Speaker 0 00:00:02 Hello everyone. And welcome to the 80th episode of the Atlas society asks. My name is Jennifer on G Grossman. My friends call me Jack I'm the CEO of the Atlas society. We are the leading nonprofit, introducing young people to the ideas of Iran in fun, creative ways, such as our animated videos, graphic novels, and living history. Today, we have the unique honor of being joined by Zarrab Jeff Reedsy. Uh, I'm going to introduce him in a moment, but we are streaming live across multiple platforms. So typing your questions and comments, whether you are joining us on zoom, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, uh, we'd love to get to as many of them as possible. So my guest today joining me from Georgia, where it is 1:00 AM in the morning. So we're very, very grateful for, for him to join us at this ungodly hour. He, uh, <inaudible> is currently, uh, the current Georgian parliament member. He's the leader of the libertarian party gear cheat, which is more freedom. Um, along with being a lecturer of economics at the university of Georgia, Jeff reads the has been a longtime advocate for free markets and, uh, the protection of individual liberties, notably standing against the Georgian mandatory military service law. So Zarrab welcome again. Thank you for joining us.
Speaker 0 00:01:43 So, uh, to start with, I mean, most Americans, we have a state in our union, uh, named Georgia. So when many Americans hear the word Georgia, they, they tend to think of that Southern state. So maybe if you could just for the onion and then the shaded, uh, orient us and tell us a little bit about the history of your country. Um, and, uh, it's, it's experienced with them with under the Soviet union and, uh, bring us up to date.
Speaker 1 00:02:16 Oh, pleasure. Oh, Georgia is a really ancient country with unique culture, unique language. Um, thousands of years, um, judges, um, lived on this territory it's it's in the south Caucasus. Um, but then, um, Georgia lost its independence and we were, um, for more than 200 years, Georgia was kind of occupied by Russian empire and then by Soviet union by Bolsheviks. Um, and we spend, uh, 70 years, uh, under the Soviet rule. And then, uh, back in 1991, we got independence again. So now last 30 years, it's an independent, uh, it's the countries that strives, uh, to become, uh, again, part of the west. Um, because historically we belong to the Western civilization. Uh, we aspire to become like politically to become members of nature, um, in Barcelona, European union. Um, but I didn't see too problematic, uh, way to go. Um, so currently, uh, we have, um, lots of problems, lots of mostly economic problems and, uh, problems associated with the security. Um, uh, and I believe most of the problems are associated or have roots in our Soviet past. And, um, we can, we can talk about all this.
Speaker 0 00:03:43 Yeah. So, uh, how old were you? I mean, what is your memory of life under the Soviet union and, um, what was, what was your experience?
Speaker 1 00:03:56 Oh, I lived in Soviet union for 15 years. I was 15 or in Soviet union collapsed. Um, well, um, so it union was about from my understanding, uh, it was, uh, uh, state or system based on, um, slavery basically. Um, there was no freedom, uh, you know, uh, private property was prohibited in Soviet union back in 1929, as far as our member private trade was spoken back in 1931, uh, when talking about Soviet union, um, people and scholars as well, um, uh, speak about, uh, centrally plan, the economy and how prices were regulated and how's the system, the network, but in fact, um, the whole life of any person was, uh, basically, uh, regulated or planned by the state. So, uh, when you were born in Soviet union, uh, it was predetermined which, uh, kindergarten you would go and then which secondary school you will go.
Speaker 1 00:05:01 And then, uh, you had the, you, I mean, it was predetermined. You could, you could have probably tried to get to other kindergarten or other school, but it didn't make any sense because all Kings and all secondary schools were exactly the same. Uh, and then, uh, you could have chosen, uh, which university to go, but, uh, there was a huge corruption to get into university, but after the university, again, it was predetermined, uh, which job you will get. And, um, in most cases, uh, I cannot say the exact percentage, but may probably 80%, maybe 90% of cases, uh, the first job you would get, it was the job for your lifetime. You can couldn't change it. Uh, so everything that was planned in for the 10 minute by the, uh, by Z center, let's say, so, you know, there was an institution called ghost block.
Speaker 1 00:05:54 Um, that plan, basically everything is account. So, um, yeah, and from, from many respects city, Tito's a slaver. Um, and, uh, of course it didn't work. The system didn't work, uh, and, um, that's why I believe it, eventually it collapsed, it lasted for 70 years, but it was based on a terror on, uh, masking of people and this house, it's how it sustained for, um, 17 years. But then, um, as I need collapsed, mostly I believe for economic reasons. Um, uh, that's, that's my memory. I mean, I usually, when I teach, um, economics or political ideologists to my students, um, I usually bring an example that now if you go to supermarket in each policing, which is capital of Georgia, um, and I asked question, can you name all the products or items that you can buy as a supermarket? And they laugh because it's just impossible. But I, even though I was only 15 years old when Soviet union collapsed, even now I can name all the items that were sold in Soviet type supermarkets, because there were so few, and there was no choice that I exactly remember every product that was sold in supermarket. Um, yeah, it, it was a, it was a horrible, um, state, uh, every land prayer is, uh, president Reagan called it it's exact name for this kind of state.
Speaker 0 00:07:26 So you grew up to become, uh, really the leading proponent of free market reforms in your country. And your reputation has grown beyond your country. You've mentioned that your parents like many others in their generation, even despite all of these deprivations and heavy handed policies of, uh, authoritarianism, but that in some respect, they, they bought into the narratives of socialism and communism. So what was your inspiration to see things differently? Was it just observing how terrible things were, or, you know, was it, uh, a book or a teacher or a particular writer or a film that, um, that really awakened you to see things so, so radically differently and promote a different way?
