In 2012, an essay of mine won me two highly appreciated recognitions. One came from the first edition of Sofia Business School’s Master Classes on Global Economic and Financial Risks – Best Working Paper Award, and a scholarship for the annual Von Mises conference, organized by the pro-market Istituto Bruno Leoni. And the other coming from the ALDE (to which i have no affiliation and never had, which only makes it more special) – a pan-European scholarship contest and an opportunity to take part in a leadership academy on the subject of the future of the EU.
Now, having said that, i should clarify that the purpose of this current publication is not to show-off with ‘glory from the past days’, but to express my disappointment of the fact that quite two often what is written by young scholars, even if recognized for its excellence, is considered far from seriously when it comes to real-world application of the basic conclusions drawn. Despite having the opportunity to defend my thesis at the European Parliament and receive an overall positive acceptance from both liberals and conservatives, the recommendations I made in my paper were never to be implemented by the key stakeholders.
Those ideas I had put together around the threat of a Grexit, were to be kept ‘for information only’ by the self-sufficient bureaucrats, until the next big crisis hit the EU even stronger, to prove that you may neglect the need to act for some time, but negligence always comes at a price. And the more you postpone, the bigger the interest you pay. Especially if it concerns subjects, related to freedom, generational and global social-economic changes and challenges. In the current case the price which had to be paid was the UK leaving the EU with the vast majority of British people deciding their nation would be better off outside of the European Union, without further considering the option to remain and fight for what they think is right for the future of a project they’ve invested decades into developing it.
Were the British right or wrong in their decision, the future will show. Obviously we observe the great risks and the division which this acts institutes (to create, and to institute are not the same!). A division not only between the UK and the EU, but also within both. However, I do understand the logic of the referendum’s outcome. For quite some time there were those who were raising their overwhelmingly reasonable ideas, voices, and concerns, but remained unheard. Until the day came when politicians with intentions and agenda not necessary noble and worth fighting for, profited from what eventually had transformed into an irreversible mix of dissatisfaction, frustration, and pure anger. And from what history teaches us, we know that rationality does not directly correlate with those.
Having the worrying feeling that yet again the official representatives of the EU will fail to act accordingly, I sense the need to double-down on my observations from the crisis not that long ago, astonished by how relevant they are to the situation nowadays and the proper way to move forward. I would also use the opportunity to underline my faith in the young European generation – all the way from the UK to Greece, and in the key role that the education plays for building a better and more sustainable world through enablement of those young people to steer a divided world in the right direction. Non the less, as a person who in 2008/9 was representing his country in the finals of the “Young European of the Year” award in Berlin, an honor i was given due to the projects i led back in the days, in the area of trans-border cooperation on the Balkans, I remain a strong believer in the importance of the Freedoms of the EU and its role and relevance as a common project – protecting and supporting the prosperity and peace in Europe though free movement of people, goods, capital, and services.
My faith is strong, but so is my criticism when it comes to people and policies shaking the foundations of that very project, given the prospects of what is to be already called a “Nexit“, if reforms are not embraced. Comments and and further discussions will be appreciated and are highly encouraged.
Tackling the Crisis Through Utilization of Applied Knowledge & Youth Energy
A RESCUE Path –Restoring Economic Sanity and Consciousness within United Europe
„The utilization of applied knowledge skills and youth energy is equally import as a tool to overwhelm the current crisis across Europe and as a valuable post-crisis asset to bring back the EU Project on the path to prosperity.”
In the paper the author claims that tackling the current crisis in Europe in the frames of the global economic crisis through utilization of applied knowledge & youth energy is the best possible path towards prosperity as both European governments and EU-institutions suffer from lack of energy to sustain themselves on their current path towards self-sufficient bureaucratization, furthering away from free-market principles, entrepreneurial capitalism, self-initiative & personal responsibility. The essay identifies some essential personal and social skills that the young European generation should „enforce” itself with in order to prepare for and try to avoid future expansion of the debt burden. Many examples from the economic theory and education philosophy, from today’s reality and current practices across Europe – both positive and negative, are given to illustrate the importance of critical-thinking and problem-solving skills implementation in the decision-making & taking processes, concerning the present and future political and economic challenges. The examples also reveal some structural weaknesses in Europe and extract recommendations and guidelines for their avoidance. Though the author’s point of view – both ideological and pragmatic, stays away from technicalities, it succeeds in naming directly the main challenges and presents a clear agenda to be followed with a conservative approach towards EU integration, focusing on the pillars of economic liberty for further preservation and development of the Common European Project, appealing to the new generation of leaders of tomorrow today.
It’s the Energy, Dummy!
Is it all over with the European Project? Should Europe break-up? Which direction should we be moving into? Questions such as these are being raised very often nowadays and not without a reason. But along with the dispute over the nature of the crisis in the EU and the possible ways of getting out of it through sometimes radical institutional reform concepts – from breaking-up through forming „multi-speed” Europe or establishing „European Superstate”, we should really be focusing first of all on coping with the „energy” issue that becomes crucial for the future development of European nations and their alliance. Because no matter what reform – in the right or wrong direction (that will be a question of discussion later on in the essay) you should always have the energy to back it up with. In past times, energy was something that wasn’t only considered as a source to power our utilities, but to also power our policies, our personal development as individuals and our social development as a group. The energy generated by human beings makes the difference between success and failure in most of the cases, not something found in the ground, in the air, or a reactor of some kind. Energy that we see when somebody is setting up a start-up company for example, the kind of infectious energy that drives you to do what needs to be done, without being told to do so.
Today lobby groups in Brussels are only interested in governments inversing in new energy sources, for example, without asking themselves where and how the money for the investment will come from (it’s not their problem, its ours!) as the economy is struggling by the burden of the policies that is supposed to finance (supposed not by nature, but by regulations). Bureaucrats claim that they intent to make the economy a „sustainable” one for the future generation, while cutting off all sources of basic financial stability even in short-term perspectives. Plus every time they do so, a bill is being sent to the future generation to pay back the deficits and what is borrowed in the name of the „noble goal” to sustain this so called „sustainability”.
