Open Letter to All Freedom Lovers

From Mark Skousen, producer of FreedomFest

I woke up this morning thinking about “Why We Need to Get Together Once a Year.”  Over the years, I’ve been impressed with the proliferation of free-market think tanks and freedom organizations which are doing their part to make a difference:  publishing websites, special reports and books; holding meetings and conventions; influencing elected officials or using the court system to overturn bad legislation.

That’s where FreedomFest comes in. Our mission is simple: to bring together once a year all the freedom groups and provide a place to learn, network, socialize and celebrate liberty.  And we do it in the nation’s most libertarian city, Las Vegas. We are a for-profit organization, so we don’t compete for fundraising with all these good causes. We try not to promote one organization over another. We support them all. In Hayekian terms, it’s a spontaneous order, with every think tank and freedom organization deciding for themselves what to talk about. FreedomFest is not “my” conference, it’s “our” conference.

The idea came to me when I was president of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), the country’s oldest free-market organization. Why not have an annual reunion, I thought, and bring together all the think tanks and freedom organizations from around the world, to talk about philosophy, history, science & technology, healthy living, music & dance, investments, and geo-politics?  We would create an intellectual feast in a fun town, the entertainment capital of the world.

And then invite the general public, concerned citizens, business and political leaders, investors, and young people around the world to join us.  I imagined them walking into an exhibit hall full of booths of think tanks, publishers, film producers, and freedom organizations, highlighting their latest efforts.  I envisioned it as “one stop shopping for liberty.”

I was told, “It can’t be done. Libertarians are like a herd of cats.”

But the founders did it. At the end of the Constitutional Convention in 1789, Benjamin Franklin wrote, “It is a singular thing in the history of mankind that a great people have had the opportunity of forming a government for themselves. We are making experiment in politics. In these sentiments, I agree to this Constitution, with all its faults, if they are such. For when you assemble a number of men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. It therefore astonishes me to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does.”

Franklin also warned, “We must all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

We all are doing our best to promote the principles of liberty and justice, but we must do more. We are losing the battle, slowly but surely. I’ve felt for some time that the enemies of liberty are better organized, and now more than ever, it is critical that all the movers and shakers in the freedom movement come together once a year if we are going to reverse the tide. There is strength in numbers.

Milton Friedman, before he died, wrote me a letter in which he caught the vision of this gathering: “FreedomFest is THE great place to talk, argue, listen, celebrate the triumphs of liberty, assess the dangers to liberty, and provide that eternal vigilance that is the price of liberty.” Steve Forbes and John Mackey are our co-ambassadors. They understand the importance of this “focal point” of liberty and set aside all four days in their busy schedule to attend. So do most of the other speakers.    As Steve Forbes says, “FreedomFest is where the best ideas and strategies are fleshed out.  I wouldn’t miss it.”

FreedomFest has been called many things: A Live Wikipedia for libertarians; a Renaissance gathering for free thinkers; the Trade Show for Liberty; the New Mecca for free minds; the Focal Point for freedom lovers; the Gathering of the Tribes; the Disneyland of the mind; the blow-out conference of libertarian gold bugs; the Libertarianism’s Church of What’s Happening Now; and the Greatest Libertarian Show on Earth. There’s something for everyone at FreedomFest.

And it’s catching on. We are growing every year.  Practically all the major think tanks and freedom organizations have caught the vision of FreedomFest and are making their way to Vegas every second week in July. Fox News is now coming and taping the Stossel show; other radio and TV stations are doing their shows there. Thousands of concerned citizens, investors, authors, professors, students and experts are joining us from around the world. Some even change their schedule to attend; they sacrifice to be there.

What do we have planned for this year? Check us out. For a list of all the great speakers, panels and debates, go to http://freedomfest.com/blog/2014/04/25/whattoexpect/ And don’t miss our ever-popular Anthem libertarian film festival going on all four days at FreedomFest. This time it includes a sneak preview of the new film “Atlas Shrugged 3″ hosted by John Stossel.

I know I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.  If not us, then who?  If not now, then when?

Spread the word.  John Galt is calling….