Speaker 1 00:08:26 Yeah, it's, it's, it's a problem with the, uh, all the generation in general. Um, I quite often bring the example of my parents and my discussions with them and me trying to kind of tease and that they believed in all their life. Um, it's not right. Um, it's, it's, this is not how a normal societies, uh, work and leave. Um, but <inaudible>, the mentality is the product of the Soviet a education system let's say. So we do, to us, it was not an education system. It was more like indoctrination system. And, um, there was no freedom of speech and there were already very few sources of information for Soviet citizen to get any information at all. This is a couple of newspapers and just two TV channels, uh, one in Georgia, one in Russia, if you need the Georgia. Um, so all of these people aware of basically brainwashed for tens of years and, uh, those who resisted the systems, they were just any elated or there were a killed or sent to Siberia and died there.
Speaker 1 00:09:32 Um, so it's, it's really difficult because it goes too deeply to the face. I mean, they believe in something all of their life, and then you come with a hammer and try to basically destroy everything they believe in it. It's not an easy job. Um, this is why I always bring the example with my parents, um, because I I've spent years arguing with them. And I managed to eventually Kinamisan, um, about some of the, um, some of their beliefs, they are wrong, but, um, to completely come resent that, uh, it was all evil. It was impossible for me. Um, but how my, uh, wall do change. Um, uh, I started to work at one of the, uh, state institutions, uh, baking, uh, nineties after, uh, we got independence and, um, it was, uh, fully, so it was one of the most corrupt institutions in the country.
Speaker 1 00:10:30 Uh, and, uh, I was, I was young at the time and I started to think, um, that, uh, how, how is it possible? Uh, it's not normal. Uh, and, uh, my mouth, the first question in my mind was at how you can build a society on one kind of rules and what kind of morality, so that it doesn't become like this. Uh, and when I started to ask the standard questions to myself, I started to search for the answers and, um, um, first book that, uh, changed, uh, I would say my worldview was a book by, uh, Hyack, uh, his, his last book, the photo conceit. Uh, I got a PDF version of it because you could not have bought it here, but somehow I got it in the internet and I read it. And, uh, it, it's a quite complicated language and quite difficult to read the book, but still, I got the idea that it's this it's, this is something wrong in society.
Speaker 1 00:11:28 And, uh, then I started to search for other books and I got, I got a run, I got nuthin feed, man. I got, uh, Henry Hazlitt on economist. I got lots of, uh, lots of, uh, people, uh, who, uh, wrote about, uh, about freedom, how free society works, uh, why the economy economy's important. It seems like that's why I got interested into more economic issues and I read lots of economic. Um, and, uh, yeah, at the end of the day, um, quite soon actually I became a libertarian. And then, uh, uh, I started to look for, uh, other thinkers or authored, um, socialists basically, or communists. Uh, I tried to search for the arguments against the ideas. Uh, I become, became a believer, so I read other, uh, minded, uh, authors as well until the mark. So lots of other people say, so, um, searching for, um, arguments that might change my worldview, but I couldn't find any.
Speaker 1 00:12:37 Um, so, um, I'm a libertarian for over now more than 15 years. Uh, and, uh, um, yeah, and then I started to, um, speak out. Um, first it was really difficult. I mean, beginning of 2000 in this country, um, sometimes it felt like I was crazy because it was even for me, even difficult to convince my close friends that, um, this is, uh, how we should be the society and the freedom is the most important things. Um, and then I argued with my friends, with my parents, with my colleagues at my work, and I change jobs, um, lots of times. Um, but it was really difficult now, now it's a lot easier. They are, they are, there are, uh, tens of thousands of people, um, who, uh, who got the idea. And, uh, some of them are Indians. Uh, some of them are some of the, like, I don't know, Chicago school economists.
Speaker 1 00:13:39 Some of them choose like public choice, school of economics. Some of them are Austrian school economist. Some of them are unethical capitalists and so on, but there are lots of people who got the idea of Liberty, um, who understand what Soviet union was. Um, because, um, now we have a new generation of young people who are both independent country and, um, they have no one understanding what solar wants Soviet union was. The problem is it's still, uh, in our education system, we don't actually teach whatsoever at union was why socialism is bad. That's a problem. That's a huge problem. Um, and, um, socialistic ideas are attractive here as well as, uh, anywhere in the world. If you don't teach them, if you don't explain what your past was and why is it system doesn't work, we face the same problem as probably your face, uh, in us as the people who believes that all is it, wasn't a real socialist, but we all social is actually possible. Then you should build it in something like that. So it was, it's very briefly my story, how I got here. Interesting. I, I
Speaker 0 00:14:51 Think, um, others would do well to take a few pages from your story. I particularly enjoy your relating, how you read, not just Iran and Hayak and Friedman, uh, but that you read the arguments against them. Um, and, uh, it goes to, you know, the, the saying that a man is really not well educated if he only knows one side of, of the argument. So I, I thought that was, um, that was something that, uh, others should, should emulate. Um, and I, I, I would say that, yes, there is the issue of, uh, not teaching history, um, in terms of allowing other people to just repeat it and not be aware of what has worked and what hasn't worked, but, but even in the United States, although our, our government schools, uh, are perhaps on surprisingly also perpetuating arguments for more government, um, I think it goes beyond just, uh, the economics. It's really a question of the morality and, and going back to what you were saying about socialism as, as slavery, um, that it's, uh, it's even if it did work, which hasn't and never will, it still would be immoral because it denies self ownership self-determination and basic property rights. So, um, is in what ways is the Georgian experience similar to two other former satellite states now, independent states, or even other parts of, uh, Soviet Russia, proper per se? Um, is it, is the experience similar or is there something unique about the Georgian experience?