It is more obvious than ever before that policy-makers are following their own agenda, furthering the distance with the economic common-sense which tells us that we should fight the problem through thorough analysis and realistic assessment of its symptoms in order to avoid future negative outcomes. Yes! – The present economic situation in Europe is only a symptom – clearly and very sharply expressed, but just a symptom, a pure projection, of the core problem and a general trend in the EU, which is that there is a dramatic and systemic insufficiency of energy to support a common European project in economic and political sense in conditions of profligacy and bureaucratization of the mind, both of which increasing the levels of instability. Many have forgotten that EU integration itself is not the goal, but rather the mean to achieve prosperity for the nations and their citizens. And putting the things this way shows us how the process has gone far from where it should be today.
The good news is that we, as citizens, are getting more and more sensitive and reactive on nowadays’ social and economic problems that in the past have existed for quite a long time, indeed, but have only been coped superficially and without in-depth analyzes. As Tomas Jefferson once said – „If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”
The dimension that we also have a significant increase in is the ‘speed’ of the problems’ formation & development, due to the quantitative accumulation processes taking place throughout the years and the need of rapid adaptation towards changes. Thus the resolution – how to handle those circulating problems, which is the right mindset to operate with (apparently not with the one that caused the situation) is the only part of the deal that we should focus on in order to have a chance to succeed. Restoring economic sanity and consciousness behind Europe’s governance – both on national and supranational level, is the cure as it tends to restore the equitation, concerning cohesion and prosperity and creating synergy out of these two processes.
And yet again the energy needed to support such reformation is what we lack today, seen by the impossibility of European leaders to just handle and manage through the crisis that many of them are to be blamed for. So which are the „energy” sources that shall empower us to progress and what will be the „fuel” of such progress? Apparently bureaucracy is not one of them, though it is most-commonly used as a tool by unelected officials and administrators in Brussels. Wondering why…? (some theoretical explanation can be found in Ludvig von Mises researches) Creating a heavily-bureaucratic superstate will not address any of the concerns about the personal welfare of European citizens, neither will this be achieved by putting an end to tens of years of post-war integration processes and joint efforts, as there are such calls.
Living in post-polarization era when large number of various international groups of interests with relatively equal relevance and influence co-exist and decide the world’s economic agenda reduces the probability that a stable and predictable international environment will arise. Thus I believe that Europe today should develop and implement its own empowerment „energy plan” that would allow all of us to again be on the track of “winning our future”, focusing on the „how”-part and the self-contribution and self-initiative of Europe’s citizens, not on the redistribution concepts with arguable sources and means of redistributing. Because even in a flourishing and financially sustainable, in ideologically-consolidated Europe (which is clearly not the case today), lack of „fuel” to power the functioning mechanisms and forgetting what this complex social-economic system is all about, would simply lead to its failure.
Now somebody would argue: „Wait a second, Europe already has it strategy – the EU 2020 strategy! What’s wrong with that?” There is nothing wrong with the administrative papers, except that they kill trees in order to be reproduced and, by the way, as speaking – waste hundreds of millions in order to be carried out and executed to justify someone’s career & salary in Brussels. In our case – the careers of thousands. Eventually, they fail as any other theory, relying on bureaucratic planning and programming of the economic development (for reference look at the Lisbon strategy). We speak here for an „energy plan” of a new kind that would enforce out ability to preserve European social culture that rests on its three main pillars – the free and responsible individual, the family as the foundation of society, and local & civil communities as the base for collective action, while in the same time, through creativity, would transform nowadays corrupted ideas and economic solutions into entirely new forms, relying on those pillars.
I think that with neither prejudice nor useless illusions the necessary source of energy can be found in the new European generation of young people, which was the most hardly hit by the present economic hardships and challenges. Today’s Europe’s young “crisis generation” is unique for two interconnected reasons – it is the first since 1950 that is to have a lower standard of living than the standard of its parents and is the first that no longer is charged with historical and national dogmas, prejudices and internal borders – both on soil and mentally thanks to the effects of the free movement of goods, capital, services, and people as the single market is undoubtedly the greatest achievement of the European integration process so far. These two facts in a combination – the economic hardships and the social cohesion, lead to the conclusion that the present problems across Europe and the future responsibility for solving them are shared more than ever before by the young generation, whether people like it or not. If the pragmatic strive of this young generation to live closer and better is strongly supported (with ideologies aside) all the way from urgent structural reforms in Europe’s economic, fiscal and social systems right down to preparation of young graduates to make difficult ethical choices in the face of competing pressures, this will turn out to be the best ‘fuel’ to power the preservation & the development of the Common European Project – the best investment, as it will repay itself enormously and re-create the energy that the founding fathers bared when spoke about the European consolidation. This is the real investment towards more competitive, smarter & result-oriented entrepreneurial economy free of debt, no matter if you are a supporter of the libertarian, conservative or federalism movement and the respective views upon economy.
„Freedom is the first-born daughter of science!”
Unfortunately, Europe is moving exactly in the opposite direction of what needs to be done – politicians are overregulating, creating fiscal disbalances, indebting the future generation that is to change the tendencies. Fragility, low confidence, and risks of overleveraged societies continue to threaten further economic decline in the Eurozone. This comes for a reason – „Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone” (T. Jefferson). „And to render even them [the people] safe, their minds must be improved to a certain degree”, as one of America’s founding fathers concludes, speaking about the importance and the role of education, respectively science, for one’s liberation.
Indeed, education liberates! And in order to do that, it should teach young people not what, but how to think in order them to be expected to become the real leaders of tomorrow both in civic and economic sense as a flourishing economy requires the same set of skills that supports active citizenship. To think and thus develop a logical, consistent plan to solve problems, but to also recognize consequences of solutions and be able to articulate reason for choosing solution. For example, let’s look from several directions on the ongoing debate about the role of the state in one’s personal welfare matters that is in the core of modern social, economic and political polarization across Europe and raises the spirits among youngsters, especially in times of crisis. It will point out the need of critical thinking skills development and their implementation in the educational process.
