(Mark Skousen) – “FreedomFest was a gigantic conference. It drew many academics, journalists, activists of all ages, vendors, investors, and a huge variety of professionals in all fields. And of course, Laissez Faire Books was there in full force. The level of fun was totally over the top. But the content of every session I attended was just spectacular.” – Jeffrey Tucker, president, Laissez Faire Books
Everyone seems to agree: Our 7th FreedomFest was the “best ever” according to the many emails I’ve received – from Alex Green, Floyd Brown, Susana Etcheverry, Bert Dohmen, Brian June, and Gene Epstein, economics editor at Barron’s. Dinesh D’Souza said that FreedomFest has rapidly become “the premier libertarian gathering.”
We broke all kinds of records this year – number of attendees, sales of books at our official bookstore (Laissez Faire Books), and CDs/MP3s. Numerous sessions, panels and debates at Planet Hollywood were standing room only. And for the first time we had a major TV network, Fox Business at FreedomFest, along with C-SPAN. (Plus a nice mention by Bill O’Reilly on Fox News in his interview with John Stossel.)
The big libertarian pow wow was a who’s who in the freedom movement: Steve Forbes, Senator Rand Paul, John Stossel, Congressman Justin Amass, Charles Murray, Grover Norquist, Dinesh D’Souza, John Allison, Gene Epstein, Nick Gillespie, Art Laffer, Steve Moore, Randy Barnett, Lee Edwards, Dan Mitchell, Matt Kibbe, Wayne Allyn Root, Rusty Humphries, Jenny Beth Martin, Jim Rogers, Yaron Brook, Tom Palmer, David and Mary Theroux, Lawrence Reed, Joseph and Elizabeth Farah, David Nott, David Boaz, George Gilder, Jeff Tucker, Fred Smith, John Browne, Alex Green, Anthony Gregory, Lisa Kennedy, Doug Casey, Matt Welch, Ken Schoolland, Jon Utley, Tim Nash, Larry Greenfield, Daniel McCarthy, Mary Ruwart, John Goodman, Ben Powell, Barbara Kohm, Richard Rahn, Roberto Salinas, Brian Calle, Bill Norton, Alexander McCobin, Michael Shermer, Larry Pratt, Peter Boettke, Jim Gwartney, Max Borders, Steven Horwitz, Gerry O’Driscoll, Doug French, Floyd Brown, the list goes on and on.
Attendees came from around the world – North and South America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Australia. We even had a delegation from Poland.
This Year’s Theme: “Are We Rome?”
Every day was a highlight, starting with the Opening Ceremonies with speakers Steve Forbes, Dinesh D’Souza, and Wayne Allyn Root, and former Mayor Oscar Goodman (after his speech, all 200 copies of his entertaining book “Being Oscar” were sold). Keith Fitz-Gerald stole the show by appearing as Romulus Augustus, the last emperor of the Roman Empire, escorted by two Roman soldiers. He warned the audience not to make the same mistakes Rome did.
After our opening ceremonies, we had our cocktail party in the exhibit hall (“Trade Show for Liberty”) and the electricity and buzz were palpable. You had to be there to experience it. Almost every major free-market think tank and freedom organization was there for what I call “one stop shopping for liberty” – Cato, Heritage, Reason, Koch, Independent, Heartland, FEE, ISI, FreedomWorks, Eagle, Students for Liberty, ISIL, Pacific Legal Foundation, Americans for Prosperity, Atlas Society, Friedman, Liberty Fund, and the Tea Party Patriots. Many of them had their own “day” at FreedomFest: FEE Day, Reason Day, and ISIL Day.
Steve Forbes, our ambassador, expressed the optimism of our attendees when he proclaimed, “The leaders of Rome didn’t have the knowledge and wisdom of our generation. We know what it takes to avoid the mistakes of Rome.” But not everyone agreed. Commodities guru Jim Rogers warned our propensity to spend, tax and inflate would “end badly.” Lawrence Reed, president of the Foundation for Economic Education, gave a keynote speech Thursday morning on “The Fall of Rome and Modern Parallels,” of which there are many. His most memorable line was “government is too big to succeed.” FEE passed out copies of his pamphlet, “Are We Rome?” at the conference. You can obtain a copy here: http://www.fee.org/files/doclib/20130620_FEEAreWeRomeCover1V5.pdf Highly recommended!
The big show was sensational. We had 2,500 attendees, including several hundred local residents who came to the John Stossel show on Thursday evening. Comments heard: “15 stars for this year’s FreedomFest……I feel 20 years younger here….You throw the best party in the world…..This is my first FreedomFest; I call it Disneyland for the mind…..You knocked it out of the park.” We had major coverage from the Huffington Post, Bloomberg, C-SPAN, World Net Daily, MSNBC, Orange County Register, and Fox News, plus lots of radio stations.
Special Sessions at This Year’s Big Show
There were over 150 sessions, including a dozen debates and panels, and plenty of advice for investors and concerned citizens. This being the 100th anniversary of the 16th amendment (federal income tax), the 17th amendment (direct election of senators), and the creation of the Federal Reserve Bank, we had a variety of panels and debates on taxation, democracy, and sound money.
Among the highlights: Steve Moore (Wall Street Journal) insisted that ObamaCare was “unraveling,” because it is causing unemployment. Supply-side guru Art Laffer said that we are witnessing a “big reduction” in government as a percentage of GDP, which is good news. Charles Murray wants to start a “civil disobedience” movement and hopes to raise millions to fund to defend small business people who fight absurd and excessive federal regulations. He’s writing a book on the subject, to appear next year. And Senator Rand Paul gave a keynote address on the growing threat of government surveillance.
