Dr. Steven Hayward is one of the most prominent American experts on environmental subjects and the author of the authoritative "Almanach of Environmental Trends' published annually by the Pacific Research Institute (pri.org) in San Francisco, among other books. He is also a prolific political commentator and the author of the definitive two-volume biography of President Ronald Reagan ("The Age of Reagan") as well as biographies of Winston Churchill and Presiddent Jimmy Carter. Currently he is a scholar in residence at the American Enterprise Institute (aei.org) in Washington D.C. and a senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute. He received his PhD from the Claremont Graduate School.
Dr. Hayward will give a lecture and lead a discussion at the Summer Business School on July 2, on market solutions to environmental problems. The Summer Business School, sponsored jointly by the New Bulgarian University and the Reform Union Club, will take place June 30-July 6, 2012 at the Kempinski Hotel in Sofia.
On the occasion of his visit to Bulgaria Dr Hayward gave an exclusive interview for FOCUS News Agency.
FOCUS: Mr. Hayward: Is this your first visit to Bulgaria? How did you get interested in the Summer Business School.
Dr. Steven Hayward: Yes, this will be my first time in Bulgaria. I've long thought that the story of Eastern Europe before, during, and after Communism is one of the great underappreciated and under-studied stories (at least over in the United States), and that the challenges of constructing post-Communist civil society one of the most thrilling and important of our time. There is much to be encouraged about, and much to worry about as well. I was delighted to accept Alex Alexiev's invitation to come visit first hand and participate in this Summer School.
FOCUS:You are well-known in the US as an expert on the environment but also as a prominent political writer. What is the subject of your lectures at the Sofia Summer School?
Dr. Steven Hayward:I'll be talking mostly about alternatives to centralized, bureaucratic regulation of the environment, using markets and property rights as alternatives to genuine problems that need to be solved. The international agenda of most of the major environmental NGOs is not advisable for Bulgaria in my opinion, but there is great pressure on Eastern European nations to conform to conventional environmental views.
FOCUS:As you know, you are coming to Bulgaria at a time when all of Europe is in the midst of a serious financial and economic crisis and many doubt that the Euro will survive it. What is your view on the economic prospects of the European Union and the eurozone in particular?
Dr. Steven Hayward:I'm not an economist, though I knew Milton Friedman quite well, and I distinctly remember him saying at the birth of the Euro that it was not likely to survive the first major continent-wide financial crisis. I am deeply worried that the collapse of the Euro, or its contraction (that is, several nations leaving the Euro starting with Greece) could have very serious political consequences. It is not clear that nations such as Greece and Spain, which already have very high unemployment, can withstand the prolonged period of austerity that is necessary to put their financial system back in order. It is ironic that the Euro, which was intended as the major instrument for cementing European unity, may become the instrument of European fragmentation.
FOCUS:In the United States, a seemingly unstoppable revolution in the production of unconventional gas appears to be changing the energy picture in the direction of energy independence. In Europe, which is dependent on Russia for its gas, on the other hand, shale gas is beng actively opposed by environmentalists and France and Bulgaria have actually forbidden its development. Do you believe Europe can remain untouched by the unconventional gas revolution that is sweeping America and what would be the consequences of that?
Dr. Steven Hayward:Europe would be very foolish to not take advantage of the new technologies for unlocking cheap natural gas (and oil for that matter--I suspect the new technologies will revive some of the older Romanian oil fields, too, if it isn't already). It is the cleanest fossil fuel, with multiple uses outside of just energy, such as chemicals and fertilizer. Above all, a growing economy needs affordable and abundant energy, and even if Russia were not a questionable supplier for political reasons, a diversity of supplies will assure a stable, low-cost energy market for decades to come.
FOCUS:As a political expert and author of perhaps the definitive biography of Ronald Reagan, what is your prognosis for the coming congressional and presidential elections in America? How likely is it that we could have a republican victory in November and what changes would this bring about?
Dr. Steven Hayward:There's a long time between now and election day, and events as always will play a major role, especially the direction of the economy (still very poor at the moment) and potential external events such as a war in the Middle East or some kind of setback for the U.S. in Afghanistan. Right now I think Romney is a good bet to defeat President Obama, and Republicans looks well-positioned to take majorities in both houses of Congress. After failing to behave with fiscal caution under President George W. Bush, I think a new Republican majority will know that it needs to deliver substantial reforms if it is to maintain its majority.