Question №1 – Is the state actually ‘helping’ those „in need” by subsidising failure, under-performance and expectations, based on no actual or miss-interpreted self-evaluation? Such intervention government schemes towards „social welfare” look extremely attractive, only until we don’t start to think critically on the issue and see that we are betting on a lame horse. If we base this discussion on solid facts and figures alone, we shall instantly notice that the state-run social programs, the „soft”-measures and interventions on the employment market are just not working or adding value to the national economy in their present view. A recent study among industrial leaders showed that more than 90% of the employers point out today they ask new employees „to take on more responsibilities” and to „use а broader set of skills than in the past”, which means that such social programs, which discourage people to take actions independently, are actually making the recipients less employable through implying the wrong action-models.
It is also clear that personal responsibility towards prosperity can be applied in an integrative manner in society only by promoting, encouraging or at least removing barriers for business and entrepreneurial activities and projects. Instead governments across Europe and centralised Brussels’ institutions tend to drain personal assets and re-direct them into heavily bureaucratic intervention schemes which do not meet the principles of free choice, private initiative and the way market relations between the agents work in practice. Because of such programs people can neither save, nor invest as their personal income is in big percent seized and directed towards inefficient and badly-judged measures. Lowering the levels of government spending means more money for personal consumption and investment for citizens and employers while stimulating natural demand, thus putting money back into the struggling economy. Otherwise, you can say that liberties, such as freedom of choice and voting rights in the market process are being taken aback through welfare-state programmes. Increasing welfare payments can be also classified as a shortsighted “bribery” of voters with other-voters money producing as a consequence nothing but stagnation, passivity and loss of competitiveness resulting in long-term high unemployment and dangerously accelerated growth of the national debt.
Question №2 – Is it (based on the previous example) only a matter of economics or a matter of democracy and protection of civil rights to equip the young generation with the necessary skills to enlighten themselves and expect them to have an active stand? Of course when raising such revolutionary questions, we should point out that steps toward freer conditions in the social-economic sphere- in the labour market for example, are advantageous for both employees and employers, so we are not discussing class warfare issues, and in that spirit the enlightenment and enforcement of young people with applied knowledge should not be a question of ideological dispute, as long as common sense prevails. But when there is an intentional ignorance of basic economic principles across European governance practice, resulting in different but equally wrong directions such as the institutional fear from flexible labour market, which in somebody’s view would restrict the rights of employees (as in reality it is exactly the opposite), actions to oppose such nonsense are needed on personal and civil level.
In this case, to reveal the truth behind propaganda, we should say that the more regulation, the bigger legislative complexity, the more loopholes are created. Conversely, a flexible labour market with liberal regulation enables greater contractual leeway between the employer and employee, which brings advantages for both parties in times of crisis. That is one of the most convenient ways to tackle youth unemployment which is indeed an existing and serious structural problem for the national and European economies. The employee, in case of liberalization of the labour market, can negotiate conditions that are now strictly defined in the Labour Codes. For example in Bulgarian Labour Code there are regulations, so in-depth, stating even that “overtime is prohibited” but is allowed to “complete the work when started”. Other articles state that „holidays come in pair of two days, of which one is obligatory Sunday”).
Leaving one’s position to work for a different employer will also be far easier with labour-regulations liberalization – something that the movement of labour as a common European strive requires. Of course, firms are also aware of this and will fight to keep their employees and therefore offer them better conditions. Conversely, an over-regulated labour market does not allow firms to hire more employees, because firms are afraid that in the event of declining production they will not be able to agree upon conditions with their employees that correspond to the current situation, shifting very intensely nowadays. The result – thousands of perspective young employees remain registered with the unemployment offices across Europe. And eventually bigger social programs are being put in use with less people in work supporting larger non working population… The example with the labour market shows us that as long as self-serving bureaucracy continues to spread its ideological influence instead of free market ideas, the governments will be feeling forced to intervene again and again to correct the results by their own mistakes through interventions on the labour markets and on other economical issues mentioned above such as social welfare programmes, without any observation on the urgent need to raise the added value of EU jobs instead or to consider demographics. A conclusion can be drawn that in the present state of economic governance there is a vast deficit of critical thinking and respect on quality of impact assessments and independent adjudications.
Question №3, raised couple of lines further down the paragraph, concerns the large government debts, deficits, and bailouts in a broader sense – Speaking about the need for critical thinking skills we cannot miss to reveal this biggest injustice towards young people in Europe nowadays– the one that is burying down any hope of future change and better tomorrow – the present permanent bailout situation in the banking sector across the Eurozone. Indeed, many young people are aware that a free and unspoiled market is the best way individual and collective progress can advance, but in the same time few are those that protest and oppose to the destructive bailout measures, implied by the EU institutions not allowing the markets to function properly and clear themselves form the burden of the insolvent financial institutions, turning them into state-run enterprises with even worse and riskier governance. This not only ruins the financial system, eliminating the capitalism from the equation, but also transfers the burden of the consequences of such reckless behavior to the citizens themselves (technically through the balance sheets of the governments, the central banks and the ECB) – leaving them with nothing but long-term problems to solve, in state of insolvency. In their book „Alchemists of Loss – How Modern Finance and Government Intervention Crashed the Finance System”, the authors – CATO Institute’s Adjunct Scholar Kevin Dowd and co-writer Martin Hutchinson, explain that the bailouts are unquestionably the biggest examples how the financial centre of the economy has become one massive rent extraction machine where gains are privatized and the losses are socialized — paid by the taxpayers or in cases of insolvency – by their sons and grandsons. Due to such long record of unsuccessful financial engineering by the governments there are no longer any effective capital intermediaries to support an entire prospective generation of potentially productive entrepreneurs that would re-start the European economy, if only given the chance. „If given the chance” not opposing to the importance of private initiative, but having in mind the circumstances laid by the bad governance that is blocking the entrepreneurial initiative, which is so badly needed in times of financial turbulence and further austerity ahead. And adding the that entrepreneurship is strongly related to areas such as job creation (vital to the overall long-term economic health of communities, regions and nations), country’s competitiveness and regional & local development, things look even worse in long term perspective for the EU if left in their present state. Never the less, entrepreneurship is the path towards the development of an innovation society in present days out off the academia doors as it strives to solve real-live problems – whether in services, or production, supply, etc. It goes hand by hand with science as it moves the knowledge-transfer processes, and as Jefferson said – science gives birth to freedom. And freedom opposes debt. Period!