The John Stossel taping of his Fox Business show on Thursday, July 11, went extremely well and the show “Are We Rome?” will air Thursday, July 18, on Fox Business at 9 pm Eastern.
FreedomFest is a Renaissance gathering, and this year we had several experts on a variety of themes. T. Colin Campbell, the world’s #1 nutritional scientist, spoke on “The Whole Foods Diet: How to Live to 100 Without Getting Cancer, Heart Disease, Diabetes, or a Stroke,” based on his revolutionary work, The China Study. He took the place of John Mackey, co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, who has spoken several times on this subject.
Daniel and Hanna Greenberg, founders of the revolutionary Sudbury Valley Schools based in Massachusetts, spoke on “Radical New Ways to Educate.” Their schools have no curriculum, no classes, and no grades – yet their students are some of the top achievers in the country.
Verdict in on “The Republican Party on Trial”
The mock trial on Friday, July 12, is always fun. We’ve put capitalism, religion, public unions, and Wall Street on trial. This year we put “The Republican Party on Trial” with prosecuting attorney Steve Moore against defending attorney Dinesh D’Souza. The judge was Georgetown law professor Randy Barnett, and the star witnesses were Steve Forbes, Matt Kibbe, Grover Norquist and Floyd Brown. Neither Moore nor D’Souza have ever lost a debate at FreedomFest….Amazingly, the jury voted 6-6, a hung jury! So Moore and D’Souza can still claim undefeated status.
George Gilder Wins Read Book Award
Another first at this year’s FreedomFest was the granting of the first Read Book Award, named after Leonard E. Read, founder of the Foundation of Economic Education (FEE). The annual award, which includes a prize of an American eagle one-ounce gold coin, went to George Gilder for his pathbreaking work, Knowledge and Power, published by Regnery. Rich Karlgaard, publisher of Forbes magazine, calls it the most important book of the 21st century.
Financial Freedom is Vital
What would freedom be without financial independence? We had dozens of investment breakout sessions. Jim Rogers was the featured investment advisor. He and Donald G. Smith (New York hedge fund manager) were recently listed in a book of top 99 investors of all time – and both were speakers at our conference. The book said that Jim Rogers earned a 45% annual return over the past ten years. He said that “all major industrial countries, from US to Japan, are printing money, an unprecedented event that will end badly.” Don Smith (whose investment company has earned over 15% annualized over the past 30 years) says he likes major gold stocks right now.
Anthem Film Festival was a Hit!
This year’s film festival was held in a real theater – and most of the films attracted a crowd of 250 of more, a record attendance at Anthem. The documentaries highlight the unintended consequences of the war against nations, business, free speech, conservatives, and drugs. First-time filmmaker Cyrus Saidi won the FreedomFest Grand Prize for 2013 ($2,500 award) with his short narrative “L1ttle3 Br0th3r.” The film tells the story of a Nobel Peace Prize nominee who demonstrates extraordinary courage in order to reveal the evil nature of a totalitarian dictator. Big Brother is watching, we know…but so is Little Brother. This film is the perfect precursor to our theme for next year, ‘Is Big Brother Here?”
For more information on the awards and the trailers, go to www.anthemfilmfestival.com.
FreedomFest is famous for its debates. This year we had controversies over whether Christianity caused the decline Rome…the cause and cure of violence in America…climate change…tax havens…day trading…Darwinian materialism…and whether investors can beat the market. For me the highlight was my debate with Yaron Brook, president of the Ayn Rand Institute, on “Altruism vs. Selfishness: What is the Ideal in Life and Business?” It was SRO….and the debate so was intense it continued afterwards in the hallway.
Didn’t Make it to FreedomFest? Buy the CDs!
We encourage everyone to come to FreedomFest. We don’t do a “live streaming” of the 4-day event because we think it’s vital that you come and experience it yourself. But if you couldn’t make it this year, I suggest the next best thing by ordering a copy of all the sessions, panels, and debates. Go to www.miracleofamerica.com, or call 1-801-254-2057. The conference CDs sells for $435. It is always the first thing I do when I come to FreedomFest.
By the way, we ran out of silver dollars (our official symbol) at FreedomFest. The US Mint has temporarily suspended sales due to overwhelming demand.
Always a Lot of Fun – our Saturday night banquet
FreedomFest is always a lot of fun – meeting people, my daily chess problem, yoga in the mornings, music and dance, the film festival, the debates, etc. We always end the conference with a gala Saturday night banquet, singing our theme song “Freedom and Gold,” enjoying a great dinner, followed by entertainment (this year singer Taylor Hicks and an hilarious joggling act) and the rock ‘n roll dance featuring the creative Pink Flamingos. You could see Jim Rogers and Steve Forbes dancing right up until the end.
Next Year’s Extravaganza: July 9-12, 2014, Las Vegas
Next year our theme will be “Is Big Brother Here?” Leviathan the State has never been more intrusive in our lives – not only watching our every move, but taxing and regulating us, and destroying the value of our assets. Watch our new 2 ½ minute video preview here: https://vimeo.com/70558676
I want to thank everyone involved in making FreedomFest a success this year – Tami Holland, our conference coordinator extraordinaire, for the many hours she spent running the show, and her husband Ron and her many staff members….and to Chip Wood, or master of ceremonies extraordinaire, and to my wife Jo Ann for running the Anthem film festival and helping us make FreedomFest the best it can be.
FreedomFest is held only once a year in July, but we encourage you to stay abreast of upcoming events, speakers, panels and debates by checking our FreedomFest app, Facebook, and Twitter accounts….and I recommend you sign up for our email announcements at www.freedomfest.com.
I also hope to see you at the Global Financial Summit at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas Feb. 9-12, 2014…and our Asian cruise April 2-15. See “upcoming events” on our website.
(Mr. Skousen is the producer of FreedomFest)