Many think cancel culture is an odd particularity of the academic world of the Anglosphere. If any place has yet been spared, it is eastern Europe. Eastern Europe has had its fair share of thought policing throughout its vivid history, and people there are usually more willing to take a stance against it. That is one reason why the Austrian Economics Meeting Europe has been held several times in eastern European cities, including Prague, Krakow, Budapest, and recently Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. Since 2015, generous and helpful hosting institutions, either local universities or think tanks, have supported us in holding the annual conference dedicated to Austrian economics.
After a two-year hiatus due to covid-19 restrictions, the sixth Austrian Economics Meeting Europe (AEME) was to be held on May 20–21 at ISM University of Economics and Management in Vilnius. ISM University provided a conference room and even some financial support to bring in Professor Guido Hülsmann as one of the keynote speakers. Yet the conflict in Ukraine has interrupted the smooth preparations and has taken its toll on many otherwise sane people.
Opening remarks at AEME 2022 in Vilnius, Lithuania.
Only a few weeks before the conference, we were informed that it could not be held on the premises of ISM University unless we canceled the second invited keynote speaker, Professor Aliaksandr Kavaliou. Why? Because he is from Minsk, the capital of Belarus, only 180 kilometers away from Vilnius.
The dean of ISM informed us that one does not want to be associated with aggressors, Russian or Belarusian. His decision had nothing to do with the content of Professor Kavaliou’s publications or his planned keynote lecture on the socialist calculation debate. The fact that Professor Kavaliou had taught at the European Humanities University in Vilnius for several years, opening opportunities for many students to leave the increasingly politicized Belarusian university system, did not matter. The only thing that triggered the dean’s decision was the professor’s nationality and his affiliation with a Belarusian university. One would have thought that such disgraceful behavior has no place in a university, but unfortunately, it exists even among highly educated people.
It must be said, however, that not all of ISM’s faculty was on board with the decision, but the dean would not reconsider.
Canceling an esteemed colleague just because he happens to work at a Belarusian university was out of question. On very short notice, we secured generous financial support from the Mises Institute and the Lithuanian Free Market Institute and were able to hold the conference as planned on May 20–21 in the beautiful surroundings of the Domus Maria Hotel in the heart of Vilnius’s historic center, including all the planned keynotes and a whole series of fascinating paper presentations. Without the help of the Mises Institute, this would not have been possible.
In fact, the Mises Institute was instrumental in the AEME’s founding. All of the AEME’s organizing committee are Mises Institute alumni. The idea to set up a conference series in Europe dedicated to the Austrian tradition was born on the final evening of Mises University 2014. The series started small in May 2015, at the Scholarium in Vienna, and it has grown and evolved since. A good way to fight cancel culture and support academic freedom as well as initiatives like the AEME is to donate to the Mises Institute. The money is put to good use and makes a difference.