Large government debts, deficits, bailouts in a broader sense – they are all threatening the long-term soundness of our economic system as EU’s member states continuously run high deficits and accumulate large sums of debt. This situation results in governments being unlikely to withstand future shocks from either a global political volatility, such as war, or a serious economic crisis. In state of fragility such events would lead to a breaking point with serious consequences. As senator Rand Paul states in his „Plan to Revitalize America”: „Protecting a failing entity only increases its size, reinforces irresponsible practices, and leaves the taxpayers with greater vulnerability in the future –requiring greater levels of taxpayer funds to bail them out when they fail again”. And the question – Wouldn’t it be great to hear that the young generation is demanding the market to function properly? To oppose debt and transfer of risk from corporate giants to ordinary middle-class citizens, to bring the economy back on the right track having in mind that credit bubbles, when they burst, take a long time, for any economy to fix those problems, but it would take a lot more if standing aside and not trying to prevent the consequences of somebody else’s wrongdoings. To initiate a cause to alarm the society on the huge debt crisis that is about to hit us and try to prevent that from happening?
The crisis from 2008 caught most of the European leaders by surprise. And now many in Spain, Greece, Portugal and in other countries have to pass through inevitable and painful austerity measures to cope with it. Trillions of euros were lost, millions of jobs were lost. But what if we, the citizens, saw it coming? What if we knew it was gong to happen, new generally when it was going to happen and why it was going to happen. More importantly – if we knew what needed to be done to prevent it form happening and we had the time to prevent it form happening. But still we didn’t alarm anybody because it wasn’t our prime concern… What would we think of us then? Probably that we wound be equally guilty and responsible to those who were „in charge”. Because as one of the most famous educational philosophers of the 20th century Robert Maynard Hutchins once said: “The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment.” That is were we are today. The debt crisis is the most predictable crisis Europe has ever faced. And now, more that ever before, the key to saving the drowning is in the hands of the drowning themselves, as the famous Russian comic writers Ilf and Petrov wrote.
The only difference is that today the young European generation, which was most hardly hit by the present economic hardships and challenges, as we stated earlier, can and should react on all costs as it will be the sole victim of its further indebtening. And if those, who will create the twenty-first century, want to pre-empt and prevent this debt crisis from taking down the future of European’s economy, from destroying more of their jobs today and giving the entire generation a diminished future tomorrow, they should indeed be outraged, as now it is clearly a „Time for Outrage”. If a couple of million people in their 20s and 30s understand their personal responsibility and the fact that far from being their oppressor as the propaganda claims, the free market is the most reliable method to deliver practical democracy and freedom of choice, they will succeed in leading a campaign to restore rational economic order across Europe. Because free market demands decency and responsibility to be rewarded in every healthy and moral economy at the price of punishment, condemnation and prevention of overindulgence and wastefulness.
Utilization of knowledge towards prosperity – why skills-oriented learning matters?
Obviously from the questions raised, the problem is that the knowledge of the surrounding circumstances, showing „the big picture”, doesn’t exist in a concentrated form but instead in the form of dispersed bits of incomplete and sometimes contradictory knowledge which the separate individuals possess. „It is a problem of the utilization of knowledge which is not given to anyone in its totality”, as Hayek points out clearly in his essay on knowledge and society, writing about people taking advantage of circumstances of which they are familiar. This concept helps us answer the question, raised previously in the essay – why so many young people are aware of the economic realities but few of them actually oppose (even fewer in the right manner) when those realities are being violated. It is because applying knowledge and taking use of it to resolve real-live situations is constrained by the lack of skills (a special set, to be more precise) and by the fragmentation of the knowledge on the circumstances (a matter of informational & quantitative literacy and inductive & deductive reasoning). The concept of liberal education is a good one, not theoretical, but quite pragmatic, to tackle this main source of „youth energy” inefficiency in the fight for a freer and better tomorrow as it provides both broad knowledge in a variety of areas and more in-depth knowledge in specific fields of interest. It should be clear that when speaking about „liberal” education no conservatives should be getting frustrated as it is something far from narrow partisan politics.
As the Nobel memorial prize winner and famous US economist George J. Stigler writes: „Whether one is a conservative or a radical, a protectionist or a free trader, a cosmopolitan or a nationalist, a churchman or a heathen, it is useful to know the causes and consequences of economic phenomena”. In the same time though, modern-days liberal education makes a critical political contribution towards the formation of such citizens who are capable of both conserving and improving a freer society. It helps young people develop a sense of citizen’s responsibility, as well as intellectual and practical skills that span all areas of study, such as analytical, critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and a demonstrated ability to apply knowledge in real-world settings (all of which mentioned above), so desperately needed in today’s economic situation as more big-picture thinking is demanded in order to cope with the crisis’ consequences. In fact, Georgetown university had a recent study which showed that there is a consistent evidence that the highest salaries apply to positions that call for intensive use of liberal education capabilities, including inductive and deductive reasoning, judgment and decision making, problem solving, interpersonal skills, originality… In what amount precisely such skills were implied by financial institutions’ officers, by governments’ officials or EU bureaucrats when the crisis occurred and when it needed to be tackled properly? In very limited, unfortunately…
Looking through applied knowledge skills, they should be considered both as tools to overwhelm the economic obstacles Europe is facing and in the same time as the most valuable post-crisis economic asset in a combination with the energy of young people to utilize them in a noble strive towards prosperity. It should be known that anyone who possesses such set of skills gains an advantage over somebody better equipped with theoretical or technical knowledge only. An educational eco-system that doesn’t attempt and doesn’t succeed in teaching a student sound mental habits, that doesn’t proclaim enduring ideas for liberty, handicaps in a way its graduates for both public and private life (equally), no matter what professional skills are obtained as they cannot be implemented in the right way.
In state of present stagnation across European’s economy every industry is challenged to innovate in order to secure its positions on the global markets. If Europe really strives to transform itself, the capacity to drive economic and science innovation, not state dependencies, is the only possible strategic advantage that can move the nation forward. Thus all young people need the kind of intellectual skills and capacities that enable them to get things done, at a high level of effectiveness. As we already pointed out there is this set of skills, these essential learning outcomes that university education should develop in order to empower young people to achieve a change towards restoring economic sanity and consciousness across Europe. In that matter the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) developed a project, which implementation is desperately needed across Old Europe. The project is devoted to the establishment of benchmarks in the process of mastering essential learning outcomes throughout the educational and life-long learning process. The initiative aims to attract attention towards the importance of a twenty-first-century liberal education—for a society dependent on economic creativity and democratic vitality.