FreedomFest is only a few weeks away. Now is the time to join us in Las Vegas.  Go to www.freedomfest.com to learn more and register.  Or call Tami Holland, our conference coordinator, at 1-866-266-5101.  It will change your life….and maybe even the world.

Yours for peace, prosperity and liberty, AEIOU,

Mark
Mark Skousen
Producer, FreedomFest
www.freedomfest.com
July 9-12, 2014, Las Vegas
Theme: “Is Big Brother Here?”
http://vimeo.com/70558676

Record 2,500 Gather at “Best FreedomFest Ever”

By 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’sDinesh 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.) [Read more…]

Huge Response to Our Latest FreedomFest Promo

 Dear FreedomFest Friends,

We’re getting a huge response to our announcement that John Stossel is bring his #1 Fox Business show to FreedomFest, with hundreds of attendees signing up so far.

And that’s just the beginning of what the Washington Post calls “the greatest libertarian show on earth.”

One of the reasons people keep coming back to FreedomFest is to enjoy our unique panels and debates you won’t find at any other conference. Here’s 11 new events for this year’s show, all in keeping with our theme this year “Are We Rome?” [Read more…]

Big News! Stossel Coming to FreedomFest 2013

Big News! John Stossel Coming to FreedomFest!

Dear FreedomFest attendees,

Lots of news to report about this year’s big show.  First and foremost:

When we ask past attendees, what famous libertarian they want to speak at FreedomFest, John Stossel is their #1 choice – by far.

Your wish is our command:  We are happy to announce that John Stossel is coming to FreedomFest and will be taping a special edition of his Fox Business show, STOSSEL, at FreedomFest on the first day of the conference, Thursday, July 11, 2013 (just think 7-11). And you all are invited! [Read more…]

FreedomFest 2012 “Wall to Wall Excitement”

Dear Investors and Friends of Liberty,

I just returned from the “one of a kind” conference, FreedomFest, where more than 2,000 investors and concerned citizens heard from over 150 speakers, including Sen. Rand Paul, Judge Andrew P. Napolitano, Steve Forbes, John Mackey, Peter Schiff, Alex Green, Robert Kiyosaki, and a host of other financial gurus.  One comment overheard: “FreedomFest is wall-to-wall excitement!”

It was electrifying, beginning with standing a room-only (SRO) crowd, listening to Dinesh D’Souza talk about his latest film “2016: Obama’s America,” and ending with Robert Kiyosaki, author of “Rich Dad, Poor Dad,” speaking on “Be The Fed:  Gaining Your Unfair Advantage in an Unfair System.” The exhibit hall, “the trade show for liberty,” was abuzz with more than a hundred think tanks, freedom organizations, and financial services. C-SPAN was there to interview over a dozen authors (to be aired soon). [Read more…]

Are There Any Libertarian Mormons?

There’s a lot of interest these days in Mormons, with a Broadway play about Mormon missionaries, and two running for president (Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman). Most Mormons are Republican conservatives, although Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, is a social Democrat.  Whether Republican or Democrat, they usually support immigration controls, the war on drugs, nation-building in foreign lands, and traditional marriage laws.

Are there any Mormons who favor laissez faire and libertarian policies?

I wish to direct your attention to a new book called “Latter-Day Liberty:  A Gospel Approach to Government & Politics,” written by a young libertarian named Connor Boyack and published by Cedar Fort Publishers in Utah.

Boyack is a BYU graduate, and a big fan of Cleon Skousen and our pamphlet “Persuasion vs. Force.”  Generally, Boyack is more libertarian than conservative.  In addition to citing libertarian passages from Mormon scripture and Church leaders, he has extensive chapters on war, immigration, illegal drugs, as well as commentary on controversial subjects such as Christian Communism, Prohibition, and the Welfare State. In the appendix of “Latter-Day Liberty,” he reprints President Ezra Taft Benson’s classic “The Proper Role of Government,” which is libertarian in tone.

It is so well written and persuasive that I agreed to write the foreword when he approached me earlier this year.  This is the first time I’ve agreed to write an introduction to someone else’s work.The book has been endorsed by Congressman Ron Paul, FEE, and the Mises Institute, among others.

For more information on the book, go to the website, www.ldsliberty.org.