Speaker 1 00:16:50 Um, yeah, I would agree with you, is it, um, at the end of the day, when truly it's a question of morality and there's two and, um, Soviet system actually built, uh, different types of morality. Uh, I call it, I mean, there, there are two dimensions that, uh, I, I I'd like to explain. One is it, uh, is to accelerate times, uh, people have, uh, kind of a dual morality, one morality was, uh, inside the family and the other morality was in the public, uh, life in their private life, in their families inside dependent is people were more moral, I would say, but they had to act differently outside their public life because they had to be accustomed to the system because otherwise the system would have destroyed it. Um, and, uh, that still exists unfortunately, in this country. Um, and the second scene. Yes.
Speaker 1 00:17:47 I mean, during Soviet times, as I said, private property was, uh, was prohibited. So it was a shame to have to own something. Uh, and even those people, uh, the Soviet elite who actually were rich by the time they had to hide, um, their, uh, uh, symptoms or signs of, uh, reaches, um, it was a crazy time. Um, and then, yeah, it was, it was prohibited to trade, uh, and the people who, um, found some ways, uh, where it's seldom, but still to import some stuff from the west end to sell it inside the Soviet union, like, like jeans, for example, or like some food fear. Um, um, and it was expensive course, but still some people managed to do it. Um, they, they were like shamed by the, by the state. They were, they were arrested, uh, for that, just for trading something, nothing else.
Speaker 1 00:18:49 Uh, and, uh, unfortunately, or, or to, to, uh, lend the money to someone for a certain interest. Uh, it was also a shameful act and we still have it even now, uh, in this country after 30 years. So it union is collapsed. Uh, it is still believes that if a person is successful, uh, and by successful, I mean, she's got money, but he's successful. He has not stolen it from Sandra. He earned it. Um, still, uh, people consider it to be a shame or to, uh, to be a banker, for example, in this country. Um, it's a shameful because people don't like for some, somebody lend some money and get some interest on it. Um, so yeah, it's a question of morality. What is about what you believe is right, and what you believe is wrong. Uh, and it's, it's all messed up, um, even now in this country, uh, and going back to the, to your question, um, or the George's experience is similar to other, uh, Soviet republics that say, so it is, it is quite similar.
Speaker 1 00:20:00 I mean, I think, uh, the only different experience, uh, had, uh, sort of a Baltic states, uh, because they chose a different path, uh, after the Soviet union collapsed because, um, I think the main reason is that Georgia or Georgia and other so-called Soviet republics were occupied for about 17 years, but both the states you're occupying for about, uh, for less like 40 years, something like that. Yeah. Uh, and there were still a generation in both the state who remember independent dystonia or the 20 hour Latvia, and they still had the sense of, uh, private property, um, or a sense of what capitalism means. And, um, I think, uh, after Soviet union collapsed, they had a better understanding what kind of country they wanted to build. Uh, this is somethings that we didn't have. And, uh, I remember this moment of independence, and I remember all of the politicians who were activists at the time who actually brought independence to this country, uh, what they spoke about and all they wanted is just independence from Russia. And they believed that once we are independent, then everything will be fine. Um, but, um, yeah, it appears that it's not true. Um, and they had no understanding of, uh, how society should we be with, including what kind of morality is a society. And then it goes even farther, what kind of economy you should have, et cetera, et cetera. So there is a similarities with other republics, but I think the, uh, only, uh, countries are Baltic states who actually chose a better.
Speaker 0 00:21:41 Interesting, interesting. And, and, uh, that you attribute that to the fact that they, you know, were sort of deprived of the oxygen of freedom for, for less time, uh, that, uh, at some point you just completely lose any, any memory, um, or muscle memory of what it's like to be to be free. Now we've got a lot of good questions streaming in. I want to encourage those watching go ahead and type them in. We are going to get to, to, uh, as, as many, if not all of them, so hit us up. Uh, but before I turn to the questions, I wanted to turn also to the experience after independence, because Georgia became really a leading example of, uh, free market prosperity, uh, and, and then sort of, uh, lost, lost its step along the way. So just tell us a little bit about what was the experience, um, and what led to that kind of Georgia miracle during those?
Speaker 1 00:22:43 Um, yeah, I mean, it started in baking, uh, 2003 when, uh, we had a, um, so-called rose revolution. There was a change in government, um, uh, before 2003, as I mentioned, uh, feed, it was basically about the Soviet Georgia. Again, even though we got independence, uh, in terms of, uh, in terms of society, in terms of, uh, management style or governance, nothing actually changed. So the, uh, all the assets, um, that exist in this country, uh, CBOs owned by the state even now, uh, we did, we did lots of good reforms, um, during certain period of time, even now almost 80% of all the assets is still owned by the state. So we've got independent country, but yeah, how you cannot talk about free market or capitalism in a country where, uh, basically all the assets is owned by the state, like lots of land.