The benchmarking is in the areas of intellectual and practical skills development (Inquiry and analysis; Critical and creative thinking; Communication skills; Quantitative & Information Literacy; Teamwork and Problem solving), personal responsibility (Civic knowledge and engagement—local and global; Intercultural knowledge and competence; Ethical reasoning and action; Foundations and skills for lifelong learning) and integrative learning (Synthesis and advanced accomplishment across general and specialized studies) .
As part of the project, a set of widely tested teaching and learning strategies and programs that when done well have substantial educational benefits such as Undergraduate Research, Common Intellectual Experiences & Projects, etc. The Authentic Assessments part is one of the most important as it establishes the core of the benchmarking system of learning outcomes accomplishment and success which contains the most common and broadly shared criteria or core characteristics considered critical for judging the quality of student work in that outcome area.
Without being too theoretical we should look more closely on couple of the essential learning outcomes and eventually give practical examples on their utilization in order to tackle properly the economic and debt crisis. No other reliable scientific method exists when there is no computability of the probability of rare, but high-impact events, such as those we are facing today, so we can only rely on our personal preparation in terms of practical skills and applied knowledge. Too much centralization of processes in that direction not only fails to help, but also destroys the basic human instincts and incentives to preserve people themselves – something that should be rethought!
Essential Learning Outcome №1
Several times we already mentioned the necessity for critical–thinking skills implementation in today’s complicated economic and political environment – the habit of mind characterized by the comprehensive exploration of issues, ideas and events before accepting an opinion or conclusion (on areas such as state-run welfare programs, labour market policies, etc.). And having in mind the statistics, it is no wonder why the situation had gone that bad. Only six percent of all college seniors are “proficient” in critical thinking. 77 percent are “not proficient”. Or at least that is what researches show. The process of critical thinking in terms of mastering and implementing is actually quite complicated in its nature. It consists of couple of stages, each of them having the corresponding benchmark points, milestones and capstones that should be eventually reached in the formal educational process as far as the quality of education is concerned.
The „explanation of issues” is the first stage in which one should be able to state the problem (the economic & debt crisis in our case) with evidence of all relevant contextual factors. For example, chronology is an important contextual factor when dealing with the financial crisis and if the problem is not (self)explained in a chronological way with all the causes-and-effects relationships it is hard to predict its further development directions and to react properly. The financial crisis started with the interbank money market crisis, the banking crisis, the following recession and led to the present days public finance crisis in Europe, accompanied by public debt, budget deficits, private debt and recession of second phase that would eventually lead to stage three of middle and long-term deep recession across European economy, followed by inflation, social unrests and unclear and uncertain future. (of course that is if we are in a position of sole observers, in which we can not afford to be).
The proper selection and usage of information to investigate a point of view or a conclusion is the second phase of the critical thinking process. It is also qualified as an ‘evidence seek’ in which one should be able to take information from source(s) with enough interpretation and evaluation to develop a comprehensive analysis or synthesis. And there were many such sources in the past decade, but were just misused – for example – the obviously bad and extremely dangerous way Euro’s currency was implemented. The common economic sense suggests that interest rates on government bonds in EU countries simply couldn’t and shouldn’t have been equally low in the period 2000-2008 as even levels of risk could not create themselves out of nowhere in a night, which is just what seemingly happened after the introduction of the Euro, which created the illusion among investors that the default risks were similar across the Continent no matter what. With or without the Eurozone countries like Greece simply have a record of not-following fiscal rules and not seeing them being riskier players is not only a matter of having none critical thinking at all, but also of pure stupidity. And actually what happened was that countries like Germany broke their records of fiscal discipline instead. More than 60 breaches on the Maastricht criteria & their subset – the Stability and Growth Pact, adopted in 1997 took place during the first decade of Euro-currency existence alone – no fines or other penalties were ever imposed! 
Questioning thoroughly viewpoints of experts, no matter their capacity (as capacity obviously should not matter according to the recent developments), is also a skill that is expected to be mastered on that stage. „To-big-to-fail” is equally wrong when speaking about financial institutions, countries and global political or economical leaders (and thinkers) of today. Everybody can fail and thus everyone’s assessments and reactions should be put on question!
The ability to catch and asses the influence of context and assumptions in a giver situation is the next step in the process. One should thoroughly (systematically and methodically) analyze own’s and others’ assumptions and carefully evaluate the relevance of contexts whenever presenting a position. If we take a quick reflection on the paragraph were the increasing welfare payments towards citizens were classified as a governmental “bribery” of voters with middle-and-long-term consequences, such as economic stagnation, passivity and loss of competitiveness and compare this with the initial and later effects of Euro on the less-developed economies such as Portugal & Greece, we shall see the same pattern – at first tempting promises such as lower interest rates, promoting growth and convergence, turning countries with long history of debt defaults and high inflation into main beneficiaries, but eventually leaving them the same place as the social programming leaves its beneficiaries – in state of economic stagnation, passivity and loss of labour and capital competitiveness (plus large mountains of debt). This example is clearly showing how assumptions are something extremely dangerous and how important is to train ourselves to analyze and evaluate the contexts.
Then comes the ability to state specific position (perspective, thesis/hypothesis), but in a way which takes into account the complexities of an issue and the limits of one’s own position and others’ points of view. Eventually the last phase of the critical-thinking process is about drawing conclusions and related outcomes (implications and consequences), as dealing with future outcomes of present actions requires some foreseeing in times of short-sightedness. The capstone here is that they should logically reflect one’s informed evaluation and ability to place evidence and perspectives discussed in priority order. Evidently, with a solvency crisis in the banking sector, worrying about depositors’ savings is a concern of logic. A deposit insurance scheme, implied by the government might sound reasonable, but if the previous phases of the critical-thinking process have been mastered for one should be clear that moral hazards as a result/consequence of such actions cause by far a bigger trouble than partial losses – it causes reckless behaviour from both depositors in a strive for higher interest rates, regardless of bank’s soundness, and from bank’s executive officers in strive for bigger market reach with the ultimate bonuses goals. If the state is worried about a granny loosing her savings, eventually her grandchildren shall pay the price… Why not instead ban government’s financial support to insolvent banks and private corporations of any kind and also prohibit insuring unwise investors (in financial or corporate sector) with tax-payers’ money? Wouldn’t that be the better option in long-term perspective? It would, if we draw conclusions and related outcomes wiser!