“Latter-Day Liberty” is available on Amazon for only $12.23, plus S&H.  Amazon has several positive reviews.

Connor Boyack will be a featured speaker at FreedomFest next year (July 11-14, 2012, Las Vegas).

Hot New Video! ObamaCare – Live Your Carefree Lifestyle!

Dear Friends of Liberty,

Be one of the first to watch this new video, ObamaCare – Live Your Carefree Lifestyle at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkH_aaaSOP0. This video is brought to you by FreedomFest, the World’s Largest Gathering of Free Minds, happening this July 13-16, 2011 at Paris/Bally’s in Las Vegas, the country’s most libertarian city.

This year’s conference will feature speakers such as: John Mackey, CEO Whole Foods, Stephen Moore, editor, Wall Street Journal, Judge Andrew Napolitano, Fox News, libertarian billionaire Peter Thiel, co-founder of Pay Pal and Steve Forbes, publisher of Forbes Magazine. You don’t want to miss it! Plus see the first ever Anthem Film Festival — a libertarian celebration of film.

With so much at stake, and with so much excitement at FreedomFest, I hope you’ll join us! And watch the new video. Let us know what you think!

Yours in liberty, AEIOU,

MSkousen

Free Market Health Care Is The Answer

“Capitalism is turning luxuries into necessities.” — Andrew Carnegie

Watching the shouting matches occurring at the town hall meetings across America, do you ever wonder why nobody holds town hall meetings or writes complaining letters to Congress about food and housing?

After all, food and housing are even more important than medical help.  Most Americans don’t need to go to the doctor every day, but you do need to eat every day and live under a roof.

Read the entire article on Human Events Online.

The Necessary Evil

Suggestion – Liberty Magazine
The Necessary Evil
by Mark Skousen

Today libertarians spend most of their time lamenting the consequences of big government. And rightly so. Today government is less a defender of freedom and more a Hobbesian leviathan that undermines prosperity. When we do talk about limited government, it is often seen solely as “a necessary evil.”1 Too much government and the economy chokes. Too little, and it cannot function. Is there a Golden Mean?

George Washington best summarized the libertarian view: “Government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”2 So it is with some trepidation that I suggest that societies or countries may not have enough good or legitimate government. In the never-ending battle against big government, it might be well to consider what constitutes “good government” to see how far we have strayed from the proper role of the state.

Each year the Fraser Institute publishes their Economic Freedom of the World Index (see www.fraserinstitute.org), which measures five major areas of government activity in more than 100 countries: size of government, legal structure, sound money, trade, and regulation. The most surprising thing about the study, according to its author James Gwartney, a professor of economics at Florida State University, is the importance of legal structure as the key to maximum performance for an economy. “It turns out,” he told me in a recent interview, “that the legal system — the rule of law, security of property rights, an independent judiciary, and an impartial court system — is the most important function of government, and the central element of both economic freedom and a civil society, and is far more statistically significant than the other variables.”

Gwartney pointed to a number of countries that lack a decent legal system, and as a result suffer from corruption,insecure property rights, poorly enforced contracts, and inconsistent regulatory environments, particularly in Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East. “The enormous benefits of the market network — gains from trade, specialization, expansion of the market, and mass production techniques — cannot be achieved without a sound legal system.” 3

The Proper Role of the State

Milton Friedman identifies the legitimate roles of the state: “The scope of government must be limited. Its major function must be to protect our freedom both from the enemies outside our gates and from our fellow- citizens: to preserve law and order, to enforce private contracts, to foster competitive markets. Beyond this major function, government may enable us at times to accomplish jointly what we would find it more difficult or expensive to accomplish severally.” 4

Adam Smith suggests that this “system of natural liberty” will lead to a free and prosperous society. As Smith declares, “Little else is required to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest level of barbarism, but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice.”5

The division between the positive and negative role of government can be represented visually. In the diagram on the next page, we have on the vertical axis “socio-economic well-being”: some general measure of the quality of life in a free and civil society. For empirical studies, economists might want to use changes in real per capita income, but this may be too confining. On the horizontal axis we have “government activity.” At point O, we have zero government, and as we move along the horizontal axis, the size and scope of government activity increase. The ultimate extreme is the totalitarian regime, which institutes “total government,” though I would hesitate to label this “100% government,” since no government can control all activity.

