“This was the best FreedomFest yet. Congratulations!” –John Mackey, CEO, Whole Foods Market
Highlights of FreedomFest 2009:
- Nearly 1700 people attend this year’s FreedomFest (21% increase)
- More than 200 register at the door
- All Star Prediction Panel forecasts more pain ahead
- Charles Gasparino, CNBC’s #1 reporter, calls for abolishing the SEC
- Las Vegas Mayor steals show at Trial of the Century
- Liberty Editors Conference is SRO
- Amazing “mathemagician” is this year’s mystery speaker
- Five historic figures inducted into the Free Market Hall of Fame
- Steve Forbes attends all 3 days and dances to the music of the Beatles
- Sing a libertarian version of John Lennon’s “Imagine”
- Media coverage by C-SPAN, LA Times, Reasontv, Newsmax, and more!
Dear Friends of Liberty,
One attendee called this year’s FreedomFest a “phenomenon.” Over 100 speakers, 95 exhibitors and 1700 attendees showed up at “the world’s largest gathering of free minds” July 9-11, 2009, at Bally’s Events Center in Las Vegas — a record turnout, 21% increase over last year. (This number does not include several hundred supporters of Ron Paul’s Campaign for Liberty who attended FreedomFest on Friday and Saturday.)
They attended some 150 sessions on geo-politics, the economy, investments, philosophy, science & technology, art & literature, and healthy living. As June Arunga said, “FreedomFest is a festival of ideas — exciting, new, and refreshing.”
John Mackey calls it “The Trade Show for Liberty.” Mark Mullins (Fraser Institute) identifies it as “the new Mecca for libertarians.” I see it as the “focal point for free thinkers,” where independent thinkers and free minds break away from their busy schedule to come together once a year to learn, network, socialize, and re-energize their spirits.
The fight for freedom has never been more apparent since the end of the cold war. As one attendee put it, “This is THE year to attend FreedomFest, when our freedoms and financial assets are threatened more than ever.”
Given the deep recession and uncertainty this nation faces, I was surprised by the record turnout. According to a local Las Vegas business leader, FreedomFest was the only conference this year with higher attendance.
Many more will see the Friday general sessions on C-SPAN (to be aired soon).
Attendees came from every state of the union, and as far away as Australia, Japan, Argentina, and Kenya. Dozens of students took advantage of the $99 student discount rate.
You could feel the electricity as soon as you walked into the Exhibit Hall and the giant Laissez Faire Bookstore, run by Jim Peron and Jim Elswood.
One attendee told me, “FreedomFest changed my life and my entire way of thinking.”
I learned a lot myself as a moderator, speaker, and attendee. For every one who comes, FreedomFest is a personal creation, because so much is going on that no two people experience it the same way. As Jerry Cameron says, “It’s like having access to all the greatest intellectual food in the world and you just couldn’t eat fast enough to sample it all!”
Many buy the CDs of the entire conference every year just to keep up. (The first thing I do when I arrive is sign up for all the recorded sessions. If you are so inclined, check out the list of audioCDs here, or call 1-866-254-2057 to order by telephone.)
The program was huge, with over 150 speeches, panels and debates. “Liberty Watch” published the entire program in its July issue. I recommend you subscribe to this top quality libertarian publication. Go to http://www.liberty-watch.com.
The World Economic Summit:
“The financial crisis is not over!”
The first day of the conference, entitled “Clear and Present Danger,” was devoted to the on-going financial crisis. Many of the financial sessions were standing room only. Charles Gasparino, CNBC’s #1 reporter, was our first keynote speaker. He told the audience not to depend on the government to protect their wealth from losses or fraud. “The SEC has failed to uncover a single major scandal in the past 30 years,” he said. “It should be abolished.”
Other speakers throughout the conference included Steve Forbes, Larry Kudlow, Congressman Ron Paul, bestselling author Tom Woods (“Meltdown”), and John Fund. Rick Rule (Global Resource Investments) moderated a panel on energy, telling attendees to expect oil & gas supplies to be tight in the future. I gave a special 3-hour pre-conference seminar on “EconoPower: Seven Power Tools for Investors, Managers, and Citizens” that was well attended.
In the “All Star Prediction Panel” last year, all the participants (Peter Schiff, Bert Dohmen, Fred Foldvary, Dennis Slothower) warned attendees about the impending crisis while the media was painting a rosy picture. What were our prognosticators saying this year? They remained pessimistic and recommended staying heavily in cash, gold, or foreign stocks. Some are still shorting the market. Bert Dohmen, editor of the highly-acclaimed Wellington Letter, remains bearish, adding as an example, “How can a company like Boeing stay in business when they have received only one major order so far this year?” His breakout session attracted a large crowd.
Author Charles Murray (American Enterprise Institute) was more optimistic in the long run. In his luncheon address, he spoke of three factors that will work in favor of liberty — technology that liberates individuals from centralized institutions, a coming moral crisis among social democrats, and rediscovery of the role of freedom in imbuing life with meaning.
The Trial of the Century: Free-Market Capitalism on Trial
What caused the 2008 crisis: free-market capitalism or bad government policies? Friday night was the “big event” with defending attorney Steve Moore (Wall Street Journal Editorial Board) taking on prosecuting attorney Jeff Madrick (Emmy-award winning author of “The Case for Big Government”), with star witnesses Steve Forbes, Charles Gasparino, John Mackey, and Doug Casey.