Essential Learning Outcome №2
In that sense, in order to answer ourselves what would be the outcomes of such measure, the other important essential learning outcome that should be explained through practical examples is the problem-solving skill process. Its main ingredients (phases) are: Definement of Problems, Identification of Strategies, Proposition & Evaluation of Potential Solutions, Implementation of Solution and Evaluation of Outcomes.
They all have their capstones (levels of excellence, which should be reached) in terms of mastering the skills. First comes the ability to construct a clear and insightful problem statement with evidence of all relevant contextual factors; Then comes the skills to identify multiple approaches for solving the problem that apply within a specific context. Again, the context is the key to success. For example, if we look through one of the best books on the present crisis – „This Time Is Different. Eight Centuries of Financial Folly” we shall see that throughout 800 hundred years of history there is an extraordinary range of financial crises with global outreach (In its recent research, the World Bank identified over 130 countries that have had banking crises since the 1980s.), but there are 2 main types of them – banking crisis and sovereign debt crisis. Surprise, surprise – today Europe has both of them. So handling the consequences requires an in-depth contextual look;
Next – one should be able to propose solutions, sensitive to the following factors: ethical, logical, and cultural dimensions of the problem, indicating „big-picture” comprehension. Taking time for reflection on our own values as European citizens is crucial. Getting back to some of them concerning our personal, social and economic freedoms – even more. What kind of idea is the establishment of a „Common Eurozone Bonds”? To cure a system, suffering from deficit of personal liability with the same, that caused the problem, but in bigger quantities and to continue and further develop the Ponzi scheme in which failed banks and supporting failed states (and vise-versa) with even bigger flow of printed money, pumped into the system by the ECB, is a recipe for total disaster, close to the intentional one. Equally irresponsible is to continue lending money to banks that nobody wants to have nothing in common with and no wonder as they have worked under the principle of „privatization of profits and eventually – nationalization of losses”;
Ultimately, in the theory and in practice, comes the phase of evaluation of the possible and reasonable solutions, done in a way which considers with respect the history of problem, reviews logic, examines the feasibility and weighs the impact of the solution. This question corresponds with the first part of the essay, dedicated to the energy of the young generation as a fuel to power the European project in the future in terms of history, logic and impact review. Here the emphasis falls on logic of the solution proposed. Why youth? Well, investing in education itself is considered a pillar of sustainable development, according to some theories, along with investments in health, environment, protection of poor, etc., but they all run on high budget a resource, which thus is not a reasonable solution, as already explained. So, sticking to the sustainable development theories,  the only pillar left to focus is the pillar of high rate of sustainable economic growth, backed by foreign & domestic private investments (scarce presently) and productivity growth, which requires social capital, equiped with technology and vice-versa. To bet on the young generation to execute this productivity growth process successfully and create more suitable and business-friendly economic environment is always a good idea with big doze of logic behind it. Of course, only if done in the bigger framework, backed by macroeconomic & liberalization reforms with emphasis on the structural issues in the EU member-states’ economies.
One of the most important phases – the implementation should be made in a way which addresses thoroughly multiple contextual factors of the problem (considering Europe, such factors are the economic stagnation, the loss of jobs, the struggling industries). In this aspect if we peek into EU’s budget-draft for the new 7 years term, we would hope to see focus on fiscal policies that do not suppress job creation (freezing the budget size & further taxation); to see a budget that creates space for innovation to boost the EU competitiveness through public investments (it can be achieved through more active role of the European investment bank, not through more of the wasteful spending) and private investments on free-market terms. Instead SURE report on the Multi-Annual Financial Framework of the EU for the 2014-2020 period calls for couple of new mechanisms of suppression of private initiative through common energy & aviation tax (the latter actually failed in Germany), common consolidated corporate tax levy and even common VAT… Are SURE’s policies contradicting with the contextual factors? Probably far too much than we would like them to. Other proposals, made in the SURE-report such as a minimal Financial Transaction Tax implementation to tackle the problem of excessive and highly-leveraged trading correspond to the ideas of the “Tobin tax”, proposed by the Nobel Prize-winner economist James Tobin. They are up held by conservative-banking supporters, but should be further discussed and not imposed by the EU without wide-spread public debates and prudent impact assessment.
The final stage of the process – the evaluation, should review results with specific consideration on the needs for further work in bigger-scale perspective. Such perspective as far as European economic growth is concerned includes small and efficient administration, rule of law, flexible labour markets, low taxation – all of which eventually lead to strengthening the single market. Of course, on a smaller scale, also needed to be observed, credit should be given to some reasonable measures in a second best system, implemented recently, such as the Macroeconomic Imbalances Procedure (MIP), introduced by the so-called “six-pack” of legislative measures, and the related surveillance in the context of the EU Semester, which provides a new framework for the euro area.
Eventually, continuing to illustrate the real-world implications in present-day European economic circumstances of the essential learning outcomes implementation in accordance to their highest standards can help the new generation of young European leaders discover the excitement and the benefits of learning free market and society ideas through experience, both in the wrong and right direction. As prof. Nenovski, a famous modern Bulgarian economist and researcher, states in his recent article: „The answers are so subjective and complex that the right ones can only be a result of a personal experience.”
Creative Guidance. Instead of Conclusion
So far we discussed the importance of reliance on freedom and personal responsibility (personal liability in the corporate sense), understanding that solutions to present-day problems represent first of all a personal challenge and afterwards – a collective one. We discussed the importance of focusing on youth as bearers of new hope, new ideas, new entrepreneurial spirit across Europe – a spirit that emphasizes opportunities over threats – something valuable in times when actions need to be taken. We also emphasized on the main point of the paper – the need to utilize youth energy and applied knowledge skills (such as those for problem-solving and critical thinking, given as examples) that are to be developed in the process of formal, non-formal, informal education and live-long learning in order to reflect the complexity of present economic issues as a path towards restoring economic sanity and civil consciousness across United Europe. We analyzed many of the prevailing action plans and what lies further beyond them, giving examples on how young generation should question and oppose measures, contradicting with the strive for prosperity through freer market & society, prudent economic principles of risk management & exposure and conservative approach in areas such as banking and investment, requiring rationality and long-term stability approach.
