Sunday, July 15, 2012

My Review of FreedomFest

My wife and I returned from Las Vegas late last night after attending FreedomFest 2012, a (mostly) libertarian conference organized by libertarian economist Mark Skousen. I say "mostly" because there were a few sessions that were clearly partisan, pro-Mitt Romney, pro-Republicans, but these were exceptions. Here're some thoughts on the panels that I enjoyed, and pictures of some people I met.

Day 1, Wednesday, Pre-Conference

Mark Skousen did a presentation on the Austrian School of economics, talking about Menger, Bohm-Bawerk, Mises, and Rothbard. Giving his opinion of each of their contributions to the tradition, recommending different books of theirs, etc. Skousen is definitely in Austrian himself, though he mentioned that his new textbook, Economic Logic, is not "pure" enough to Gary North. I forgot to ask him exactly why North would think this.


We were at the conference because Skousen personally invited my wife and I. I included an essay of his in my book, Everything Voluntary, and he wanted me to come promote it. The bookstore, Laissez-Faire Books, agreed to buy 50 copies, which I brought with me, and they scheduled me for a book-signing. More on that later.


During the pre-conference cocktail party, I met a few people that I greatly admire in the libertarian community. Here are the pictures I took with them:

Mark Skousen, producer of FreedomFest.


Jeffrey Tucker of Laissez-Faire Books, formally of the Mises Institute.


 Sheldon Richman (left), editor of The Freeman, a publication of FEE.org, and Jeffrey Hummel.


David Theroux, president of the Independent Institute, and contributor to my book.


That's Day 1. My wife and I proceeded to the strip and walked around, checked out various shops (at one point, my wife tried on an $18,000 fox-fur coat, crazy!), ate dinner, then went back to our hotel. It was incredibly, and horribly, hot. We originally planned on walking the mile and a half from our Motel 6 each day, but after almost dying, we decided to use the car the rest of the trip.

Day 2, Thursday

The conference was kicked off early by Wayne Allen Root, a libertarian light-weight, the so-called "capitalist evangelist", and former Libertarian Party vice-presidential nominee (behind Bob Barr). Then there was a short panel "summit" on the state of the financial world in the US, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. It was a bit boring, but that changed with the next speaker, Peter Schiff. He did what he does best: talked about the dollar, the 2008 crash, and the coming crash. It was a fantastic 20 minute "rant".


After the break, we decided to hit the Anthem Film Festival and watch a new documentary titled "Nullification: the Rightful Remedy". After which the producer and Tom Woods answered questions. It was a great documentary. Here we are with Tom Woods:


After lunch, we enjoyed an hour, yes, an ENTIRE hour, of Judge Andrew Napolitano. I could listen to him rant about the government and our loss of liberties for hours.


During the break, I had my book-signing. I talked to 4 or 5 people about it and signed their copies. My beautiful wife was over by the books and working hard to get people interested in it. Here I am:


We then proceeded to the break-out sessions. They included a panel discussion with Jeffrey Hummel and Steve Horowitz on inflation, a talk on "mastering happiness" with Joel Wade, which both my wife an I enjoyed and came away with some good advice, and a 3-way debate on Mormon politics that included my friend Connor Boyack. This session was especially frustrating because the conservative and liberal on the panel, Paul Mero (his review) and Rory Reid, failed to use any logic in their arguments. They were mind-numbing, and that's putting it lightly. Connor easily wiped the floor with them. You can listen to the 55-minute "debate" here. Here I am with Connor:


And here's Jeffrey Tucker giving a book tour to Stefan Molyneux. He was making an episode for his show. You can watch that here.


That was it for Thursday. My wife and I did some more walking around. We visited The Mirage, wanted to see the dolphins, but they had just closed. We went to eat dinner, then walked back to Bally's for our car and retired for the night.

