Libertarian U.


The Los Angeles Times profiles Manuel Francisco Ayau Cordon, founder of Francisco Marroquin University in Guatemala City, a "citadel of laissez-faire economics." A few clips:

Welcome to Guatemala's Libertarian U. Ayau opened the college in 1972, fed up with what he viewed as the "socialist" instruction being imparted at San Carlos University of Guatemala, the nation's largest institution of higher learning. He named the new school for a colonial-era priest who worked to liberate native Guatemalans from exploitation by Spanish overlords.


[Ayau] picked up a pamphlet by Ludwig von Mises, a member of the so-called Austrian School of economics. Considered one of the fathers of modern libertarianism, Mises abhorred state intervention in the economy. He believed that open markets, individual choice, private property and the rule of law were the means to a prosperous society.

Something clicked. Ayau read everything he could find by Mises, Friedrich Hayek and other Austrian School economists. He started a small discussion group among some Guatemalan friends and eventually traveled to New York to attend lectures at the Foundation for Economic Education, a free-market think tank. Through contacts there he met Mises and others whose works he'd been reading. At Ayau's urging, several traveled to Guatemala to speak to his tiny band of free marketeers, who by now were calling themselves the Center for Economic and Social Studies.

John Stossel, co-anchor of ABC News' "20/20," was honored this year on campus, as much for his ideology as his Emmy awards. An avowed libertarian, Stossel got a warm reception for his discourse against government regulation.

"We celebrate the message that this university teaches because economic freedom makes everybody's life better," Stossel said to rousing applause.


There are no sports teams and no affirmative action in hiring or admissions. Instructors can forget about tenure; there is none. Ditto for the protests and sit-ins that are common in public universities in Latin America. If Francisco Marroquin students are unhappy with the product they're getting, they're free to take their business elsewhere.

"If you don't like Macy's, you go to Gimbels," Ayau said.

I hate to break it to Ayau, but Gimbels closed more than twenty years ago—but point taken.

Full article.

(Tip: Steve K.) 

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  1. The fact that Gimbels closed actually makes his point more poignant. It’s an example of the free market in action.

  2. Ah… no tenure… I often dream that we get rid of tenure and they let me doing the firing. I chase them out of their offices with fire extinguishers and air horns. And then I remember that they’d actually have to be on campus for me to chase them from their offices, and the dream lies shattered at my feet.

  3. I hate to break it to Ayau, but Gimbels closed more than twenty years ago

    I prefer Bloomingdale’s, but that’s because I was an Upper East Side snob anyway. Screw Barney’s.

  4. …Ludwig von Mises, a member of the so-called Austrian School of economics…

    How did that get by the so-called editor?

  5. Soooo.. Does this mean Guatemala is the new Free State Project?

  6. I prefer Marshall Field’s, but that’s Macey’s now too 🙁

  7. I haven’t lived there for almost 20 years, but Madison, Wisc., has a Macy’s that started out as a Gimbels.

  8. SugarFree: The dream is alive, because when they come back in the fall, tell them that their offices are being used for storage, move them to the boiler room, and send them in an endless loop between their department head and HR to figure out why they aren’t getting their paychecks anymore. Just like in Office Space.

  9. NutraSweet, what do you do that causes you to hate tenure so?

  10. Epi,

    I hat tenure about as much as SF does, but I just don’t mention it much.

  11. From the article:

    Every undergraduate, regardless of major, must study market economics and the philosophy of individual rights embraced by the U.S. founding fathers, including “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

    “People aren’t dumb. They want to make more money. They want to have more opportunities,” she said. “Here we criticize capitalism, but we don’t even know what it is. . . . I want to be part of a movement to change their minds.”

    Damn! Best two paragraphs I have read so far this year.

  12. …and the philosophy of individual rights embraced by the U.S. founding fathers…

    A number of the founders were quite paternalistic in their outlook actually. Indeed, the notion of noblesse oblige informed their views as much as anything.

  13. Glad to see the Guataletecas are a model of economic prosperity in the region thanks to the existence of the university — kidding — so do all the students brain drain after graduating from FM — or what positive influence have they had on these MF Guat grads politically, economically, etc?

  14. The line about Gimbels is a punch line from an old Lenny Bruce joke. The whole joke is recounted on the title page to David Friedman’s The Machinery of Freedom.

  15. Someone has transcribed it for us…

    “Capitalism is the best. It’s free enterprise. Barter. Gimbels, if I get really rank with the clerk, ‘Well I don’t like this’, how I can resolve it? If it really gets ridiculous, I go, ‘Frig it, man, I walk.’ What can this guy do at Gimbels, even if he was the president of Gimbels? He can always reject me from that store, but I can always go to Macy’s. He can’t really hurt me. Communism is like one big phone company. Government control, man. And if I get too rank with that phone company, where can I go? I’ll end up like a schmuck with a dixie cup on a thread.”

    [Lenny Bruce, opening quote from “The Machinery of Freedom – Guide to a Radical Capitalism” by David Friedman]

  16. If Francisco Marroquin students are unhappy with the product they’re getting, they’re free to take their business elsewhere.

    A great point. US colleges improved when they went coed and intergrated in the 1960’s, but it was possible to accomplish this through boycotts instead of sit-ins. There where a hand full of colleges at the time that already admitted students regardless of race or gender. If pro-intergration students with the option of going to elite universities picked the quotaless universities instead, they could have launched those schools into the top tier. After all, Cornell managed to become the youngest Ivy by expanding its pool of potential students.

  17. WTF?? Guatemala has a Libertarian university? Hell, us Mexicans are falling behind! Uh, for that matter, so are Americans, and Canadians, and the French, and the English, and Germans, and the rest of Latin America, and… you know, all those that relish on the socialist muck.

  18. The US used to have a Mises loving libertarian university too. But then the Straussian neo-cons took it over. Nowadays it is nothing more than a box to indoctrinate impressionable young minds as to the moral rightness of waging war on civilian populations. I weep for the Hillsdale that once was.

  19. I’m a big fan of Manuel Ayau and I am full of admiration for what he has built in Guatemala.

    Francisco Marroquin University is not only a light of freedom in the region, but it is one of the world leaders in online education. It’s worth a visit: (A fair amount of the content is in English, by the way.) will be hosting a week-long program on the political economy of freedom in cooperation with UFM, mostly likely in January of 2009. (The whole program will be in Spanish.)

  20. The US has a libertarian university. Its called George Mason.

  21. GMU is a great university but, other than its economics department, it would be a stretch to label it “libertarian”.

  22. GMU School of Law also has a free-market bent

  23. ….and there would be no sports teams without government. All pro sports franchises depend on govt money for profits.

  24. The Macy’s/Gimbel’s thing is an allusion to an old but fairly common phrase I am barely old enough to remember, “Does Macy’s tell Gimbels?” It meant something like “Oh, and you think I’m going to tell you?”

  25. Spur, the political influence of students graduated from FM has been growing during the past decades. This is a fairly “new” university, and there has to be some time to observe its results. I would suggest you visit for an example of a project in part by FM alumni to modify Guatemalas constitution to protect individual liberties, free markets and the state of law.

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