But as if something is still missing for the consistency of the theory. This something is the specific description of the breaking point, the turnover moment, which apparently is uncertain in terms of time and other conditions, but definitely not in terms of likelihood to take place. It is that the most creative acts are generally unexpected and originate in the minds of people who are interacting with their environment. Hence, maximizing data processing in people’s minds – encouraging them to be proactive and minimizing detailed planning (apart from planning the preparation of one’s set of skills and the focus of efforts) provides positive conditions for creativity and eventually for achievement of positive outcome of the crisis. Virtually no creative act is a result of a management (or bureaucratic) plan. Thus room for experimentation and out-of-the-box thinking is needed and such behaviour should be strongly supported. Self-confidence is needed for the European citizens to reassure once again confidence in the EU economy. In terms of constrains, as creativity loves restrictions, they become just an incentive in the fight to change the status quo. Never the less, as everyone has the license to pursue dreams, the more we share on the daily economic challenges on the path to restore economic sanity – the better ideas come from everywhere, the more we inspire and the closer we get to the goal as long as we „run on” youth energy and apply economic knowledge properly. As long as we utilize those in the strive for personal, social and economic liberation and prosperity.
What is important to be understood by the stakeholders is that the future of the Common European Project relies on European citizens, especially the young ones, facing common challenges and understandings about the pillars of the Project – free and responsible individual spirit, family as foundation of society, and civil communities as base for collective action. But not vise-versa! People do not rely on bankrupted bureaucratic projects, which had run out of fuel, and would not support such. The integration processes serve the well-being of European citizens as every power comes from the people. Further instructions and clarifications are not needed, just the opposite –they would not be in accordance with the sprit of the present essay and would eventually lead to the rejection of its guiding principles as the fight for liberty, in all of its dimensions – including social, political and economic, is always against the excessive constrains of the defined order.
 F.A.Hayek speaks in his essay on „The Use of Knowledge in Society” about the agreement upon the fact that the economic problem of society is mainly one of rapid adaptation to changes in the particular circumstances of time and place and because of that the ultimate decisions must be left to the people who are familiar with these circumstances, who know directly of the relevant changes and of the resources immediately available to meet them. The Lisbon Treaty, which entered into force on December 1, 2009, is an important step forward because it establishes the principle that requires decisions that really affect people, to be taken as close as possible to their level. This principle, the EU called “subsidiarity” and is very close as a concept to the understandings of Hayek in aspects of decision-making & taking.
 Mises’s 1944 book applies his insight concerning economic calculation to delineate the difference between bureaucratic management and profit-and-loss management in the free market. The implications of his argument are far reaching, for it shows that all types of public administration lack the ability to conduct their affairs in an economic rational manner.
 Barack Obama started using the phrase in his State of the Union Address in January 2011 when he said “to win the future, we’ll need to take on challenges that have been decades in the making.” He offered a five-point plan for “winning the future” by way of initiatives on innovation, education, infrastructure, government reform and political responsibility. But Former House Speaker Gingrich also claims ownership to the phrase “winning the future,” pointing to his 2005 book of the same title.
 The author’s view on the 2020 Strategy is not an ideological one, but more of a pragmatic position, based on the observation and analyzes of the document. Apart from the other imperfections of the EU 2020 Strategy, the document in its nature is dishonest in some of its basic statements, concerning important issues such as „Europe’s structural weaknesses”. For example, the less dynamic business environment (compared to EU’s prime economic rivals), is classified as a structural weakness for the Union without honest naming of the primary institutional drivers behind such staticity, which itself is more of an effect or a consequence of bad macroeconomic governance. Such lack of dynamics in the business environment should be tackled with limited government, small and efficient administration, flexible labour markets and low taxation. The non-existence of policies like these means that the critical view on the present situation, stated in the Strategy, is more of a posture, not of a real concern, followed by honest & in-depth analyzes. There are also other statements and paragraphs in the Strategy that raise even bigger concerns, such as the following claim: „Coordination within the EU works: the response to the crisis showed that if we act together, we are significantly more effective.”
 While the economic crisis is global, the impact of it is complex, affecting different localities in numerous different ways. There is a need for local leadership in correspondence with the EU principle of subsidiarity. There is even a global agenda for local recovery and reinvestment, put in action by the OECD in 2009. The crisis is a far bigger opportunity to embrace new strategic thinking about the future and to better align long term economic policies with principles and values that reach beyond the current or the next business cycle on local level than on national as there is bigger dose of flexibility and faster and more reliable impact assessments, as stated by the OECD in their report „Clusters, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Reinvestment : the role of local economic leadership in a global crisis”
 Thomas Jefferson to Francois D’Ivernois, 1795. ME 9:297
 Individual Choice in Voting and the Market, James M. Buchanan, Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 62, No. 4 (Aug., 1954), pp. 334-343
 In his book – „The Black Swan”, the author Dr. NassimTaleb says: “When you remove failure from the economy, you eliminate capitalism.”An economy that allows failure and goes through failure eliminates weaknesses and irresponsible behaviors from time to time, strengthening the system – a process also known as antifragility. Therefore, whenever governments take money from taxpayers to bailout “too-big-to-fail”corporate giants (mainly in the finance sector) they do it on the cost of eliminating „failure” as a concept from the free market equation and thus weaken the system even more.
 Present days many of the financial institutions that were bailed out with taxpayers money in both Europe and US are even more inefficient at their core function than before. Instead of restructuring and moving back to conservative banking, they provided almost the entire benefit handed out by governments , the ECB or the FED to their own staff. New scandals are emerging everyday concerning fixing libor and euribor and other allegations towards banks’ management including cartel in the derivatives market and insider trading.