Day 3, Friday

In the morning, Mark Skousen gave a book tour of the bookstore, and was even gracious enough to plug my book and encourage people to buy it. Here he is:


After a Steve Forbes talk, which was excellent, we enjoyed a debate between John Browne and Anthony Gregory on whether or not Winston Churchill was a statesman or a warmonger. In my opinion, Gregory won the debate, showing why Churchill was an opportunistic warmonger. Here they are:


Then came the best part of the entire conference, in my opinion. It was a panel discussion on "The quest to get government out of our lives" and including a panoply of anarchists: Jeffrey Tucker, Stefan Molyneux, Wendy McElroy, Robert Murphy, and Jacob Huebert, and moderated by Doug French.

Tucker talked about libertarians becoming business owners and innovators and finding ways around, through, and over the "mountain" that is the state. That was his primary motivation in leaving the Mises Institute and joining Laissez-Faire Books.


McElroy gave a very good talk on being free, on living free, on not allowing all the horrible news about the various schemes of the state detract us from being happy and living free. My wife an I both really enjoyed this one.


Next was Jacob Huebert, who talked about the private provision of arbitration and security. Gave some good examples, such as credit card dispute resolution.


Stefan Molynuex was the last to speak (I missed most of Bob Murphy's, he was first), and as is his wont, ranted about the violence inherent in the state and gave some good strategies for combating statist arguments, and in confronting statists with their support of violence against innocent people. It was an awesome talk, and very much Molyneux, which was a welcome addition to the so-far light-weight libertarian conference.


I managed to get pictures with each of them after:

Jacob Huebert, author of Libertarianism Today, a book on my to-read list.


Wendy McElroy, contributor to my book, and long-time libertarian feminist.


Robert Murphy, Mises fellow, and author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism.


Stefan Molyneux, producer of Freedomain Radio. (I should note that he asked me about doing a show with him to talk about my website and book. We'll see where this goes.)


After lunch, we listened to Doug Casey and Jeff Berwick, unashamed anarchists, talk about the TSA, the police state, and where they've lived in the world. Another much needed session for the conference, and personal highlight. My photo with Doug Casey:


I managed to get a photo with Peter Schiff before a big panel discussion on "The Bubble", featuring him, Doug Casey, Tom Woods, and a few others. The lighting was bad, almost frightening, however.



Friday was finished with a big, silly, "Wall Street on Trial" mock trial. It was silly, 'nuff said. Rand Paul spoke afterward, but my wife and I weren't interested, so we left. We walked around some more, this time visiting Caesar's Palace. That place is enormous.

Day 4, Saturday

We started this day with a panel discussion by people from Reason magazine, Nick Gillespie, Kennedy, and Matt Welch. They talked about the liberating nature of pop culture and free expression. It was fun, and Matt Welch dropped the f-bomb (a song title) at one point. There were a few gasps from some of the older crowd, but that was the extent of any vulgarity. We followed this with another visit to the Anthem film festival, and watch a few short films. After which I got a picture with Ted Balaker, formerly of Reason.tv.


After this, we listened to a lecture by G. Edward Griffin on the Federal Reserve, and his book, The Creature from Jekyll Island.


Before lunch, we started to listen to a panel discussion by what turned out to be a bunch of conservatives (Rand Paul, Grover Norquist, Erick Erickson), but we soon left. It wasn't nearly libertarian enough for our interests.

After lunch, we listened to a charter high school teacher talk about money from an Austrian perspective. He teaches nothing but Austrian economics to his high school students. I was pleased, as were others, to hear this. Then we listened to Brian Doherty of Reason talk about the Ron Paul rEVOLution movement, another anarchist. This was intellectually fulfilling, as well.

That was it. We left around 3 and hit the road for the long drive back. I continued listening to the Walter Block lectures I started on the way down. I also got a chance to explain to my wife the merits of anarchism and demerits of monopoly government, ie. statism. She was into everything we talked about. It was fun and made the drive more enjoyable. We got home around 11:30, kids awake and waiting for us.

All in all, it was a good conference. Not always fun, sometimes boring, but I got a lot out of it and talked to a lot of people about my website and my book. I passed out over 250 business cards that contained information about my website. And a was able to meet and shake hands with a lot of awesome libertarians, as you can see. I hope to see this conference grow (this was it's 5th year), and include more and more real libertarians and less and less conservatives. We'll see.