Speaker 1 00:23:43 Uh, we have, I mean, uh, the former almost, uh, around 40% of the area in Georgia is a forest and two it's it's prohibited to privatize the forest, even now at this moment, uh, all the minerals, all the mines, uh, it's owned by the state. Uh, and because of that, uh, market still doesn't work, uh, in this country. But before 2003, I mean, it was all state. We still had some price controls. Uh, what's the farthest in the economy where a state plan, uh, centrally, uh, we had lots of subsidies, um, going to different areas of Jeremy. Uh, and because we have lots of regulations, enormous amount of regulations because of these regulations, we basically, uh, had, um, shortage of electricity show to the, of shortage of supply of material gas, um, oh, lots of huge economic problems in Hughes and, um, poverty, et cetera.
Speaker 1 00:24:40 But then we had this rose revolution, which was basically a movement against corruption. Uh, and then, uh, what happened is that we got a guy, uh, <inaudible>, uh, who, uh, was a guy who left Georgia, um, beginning of nineties, or maybe end of eighties. Uh, and then he lived, he didn't do Russia, uh, and, um, he's got lots of businesses there and he became rich. And, uh, after those revolution, uh, he decided to come to Georgia and he, he was a, um, he was a libertarian, he called himself a pragmatic utilitarian, but he was, wasn't a good time. She believed in small government, lower taxes, less degration, uh, as limited government as possible. Um, and then, uh, he became a minister of the economy. He's got an offer from the, uh, president Saakashvili, uh, the time is better offered to leisurely farms. He used to tell the stories that he attended one of the presentation.
Speaker 1 00:25:39 So it's a new government. And then, um, he approached the president and talking to that, all these things that you talked to do with the presentations, all these, um, reformed self-defense might be good for a country in, uh, like, uh, Eastern European country, which is already more or less developed, but for the country like Georgia, uh, you need more dramatic reforms. Uh, and then, so I can surely agree to that. So he became any sort of economy and, uh, he did, uh, uh, I mean, he's what he did is he just was just possible to consider this kind of reform is possible in a country like Georgia. So we had like, uh, nobody, nobody knew at the time how many taxis we had. I mean, some economists calculated that we had like 20 of our taxes. Some of them said 20 to 23, but we had more than 20 different types of Texas.
Speaker 1 00:26:33 Uh, so tax burden was a really high, um, most of people didn't pay those taxes, they just paid bribes to the tax collectors. Uh, so he, the number of Texas down to five, uh, we had, yeah, we had, uh, about 900, uh, licenses and permits. Uh, you need to obtain to start to do some kind of business. So he reduced it down to 300. So we eradicated almost two thirds of regulations and permits and things like that. Uh, he was instrumental in the regulation relating to the energy sector. And, uh, uh, this was the first time we got electricity for 24 7, uh, after this deregulation, uh, he got rid of all the price control, almost all the price control because we still have, um, regulated, um, tidy for electricity. And we still have some, some prices that are related, but where he feel so most of the prices were, um, of fibrillation.
Speaker 1 00:27:33 Um, and, um, even though by that time, lots of, uh, Georgian experts in the economists predicted that if you get rid of all the taxes and all the regulations, uh, there will be no money coming to the state budget and we will not be able to finance, uh, the cost, uh, government has, et cetera, actually would happen is, uh, in, uh, from 2003 to 2012. Um, our, our economy grow, uh, immensely, uh, and, uh, in 2000, um, what was it? 2007, we had a two digit economic growth. It was, uh, up to 30% and, uh, in spite of lots of problems, we faced students, the Sears, and I can mention those problems. We had a war with Russia in 2008. We had a Russian embargo on electricity and gas supply starting from 2006. We had international Russia. Wasn't our may, uh, trade partner, uh, coming from the Southern times.
Speaker 1 00:28:40 Uh, we had full embargo in transportation who is Russia, and this all happens during this time period. We still had, uh, about, uh, six, uh, 7% economic growth on average during this period from 2003, until 2012. And this is solely because of these three relation reduced production of Texas and this kind of the farms. Um, so by doing this time of periods, Georgia became, uh, uh, as, as you said, world bank dominated, number one, former, um, in the, uh, in the world. Um, and we got, uh, I think it was eight or nine position on, uh, all the bank rec easy of doing business, uh, because you can reduce the business just in one day here, even now. Um, so we did, we did some moody forms and we had some Google results, but then, um, lots of those reforms we actually do are, unfortunately, you
Speaker 0 00:29:41 Attribute that to, it sounds like, uh, you know, the government started picking and choosing who were going to be the approved industrialists. Uh, and so the kind of the corruption came, came back.
Speaker 1 00:29:57 Uh, well, I think it goes back to, to, uh, to mortality or to mentality. Um, unfortunately, uh, and this is what cafe used to say. <inaudible> from schools behind his performs, that he had no time, uh, for explanations. So he was busy with doing goals as conform. So the farms part, he had no time to actually explain what he was doing and why he was doing so he had no time to explain why lower taxes are better. Why, why it's better when government has less money and spends less, and people have more money and people decide on what to spend this money. Why is bright is wrong to have a so-called nanny state, and it's better to have a free society and things like that. So, uh, he had no time for that. So she said, so it was, this is why when he was out of the government, he actually started a university called the university of Tbilisi, where he actually started to actually educate new generation about all these issues.