Too Little vs. Too Much Government

My thesis is that as a society moves from zero government to point P, economic well-being increases to peak performance. Then, as it adopts a larger and less necessary government, its growth diminishes, and can even turn negative if government becomes too burdensome and controlling. Looking at the left side of the mountain, point O (zero government) to P (optimal government) constitutes “too little” government. For example, a nation may spend too few of its resources on personal protection, property control, and government administration. Here we see how increasing the size and scope of government activity initially leads to increased well-being, as measured by individual freedom and prosperity. Point P represents the right amount of government and the optimal amount of expenditure necessary to fulfill its legitimate functions.

This is the ideal of the minimalist state. Any point to the right of P represents too much government, when the central authority becomes a burden rather than a blessing. I’ve drawn it as a gradual downward slope, so that the more bad government a country adopts, the greater the decline in performance, even to the point X where government is so large and so intrusive that it results in the destruction of economic and social well-being, which is probably worse than the costs of anarchy.

Quantifying the Right Amount of Government

Can we quantify P, the optimal size of government? Several economists have attempted to determine the ideal level of government spending as a percentage of GDP. In the1940s, Australian economist Colin Clark said that the maximum size of government should not exceed 25% of GDP. Anything higher would hurt economic growth.6 Professor Gerald W. Scully, of the University of Texas at Dallas suggests that the tax rate ought not to exceed 23%.7 World Bank economists Vito Tanzi and Ludger Schuknecht analyzed 17 countries during the period 1870 to 1990 and concluded that public spending in newly industrialized countries should not exceed 20% and in industrialized countries not more than 30%.8 Is optimal government (point P) the same for every country?

This would make an interesting study, but I suspect that differences in culture and socio-economic circumstances suggest that some nations require more government than others. As Benjamin Franklin states, “A virtuous and laborious [industrious] people may be cheaply governed.”9 And a lazy, dishonest people must be expensively governed.

Graph

Optimistically, I would think that if all nations were featured together on the diagram above, the various points P would constitute a fairly narrow mountain range. Almost every country in the world today is to the right of Point P, and could grow faster and enjoy a higher quality of life by reducing the size and scope of government. Countries from China to Ireland to Chile have demonstrated how dramatically the economy can improve by cutting back the state. I’m sure even Hong Kong, #1 in the Fraser Institute’s study in terms of performance and freedom, could benefit from some improvements by scaling back some types of government services.

According to the latest surveys of economic freedom by the Fraser Institute and Heritage Foundation, countries on average are becoming more free, and not surprisingly, the world’s economic growth rate is rising.10 After noting that government represents 40–50% of GDP in most developed nations, Tanzi and Schuknecht conclude, “we have argued that most of the important social and economic gains can be achieved with a drastically lower level of public spending than what prevails today.”11

Two Case Studies in Little or No Government

Are there any examples of countries to the left of point P, that have too little government? The United States suffered from too little government under the Articles of Confederation, which was the basic law of the land from its adoption in 1781 until 1789, when they were replaced by the Constitution. The Articles limited the federal government to conducting foreign affairs, making treaties, declaring war, maintaining an army and navy, coining money, and establishing post offices. But it could not collect taxes, it had no control over foreign or interstate commerce, it could not force states to comply with its laws, and it was unable to payoff the massive debts incurred during the Revolutionary War. States were already putting up trade barriers, striking a serious blow to free trade, and the economy struggled. After the Constitution became law, the United States flourished because of improved government finances, protection of legal rights, and free trade among the 13 states.