 According to Wennekers & Thurik (1999) „in today’s world small businesses, and particularly new ones, are seen more that ever as a vehicle for entrepreneurship, contributing not just to employment and social and political stability, but also to innovative and competitive power”.
 „Indignez-vous!” – „Time for Outrage!„- a famous pamphlet by by Stephane Hessel, a surprise bestseller in late 2010 in France. As far as Hessel is concerned, “history’s direction is towards more justice and more freedom”, but in the last decade we have moved backwards. He mistakenly (according to the author of the present essay) seeks the problems’ core in the way capitalism reacts, though the ongoing process of moving away from the principles of entrepreneurial capitalism is the real problem in the past years both in Europe and the US. His pamphlet is directed towards the youth – “to you who will create the twenty-first century”. It inspired the protests across Spain, which in turn birthed the Occupy movement.
 Hayek, Friedrich A. “The Use of Knowledge in Society” American Economic Review. XXXV, No. 4. pp. 519-30. American Economic Association.
 According to the AAC&U Liberal Education is „an approach to learning that empowers individuals and prepares them to deal with complexity, diversity, and change.” It provides students with broad knowledge of the wider world (e.g., science, culture, and society) as well as in-depth study in a specific area of interest. The value of a liberal education, dating back to Ancient Greece, comes from a distinctive quality of mind and character that it encourages: the ability to explore moral and political questions from a variety of angles. This involves putting oneself in another’s shoes, distinguishing the essential from the contingent, imagining the contingent as other than it is, and reasoning rigorously without losing sight either of what is or what ought to be. Some of the biggest supporters of liberal eduavtion concept are famous philosopher John Stuart Mill & President Jefferson.
 John Stuart Mill, one of the biggest supporters of modern liberal education theory, wrote about the coherency between traditional conservative moral and values and the liberal aspect of education. As stated in his well-known pamphlet “On Liberty”: „The formation and flourishing of free individuals depend on the discipline of virtue, education, the family, and civil society”.
 AAC&U is the leading US association concerned with the quality of student learning in college with more than 1200 institutional members—including accredited public and private colleges and universities of every type and size. It represents a network of more than 30,000 faculty members, academic leaders, presidents, and others working for educational reform.
 This listing is developed through a multiyear dialogue with hundreds of colleges and universities in the US about needed goals for student learning; analysis of a long series of recommendations and reports from the business community; and analysis of the accreditation requirements for engineering, business, nursing, and teacher education. It is a product of the free market, not of a bureaucratic intervention! (author’s note)
 Source: Tertiary Education and Management, (2004)10 : 243
The author points out a clear interrelationship between the situation in the US and Europe, though a previous point in the essay was made that the problems in the European Union are circulating throughout the years and are quite persistent. The interrelationship is in terms of economic catalysis. Though the present burst in the EU began formally in 2009 with the discovery of Greece’s faked accounting ( the fiscal deficit turned out to double itself form 6% – officially, to 13% of GDP in reality), in addition to the high levels of debt, given the unwise levels of “social” benefits throughout the EU and the unwise borrowing and lending – both public and private (not without the help of the ECB policies), when the financial crisis from the US reduced fiscal budget revenues, all the EU countries suffered very high fiscal deficits. Those deficits led to difficulties in affording „big-spender” policies, but yet again they were financed with new debt, and eventually things got even worse.
 Many argued that the past unsuccessful attempts to limit fluctuations among EU currencies was a sign that the EU countries were not an “optimum currency area” (OCA) to have a common currency before taking the measures needed. The OCA theory, developed by Nobel winner Professor Robert Mundell of Columbia University, sets out the conditions needed to make monetary union attractive to a group of countries. Plus a single currency means that a shared responsibility for the economic problems is to be implied, but in the same time without a fiscal consolidation, such responsibility for someone’s unreasonable macroeconomic behavior threatens the entire system and removes the trust and confidence in time of crisis.
 The euro area debt-to-GDP ratio on a Maastricht basis is likely to peak at around 90% of GDP in the next couple of years, based on policies set out in Stability Programmes (OECD, 2011), while according to the Criteria once, should not have been bigger that 60% of GDP for any Eurozone member-state…
 United Nations Publications, 2008, „Achieving Sustainable Development and Promoting Development Cooperation Dialogues at the Economic and Social Council”
 In countries with low potential growth and weak domestic demand such as Spain, Portugal, Greece, structural reforms especially in the service sectors could boost investment and domestic activity as an exclusive way to do that with austerity measures in practice blocking other means as stated in the OECD Economic Surveys .The structural reforms concern also richer member-states as there are presently too big imbalances in their economies such as the over-reliances on the financial sector in the UK, or on export in Germany, on consumer debt levels, large budget deficits/surpluses, etc.
 The Policy Challenges Committee also known as SURE is a special EU parliament committee on the policy challenges and budgetary resources after 2013
 In their book „The Alchemists of Loss – How modern finance & Government Intervention Crashed the Financial System” the authors Prof. Kevin Dowd and Martin Hutchinson explain: „We are in general reluctant to recommend taxes, but in a second best system this has to be seen in the context where “good” activities are already heavily taxed.”
However, according to a research on „Global Imbalances, International Monetary Policy and Global Governance” by the European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the EP evidence from the UK stamp duty on share trading and other examples around the world, would suggest that this would not deter behaviour in the financial markets.
Another less arguable path towards more conservative financing is through minimization of tax incentives which are in favour of debt financing over equity financing. (author’s view on the subject).
- Hayek, Friedrich A., 1945. The Use of Knowledge in Society. American Economic Review XXXV, No. 4. pp. 519-30. American Economic Association.
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- Dowd, Kevin; Hutchinson, Martin. 2010. The Alchemists of Loss – How modern finance & Government Intervention Crashed the Financial System. Wiley & Sons, Incorporated, John.
- Taleb, Nassim, 2010. The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable.Random House Trade Paperbacks; ІІ edition.
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- G20 Mexico „Generating Global Economic Growth and Jobs Issue”.
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- Baker, Dawn R., 2004. The Entrepreneurial Economy, The MicroEnterprise Journal.
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- Rhodes, Terrel, 2010. Assessing Outcomes and Improving Achievement: Tips and Tools for Using Rubrics. Association of American Colleges and Universities.
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