Speaker 1 00:31:03 And so you see university even now still ranks number one in this country. Um, so, uh, what I believe is happened is that, uh, people, uh, did not actually, um, instilled, they don't understand the connection between those reforms and the economy development we got because of souls in farms. And even now we will find lots of people in Georgia. Uh, and we will tell that, uh, we have, uh, 24 7 electricity now because of those reforms. And they will just tell you, now we just, I mean, it's 21st century. Everybody has electricity, so it's just time passed and we got to make through something like that. So, so you don't really see this connection. Uh, unfortunately it's a problem. This is why, um, when, when I, and my friends, um, started this movement, uh, we spent probably 80% of our time on actually educating people. Uh, we do just don't say, is it like lower Texas schools?
Speaker 1 00:32:06 We tried to explain why lower Texas are better and why it works better and why it's going to be better for everyone it's like them. And, um, yeah, we did. We did, uh, we do, we did, uh, we translated hundreds of videos, including videos of, and grant, uh, lots of videos on economic issues, uh, explaining different aspects, explaining why, why, like, I mean, there are videos about morality, about justice, about economists, but, um, we try to actually make, uh, especially young generation understand why, what we say, um, easy right thing, and what others say is not right to do
Speaker 0 00:32:51 Well. Um, and we at the Alison society have been thrilled to be a part of that in, in a small way. We've were contacted by broccoli Jaegers villi, uh, who has translated. I think we're, we're up to five of our animated videos. And for anybody else watching, who's interested, uh, in being a part of a, a coalition and a partnership, um, between the Atlas society in Georgia, we have a lot of, uh, resources and pocket guides and, um, graphic novels, uh, and of course our videos and our social media, um, all of which could be, could be translated. So we're open for partnership. Uh, all right, well, we're going to get to some of these questions that have been streaming through. Um, one is coming from YouTube. Scott is asking about south of set. Tia is, uh, now lost as a Russian client state, or might Georgia get it back somehow?
Speaker 1 00:33:55 No, we have, um, about 20% of our, uh, Georgia territory occupied by Russia even now. Uh, it's, uh, it's a, <inaudible> sometimes called Sosa, etc. Um, and, uh, there are Russian troops spades there. Um, so, um, the only way I believe, um, is, uh, to get those people and then those territories bed, uh, is to build a free society here. Um, free society is, uh, is, is the only way forward. It's the only solution to have, uh, to digital economy growth. Uh, what I believe is, uh, in that we need to create a contrast, a huge difference, uh, about, uh, how people live, um, occupied parts of this country, and then how people leave in occupied parts. And, um, the example I bring up with my students all the time when they ask similar question to me is the example of Soviet union during Soviet times, the borders of the Soviet union or were closed, but steel, uh, people were trying to get out of the Soviet union and get basically to the west.
Speaker 1 00:35:10 And thousands of people died actually on the Berlin wall. And, uh, they were moving, uh, to the west, uh, just because there was more freedom there and they wanted to live a free life. And of course it was more freedom comes, comes with more prosperity. So what, uh, what I believe is that, um, uh, the moment where we can say that we are getting those sends those people back is when people actually start moving from those territories toward Georgia. And, uh, Russians will try to stop them same way as Washington states tried to scope those people who were climbing the Berlin wall during the Soviet times. And that's when we get those big console story to inspect.
Speaker 0 00:36:01 You have a question from Instagram. Uh, David is asking, is corruption still a major issue in Georgia today, or, uh, has the freeing up of the economy helped with that?
Speaker 1 00:36:15 No, it had a lot, uh, I mean, when you have a pretty have, uh, less regulations, uh, when people, um, want to start a business or a large business, so, and they have, they don't need to go to lots of different government agencies to get permits and some kind of letters, et cetera, et cetera. So they're, you, you're basically reducing the contact between a citizen and the state agencies, and there are fewer chances of corruption. Um, same goes with demand. If you give, uh, less managers government to spend, uh, there would be less money to actually steal from there. So, um, we, we don't have the so-called petty corruption and now, uh, but we, uh, I think government is collecting lots of money, uh, from our pockets. And we are spending our government spending is about, um, 30 to 33% of GDP, uh, something similar to what in us you have, but for a poor country, like Georgia,
Speaker 0 00:37:16 Just jump way ahead of you on, on that with some of the, the current, uh, spending bills that are being proposed by this.
Speaker 1 00:37:25 I think it's a lot, I think it's a lot it's too much. So, uh, and of course when government spends its money intenders or auctions or whatever, um, yeah, there, there are some people, some businesses or businesses who are close to the government of the party in government. And, uh, yeah, they're getting there, they're thinking lots of, lots of money. So we have these kinds of corruption and then the other type of corruption is, uh, certain types of privileges that, uh, businesses or different organizations, uh, get, uh, from the government. Um, so yeah, I mean, uh, in a country like Georgia, uh, in a poor country like Georgia, especially, uh, and the economic situation actually, um, matters, um, uh, yeah, you have these kinds of problems.
Speaker 0 00:38:15 Oh, we have another question coming in from Instagram, Tammy Z, uh, asks something. I was wondering about myself, how hard was it for the Georgian economy to shift from producing mostly tea during the USSR to what it does today? So just the background is that, uh, in terms of central planning, the Soviet union decided Georgia you're going to be the T producing, uh, satellite state. And, um, but in fact, uh, it wasn't the climate wasn't particularly suited for, for producing T it was just a F uh, bureaucrats command. Um, and so afterwards there wasn't this, uh, this direction and there wasn't these subsidies to do that. So, yeah. What was, what was that process?
