Gustav von Hertzen in memoriam


Libera’s founder and first chairman, Gustav von Hertzen, passed away on December 18th, 2013 in his home, at the age of 83. von Hertzen was a respected business leader, social philosopher and writer. He had a career of nearly 40 years at Cultor (formerly Suomen Sokeri), first as a plant engineer before becoming the Managing Director and, later on, the chairman of the board. von Hertzen’s “second career” lasted over 20 years, during which he was involved in the success stories of Hartwall and the Baltic Beverage Group in the Baltic states and Russia, servong on the boards of the companies and as chairman, from 1982 to 2004.

Gustav, or “Gusse”, as he was always quick to get informal, had an influence on society through his many positions of trust and actively took part in public debate. He was a popular speaker on topics of corporate moral and leadership. von Hertzen’s main work is the magnum opus The Spirit of the Game (1993, Fritzers), in which he presents his own view of the challenges of this century and an impressive synthesis of various scientific fields.

At the core of von Hertzen’s message is a plus-sum game, which promotes and increases the well-being and prosperity of society. A plus-sum game differs from a zero-sum game, which only redistributes existing resources (e.g. income transfers), by benefiting all parties, and from the negative-sum game, which is destructive, as its name implies.

The basis for a successful society is moral capital, on which are built not only communities but also companies and interpersonal relationships (e.g. marriages). This trust capital is in a continuous state of change, building it up takes a long time and yet it can also be eroded in a relatively short period of time.

The Libera Foundation, a think tank, was von Hertzen’s “third career”. He believed strongly in civil society and exercising influence voluntarily. We founded Libera to promote freedom of individuals, society, markets and entrepreneurship. von Hertzen emphasised trusting individuals but also being aware of their weaknesses. Freedom and responsibility go together hand in hand. Freedom of choice also brings responsibility for the consequences of one’s actions.

von Hertzen’s literary output also includes the works The Challenge of Democracy (2008, Gummerus), Leadership and Morality (2008, EVA) and the report published by Libera in 2013 on the labour union movement in Finland, titled Umpikujassa? (In a Dead End?).

von Hertzen had a Master’s degree in engineering, held an honorary industrial title granted by the President of Finland, was an honorary doctor of the University of Helsinki and a member of the international Mont Pelerin Society. von Hertzen is survived and mourned by his wife Ulla-Maija, his four children and twelve grandchildren.

In Helsinki 19.12.2013

Petri Kajander