A modern-day example of too little government is Somalia, located east of Ethiopia and Kenya, where life has been difficult and often dangerous without any central authority since 1991. For example, drivers pass seven checkpoints, each run by a different militia, on their way to the capital. At each of these “border crossings” all vehicles must pay an “entry fee” ranging from $3 to $300, depending on the value of goods being transported. Competing warlords vie for control of the countryside, which has frequently collapsed into civil war. Only an estimated 15% of children go to school, compared to 75% in neighboring states. However, a recent report by the World Bank indicates that an innovative private sector is flourishing in Somalia. This vindicates the Coase theorem, named for economist Ronald Coase, which argues that in the absence of government authority, the private sector will step in to provide alternative services, depending on the transaction costs.12 The central market in Bakara is thriving: all kinds of consumer goods, from bananas to AK-47s, are readily sold; mobile phones proliferate and internet cafes prosper. But with no public spending, the roads and utilities are deteriorating. Private companies have yet to appear to build roads — the transaction costs are apparently too prohibitive. Public water is limited to urban areas, and is not considered safe, but a private system extends to all parts of the country as entrepreneurs have built cement catchments, drilled private boreholes, or shipped water from public systems in the city.

There are now 15 airline companies providing service to six international destinations, and airplane safety can be checked at foreign airports. After the public court system collapsed, disputes have been settled at the clan level by traditional systems run by elders, with the clan collecting damages. But there is still no contract law, company law, or commercial law in Somalia. Sharp inflation in 1994–96 and 2000–01 destroyed confidence in the three local currencies, and the U.S. dollar is now commonly used. Because of a lack of reliable data, neither the Fraser Institute nor the Heritage Foundation’s economic freedom indexes rank Somalia. The World Bank concludes, “The achievements of the Somali private sector form a surprisingly long list. Where the private sector has failed — the list is long here too — there is a clear role for government intervention. But most such interventions appear to be failing. Government schools are of lower quality than private schools. Subsidized power isbeing supplied not to the rural areas that need it but to urban areas, hurting a well-functioning private industry. Road tolls are not spent on roads. Judges seem more interested in grabbing power than in developing laws and courts. Conclusion: A more productive role for government would be to build on the strengths of the private sector.”13

In short, most countries could use less government, but a few countries could use more of the right kind of authority. There is an optimal size and structure of government, and when it is reached, the result is, in the words of Adam Smith, “universal opulence which extends itself to the lowest ranks of the people.”14

Announcing the Free Market Hall of Fame!

Dear friends of liberty,

Here’s my latest idea:  The Free Market Hall of Fame is now up and running, and it’s creating a lot of debate!  We’re getting hundreds of new voters every day.  Lots of blogs are picking it up…..

Vote for your favorite free-market advocate (both living and dead) by going to www.freedomfest.com/halloffame.
Choose among five categories:
1.  Favorite free-market economists
2.  Writers and journalists
3.  Business leaders and entrepreneurs
4.  Government leaders
5.  Think tanks and freedom organizations
The survey also includes a Free Market Hall of Shame, people who have done the most damage to the cause of liberty.  Look where George W. Bush appears on the voting list.
Then after voting, you can find out the current rankings of the nominees.  It’s fun.
We are going to have our first Induction Ceremony of the Top Five vote getters at the next FreedomFest, July 9-12, 2008, at Bally’s/Paris Resort in Las Vegas.  Plus an “award” to the winner of the Free Market Hall of Shame.  (For details, go to http://www.freedomfest.com/).
Please pass this announcement along to all your friends and colleagues.
It’s time we honored all the great all the great teachers, writers, business leaders, legislators, and think tanks that have advanced the cause of liberty.
In liberty, AEIOU,
Mark
Mark Skousen
Producer, FreedomFest 2008
The World’s Largest Gathering of Free Minds
July 10-12, 2008: 7-11 in Las Vegas
http://www.freedomfest.com/


Ludwig von Mises started out ahead as favorite free market economist, but now Milton Friedman has surpassed him…..Ronald Reagan is neck and neck with Thomas Jefferson as favorite political leader…….Steve Forbes is leading in the business leaders category, but Charles Koch (Koch Industries, the world’s largest private company) and John Mackey (Whole Foods Market) are moving up (with lots of write-ins for Bill Gates and Steve Jobs)……We’ve had to add several “write in” candidates, such as Greg Mankiw from Harvard, who is advancing (Walter Williams is in the early lead as favorite living free-market economist)……and when we added Ben Franklin (in business leaders category) he immediately went to first place!
And now Ed Crane (Cato Institute) has moved ahead of Lew Rockwell (Mises Institute)–and Ed Feulner (Heritage Foundation) and Bob Poole (Reason) are not far behind.
Voting does count after all!