Speaker 1 00:39:05 Um, I'm not sure about the climate. I think climate might be good for participants, but during, so at times there was no, uh, no better place to produce team, uh, because it's, it's, uh, Georgia is a south in part, uh, burdening was, uh, Turkey. So, uh, most probably it was the best climate in the only story of territory where you could produce a tea, but, you know, solid market was a closed market. So there was, uh, uh, the pro tea produced in Georgia was sold well, the Soviet union. And if I'm not mistaken, Georgia was producing like 95% of tea that was sold in Soviet union. But quality of the tea was really bad because, uh, there was no competition, uh, and, uh, the tea production was, uh, it was, uh, a state-owned production. So nobody, there, there were no incentives actually to, um, to think about the quality because it didn't really matter.
Speaker 1 00:40:06 So what was sold to our Georgia? I don't think it was T actually, I mean, I've gotten those ones, if you want, it was mixed race because people were making money with it. Uh, and those who were in charge of his production, the Soviet bureaucrats, they were quite weak. So almost, I mean, most of the Western part of Georgia was a cheap producing. They were sweet agents, a three star that was producing as a tea. And, uh, the funny thing is that, uh, right before the collapse of the Soviet union way, we are striving for our independence. Most of the Georgia and sexually believed that, uh, once we get rid of, uh, rational occupation, we can just sell P and, uh, just by 70, we can actually live quite well, but then, so it collapsed. And of course, nobody wanted Georgian tier because, um, even in Georgia tea was important from India, from Sri Lanka.
Speaker 1 00:41:04 I mean, from, from other countries and people actually tasted the real tea taste and nobody wants to Georgian tea. So it was a huge problem. Uh, even now, after 30 years, if you go to the Western part of Georgia, you will see lots of land areas, huge land areas. Whereas this tea bushes still exists. I mean, nobody takes care of them and it's quite expensive as far as I know, to get rid of those bushes, but you will see those remains of, of this Soviet times there, but it's not only about, uh, T production, I mean, Soviet union, because of, because there were no price system during the Soviet times. And, um, I don't know if you know that, but Soviet union used to send, uh, some spice, um, to the, uh, Western countries. Uh, I read about Berlin actually to the, to the part of the buildings.
Speaker 1 00:41:59 It was not occupied by, by Soviet union. And those pies were just, uh, wandering around in supermarkets. They're looking at the prices of the products and then coming back and telling us this goes, plans that, like, for example, butter, one kilogram of butter is sold for this price in one kilogram of, uh, really solid meat for this price, et cetera. And this is how they were coming up with the prices that the product products in the Soviet union, because they had, because there was no private properties, there was no price system. They should have come up from somewhere with the prices and this whole system was built. So, uh, also, so it's republics were somehow connected with each other. So there was no economy creation behind it. And because of that, uh, lots of, uh, uh, production facilities, some plants we had in Georgia, um, after collapse of the Soviet union, they didn't know where to sell their product because there was no demand for their product and the quality was bad, uh, et cetera, et cetera. So we, we still have, uh, lots of problems because of that.
Speaker 0 00:43:08 Okay. We've got a question on YouTube Scott asking, what did Georgians think of Viden so far, so asking about, you know, whether they're, uh, the, the change in administration, presidential administration, um, has any influence or impact is that they're all relevant to what goes on inside Georgia?
Speaker 1 00:43:27 Um, well, I believe most of Georgians are so occupied with their problems locally here that they don't really think much about, um, about the international, um, um, uh, relations for this country or what's happening outside of Georgia. But those who are interested in politics in general, interested in geopolitics in our region, of course, they, they pay lots of attention to what happens in U S and the U is, uh, is a strategic partner for this country. And the us is, uh, um, basically one of the main, uh, pillars of, uh, George's, uh, security at this moment. Uh, and, um, as far as this current administration, um, where there are some, some Georgians who did not like Trump administration, that, um, they like any administration as far as there is no trumpet in the station. Um, but, um, if you look at, um, people who pay attention to what kind of, uh, policies, uh, us administration has both internally and externally, I would say that, uh, they don't really favor by the Nadia station. So they don't like some socialistic policies by the administration has, uh, in us. And, um, they see it, uh, that those kinds of policies will make us weaker in a long run. And, uh, um, based on those effects that we, uh, associated with security with us being stronger, um, those people don't really like that, but also in terms of international relations, what we see now is a Biden administration, um, to mature much interest to, to the <inaudible> region. And, uh, we feel it. And, um, yeah, we don't do, we don't realize it
Speaker 0 00:45:24 Understood. Yeah. So essentially given that there's a, a strong, uh, Alliance and, and, uh, a, uh, looking to the United States, uh, as an ally for your security, and also perhaps, you know, ideologically looking for, uh, an America, that's going to be standing up for freedom and for property rights and for, uh, for capitalism that, that it's not necessarily a positive, um, development. Okay. Um, question here for, also from YouTube DIA de LA Renta, um, is asking about vaccine mandates passports, those kinds of things, which I guess maybe would just to be taking a step back and asking, uh, you know, there's been a lot of different approaches in, um, Europe and Scandinavia and other parts of the world. Uh, what has the experience, um, of Georgia been in terms of the pandemic and, um, also what is, what is the response been, where does it kind of fall on the spectrum between sort of a, a, uh, a focused protection of, of just the elderly with letting most other people, uh, manage their own risk, um, or kind of going to the opposite extreme of, of lockdowns and mandates and, uh, mandatory vaccines?
