boyden Gray, the imposing US Ambassador to the EU. He is a terrific speaker and I found his less than flattering remarks about the US legal profession most endearing. There was very little to disagree with in his advocacy of reducing limits to free trade and he was frank about how this needs to happen on both sides of the Atlantic.

Another notably good speaker was Ján Čarnogurský, the former Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic. In fact the only speaker who hit the wrong note was Iain Duncan Smith MP, who launched into a defence of his own think-tank, the Centre for Social Justice, although by the time he had finished speaking I still had no idea who he was defending it from or what the hell it actually does.

For details of who won what, see here, but the big winner of the evening was the Bulgarian think tank, the Institute for Market Economics, who walked away with two well deserved prizes. I was also delighted to see the very worthy UK based Taxpayers Alliance come away with an award. The TPA are like a fact-checking ‘urban guerilla’ organisation of thorn-in-the-side activists who have achieved results out of all proportion to the resources at their disposal.

I was quite struck by how young most of the think-tank and activist people in attendance were and that is surely a good thing.

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The US Ambassador is an excellent speaker…

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…and he towered over everyone! Seen here with Tural Veliyev of the Free Minds Association of Azerbaijan

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Karen Horn and Cécile Phillipe, presenting an award to Richard Durana of the Institute of Economic and Social Studies in Slovakia

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The delightful Cécile Phillipe, Director of the Molinari Economic Institute

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Ján Čarnogurský is also an excellent speaker

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Janet Daly is not someone I often agree with but I found little to disagree with last night

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No, I am not going to put up any pictures of Iain Duncan Smith speaking

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Big Pharma! Eye Catching Dresses!

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