Speaker 1 00:46:57 Yeah, there is actually my friend, she, she moved to us a number of years ago. She means she lives in the land now. Um, and she's always interested what's going on here in Georgia. Um, yeah, I mean, we, we had a terrible situation. Um, last year, um, current government actually use this pandemic for their political purposes, uh, to basically get more control over people's lives. Uh, and they portrayed it as if they're taking care of people. So they introduced lots of regulations and, um, I, I violated number of them on purpose and, uh, I got about 6,000 large fines of it. Um, but what happened is that, yeah, they, they just do this for political purposes, uh, extending people that we need to do. Uh, we need to introduce these kinds of some really crazy regulations that has, um, I mean, if you have common sense, you wouldn't find any link how those regulations would have stopped virus from spreading, um, including like you couldn't look outside just walking, <inaudible> fresh air, um, and things like that.
Speaker 1 00:48:12 Uh, and then, uh, last year we had a parliamentary elections in October and they use this, uh, pandemic situation basically, um, to, uh, to get more votes. I mean, last year they took a debt of 7.5 billion, which is, uh, a record in Georgia's history. And, uh, they spend last year more money than the year before when there was no crisis, um, just to get votes. And now to see that, uh, lots of we are, we are number one in terms of, uh, this, uh, parent helium population, if you look at statistics, so all those regulations, um, had no purpose at all. Uh, and, uh, now they're introducing, uh, this, uh, green passport so-called beans passport. So they're kind of doing some kind of a segregation of the population. So if you are waxing 18, you can enter center places if you are not vaccinated. Um, I mean, you cannot do it, uh, which we are against, of course. I mean, if it's, if it's done by the owner of the restaurant, for example, and it's fine with me, but I don't think it's a government job to introduce this kind of a blanket regulation for the whole country. Um, but still they're doing unfortunately. Uh, and, uh, as far as the mandatory vaccinations, uh, fortunately we don't have it, you know, though there were some discussions about it. Um, as far as I see now, uh, the government is not going to lose it, which is good.
Speaker 0 00:49:44 Well, so, uh, I guess the situation is, um, typical and very unfortunate in terms of it being exploited by more authoritarians elements within the government to make changes to election laws, to try to, uh, tilt things in their favor, which we also saw here in the United States, um, as well as, um, using it as a pretext using the pandemic as a pretext for, um, for greater controls or saying, uh, different groups can have privileges and others can't. So that's, that's important and also will not help with your, uh, your economic growth and economic liberalization.
Speaker 1 00:50:33 Yeah, of course. Now it's, it's, I'd see it as a huge problem because, um, I mean, it's, it's, uh, classical gaming politics. You, you find it, you find some kind of a threat and then, uh, you, you use this threat to get more control over people's lives. One score men gets more control of people's lives, and it's, it's always very difficult to get that freedom back.
Speaker 0 00:50:58 Well, I want to also remind people next week, we're going to be bringing back my dear friend, Jeffrey Tucker. Um, he's, he's now started the brownstone Institute and he has been the leading voice speaking out against the, uh, first and foremost, just pure rationality of the response to a virus. And, um, then also the, uh, the immorality of the authoritarian controls, um, documenting the destruction that they've, that they've, uh, wrecked. So please, uh, market calendars and come back and join us next week. Another question here, um, from looks like it's coming in from Jacob, uh, on Instagram, I think what is the best way to teach young people, the evils of socialism, uh, when they cannot even imagine a society, um, like the one that you you grew up under. So, uh, is it books, is it, um, videos? Is it, uh, what, what, how, how, how what's your teacher? So what's your experience with the best means?
Speaker 1 00:52:15 Well, I don't know what is most effective way I can speak only about, uh, my experience and experienced me and my friends have, you know, a moment, uh, we, um, because of the lack of resources or we decided that the main communication tool for us would be social media. And, uh, Facebook is the most popular social media platform in Georgia, and it can get more and more popular. So, um, we don't, we don't use Twitter much. Uh, Instagram became popular among youngsters. Now tick-tock became also popular, but still the Facebook is the main platform for discussions. And, uh, what we did is, um, well, I mean, we, we did not know, uh, what strategy would work. So we basically started to try everything so I can take, I can tell you what, what actually worked and we try, we still try to use it. Um, uh, we, we usually do something, uh, crazy, um, from the point of view of the Georgia public.
Speaker 1 00:53:28 And then we explain why we do that. For example, you mentioned in your introductions that, uh, we are proponent on a proponent of, uh, uh, a against of the mandatory military conscription now. So we, we, we, uh, we knew that, uh, lots of young people were drafted every year, but they were not even taken to a military service. They're just used as a free labor to guard some government buildings or some presence, et cetera. Um, and then, uh, and it was a huge problem. We, we decided to somehow somehow find a solution. So we, uh, look through the low and founded, uh, if you are a priest, uh, they actually cannot draft you. Um, and so when we started our own religion and, uh, we made, uh, priests, uh, pamphlets thousand Sophie, young people, uh, and, uh, because, because Georgia societies were religious or at least, um, they, they claim that they are religious, uh, uh, they were against it, but then we started to explain why we are doing it.
Speaker 1 00:54:37 So we explained that, um, it's a matter of freedom for us. I mean, if you want to somebody to do something you should pay for this, and you have, nobody has any rights to take one year or two year of a young man's life and to make him to do, um, some work, uh, and it works. Uh, and, uh, we do this kind of, uh, stuff all the time for, for example, when, um, uh, now when I was a discussion about prohibiting some gambling and, uh, most, probably the nearest country, we will start our online gambling company company. And, uh, we always had a fight because of this with the government. And, uh, quite often we are arrested, know they make us pay some, even though we don't pay, and then they create problems with our bank accounts, et cetera, but it's, it's, uh, for us, it's, it became kind of a way of life, but each time we do this kind of thing, we explain why we are doing it.
Speaker 1 00:55:37 And, uh, you know, when you do this kind of stuff, you have a kind of window of opportunity at time span when you are in the center of attention, and you can use this time to do educational, right, to explain something, because otherwise, I mean, you can deliver a lecture, but nobody's listening, but once you are in the center of attention, you can actually explain why you are behaving so strange by the standards of the Georgian society. And it works. I mean, in 21st century, uh, it's a problem for anyone to get into the center of attention. Uh, it doesn't matter if you are in show business or in politics or wherever. So you can, you can talk about lots of wild stuff, but if nobody's listening, it doesn't matter. So, um, this is a strategies that works for us. Uh, we do something crazy. And then for a short period of time, we do lots of explanations. And this is how, uh, we made lots of young people understand what we believe in.
Speaker 0 00:56:36 So, uh, kind of a gorilla marketing approach, high on creativity, imagination thinking outside the box and creating a splash, you know, a kind of a stunt and then using it as an opportunity to educate. So, all right, well, we are coming right up on the top of the hour. I'm going to squeeze in a last question, um, by Erica, uh, who is on Instagram, she's asking if you're helping young people avoid mandatory conscription. Do you agree then it is better to follow morality in the face of an unjust law?
Speaker 1 00:57:15 Um, yes. Um, yeah. Um, I mean, uh, we do not, uh, follow all the laws we have in Georgia because we believe that lots of those laws are unjust laws and we publicly violence. And so, and we call it, um, civil disobedience acts and community, the standard affects number of times. And, um, um, initially it was a problem to explain why, uh, why we are doing it and how is it possible not to follow the law. Um, but then we brought, uh, lots of examples and, uh, yeah, we did. We just, the way, whenever we, we, we had lots of TV debates on whether a citizen should follow all the existing laws or citizens should go against those laws who he or she deems, um, unjust. And, uh, we bring up the examples of, uh, for example of apartheid in South Africa, which was completely Digger or slavery was legal or Holocaust was, uh, legal, completely legal. Uh, and then they understand that yeah, sometimes, uh, there are some laws that are on justice sometimes even horrible. Uh, and then, uh, we believe that it becomes the obligation of, uh, of, uh, uh, citizen abuse. It is a moral, uh, to go against those laws. And, um, it works
Speaker 0 00:58:44 W we, I don't think we're going to be able to get to a full, uh, answer on this, but I, I thought it was an interesting observation, uh, from <inaudible> man, coach villi, uh, seeing same being in a post Soviet, uh, country. He is saying that, um, where, where is it important to draw the line between the amount of freedom in terms of a country's social policies? He's his observation is that, um, there is a big emphasis on freedom, but he would like to see more of an emphasis on individual responsibility. So,
Speaker 1 00:59:28 Um, well, um, it's a million dollar question, but, um, I mean, um, this is how I see it and, uh, this is, uh, how I act and let's say, uh, in a country like Georgia and post-Soviet country, um, yeah, I mean, we can, if I was a member of the academia, I would, uh, argue, um, and I would spend lots of time on arguing, whereas this line should be drawn and, uh, I consider myself to be, um, the classical liberal, um, and, uh, yeah, and it's quite interesting for me to see, for example, Randians debating and a capitalist or Chicago school economies, debating Austrian school economist, uh, and it's, it's challenging. It's interesting, but being a politician in a country like Georgia, uh, which is still a Soviet country, um, I would prefer to fight for four freedoms, uh, or, or, uh, in each area, which is possible, uh, because, uh, what we, I mean, all of our problems is still based on the fact that we still don't have a free society. Uh, and, uh, once we become more or less free society, then we can argue, uh, where we draw the line, whether the government should finance only military police and judiciary, or each of those show finance, some basic social security net and things like that. But it's this moment when government is involved, basically everything and it's regulating everything. Um, yeah, I would kick out government in any area. It's my strategy for,
Speaker 0 01:01:12 Well, I think it is an interesting question. I hope, um, that, that viewer will bring it back to the other discussions that we have here at the Atlas society, and also join us on clubhouse, um, because we have a chat spare twice a week and we do get to some of these philosophical questions. And certainly we can model that in our own personal lives, whether we are politicians or those who are advocating, uh, less government to, um, to model, uh, and set an example of more individual responsibility in our own lives. So, uh, zurab thank you very much. Um, I want to thank you for your time. Hope you get some sleep, um, and, uh, thank all of you who joined us all of the excellent questions. Um, if you have been a part of these weekly webinars, we're at number 80. So, um, if you're enjoying them, consider supporting me out in society with a tax deductible donation, we want to wish all of you a happy Thanksgiving. Uh, we look forward to seeing you next week again on club house, uh, on Tuesday and on Thursday. And then also we've got our interview with Jeffrey talker next Wednesday. So thank you all.