Colorful Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman was the Judge, and he stole the show with his irreverent remarks throughout the trial. What a showman. (He’s the former criminal defense attorney for the mob in Las Vegas!) The ending took everyone by surprise (see the C-SPAN coverage to find out what happened). The entire audience gave the judge and everyone involved a long standing ovation. (Thanks to estate planning attorney Jeff Verdon for arranging for Mayor Goodman to come.) As one attendee, Brandon Bond, said, “I’ve been attending these kinds of events for 30 years–and this one was the best ever!”
Another attendee enthused, “The Trial of the Century was so good it should be made into a Broadway play!”
Steve Forbes and John Mackey Attend All 3 Days
Steve Forbes has caught the vision of FreedomFest and makes a point of staying all three days. At a luncheon on Friday, he spoke about his penetrating new book “Power Ambition Glory,” which applies Greek and Roman history to today. He also appeared on several panels and spoke at the gala Saturday night banquet.
John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, is also a big fan who attends the entire conference. He appeared on the always popular Libertarian Entrepreneurs Panel (with Newsmax president Chris Ruddy; Rick O’Donnell, president of the Acton Foundation for Entrepreneurial Excellence; and successful New York money manager Donald Smith). In the debate between “Randian vs. Conscious Capitalism,” he noted significant differences between his philosophy of “conscious capitalism” and that of Ayn Rand. “Randian capitalism is all about making profits; conscious capitalism is about seeking a greater purpose.”
John also spoke to a SRO audience about the “Whole Foods Longevity Diet: How to Live to be 100 and Avoid Heart Disease, Cancer, Obesity, and Diabetes.” John is a vegan. Based on the findings of a group of health experts, he recommended reducing or eliminating meat and diary products from one’s diety, and emphasizing fruits and vegetables. He surprised everyone when he said, “The more vegetables you eat, the more you lose weight.” And according to John, eating vegetables and fruit is the least expensive diet.
The $100 Trillion Zimbabwe Dollar vs. the American Eagle Silver Dollar
There were lots of sessions for investors, entrepreneurs, and retirees. In one of the tax planning sessions organized by Vern Jacobs, international tax attorney Marshall Langer spoke to a SRO crowd about “Saving Lots of Taxes by Moving to Another State or Country.” When asked the crowd which part they were interested in, Langer was surprised that 90% said they were more interested in moving “offshore.”
Investing in gold and silver was as popular as ever. In the closing panel, I showed a $100 trillion Zimbabwe dollar bill and asked the panelists, “Are we headed toward hyperinflation in the United States?” David Boaz (Cato Institute), Steve Forbes, and Richard Viguerie didn’t think so, but Peter Schiff and Doug Casey thought it was a real possibility with the government bent on out-of-control spending and entitlements (Scott Tips of the National Health Federal and Michael Tanner of Cato warned attendees about the dangers of nationalized health care).
Rick Rule, president of Global Resource Investments, offered guidance in investing in mining and natural resource stocks in several well-attended sessions. Other investment specialists included Frank Trotter (Everbank) on the future of the US dollar (not good), Keith Fitz-Gerald on what Chinese insiders are buying now (Taiwan stocks), Van Simmons (David Hall’s Rare Coins) on the benefits of private collecting….Lou Petrossi on finding good money managers, Martin Truax on income investing, Jon Nadler (Kitco) on investing in gold, Paul Wigdor (Superfund) on beating the market with futures, Michael Checkan (Assets Strategies International) on currencies and precious metals, Peter Zipper on banking in Belize, and Adrian Day on foreign markets. Joe Bradley (Investors Hotline), Gary Alexander, Ron Holland, and Jon Golding served as moderators.
Peter Schiff, president of EuroPacific Capital and author of the bestseller “Crash Proof,” was adamant that investing in foreign stocks and commodities was the best way to go, and that investors should “get out of the dollar.”
I suggested that the US government could readily shift to a sound money system by circulating its own gold and silver bullion coins. I held up a American Eagle silver dollar, and gave one to each of the panelists. I told the audience that the silver dollar is our symbol of sound money and freedom, and encouraged each attendee to buy one from the coin dealers in the exhibit hall to keep as a good luck piece, a tip, a gift, or a nice bonus to employees.
Douglas R. Casey, chairman of Casey Research, was controversial as usual. His luncheon speech on “My Misadventures in the Third World” included an update on his efforts to privatize a small country and take it public on the New York Stock Exchange. He said it’s now a real possibility.
Estate and tax planning is always a major topic at FreedomFest, with experts Jeff Verdon, David T. Phillips, Joe Gandolfo, Vern Jacobs, Marshall Langer, and Bill Black, among others.
Conservative marketing guru Floyd Brown led a 4-session series on powerful techniques in email, blogging, and other new media, with the world’s most successful experts. Richard Viguerie (American Target) spoke on “Magnify Your Business or Resign!”; Craig Huey on 16 strategies for business owners; and Marsha Friedman on her new book, “Celebritize Yourself”…and Nathan Tabor on “Building a Political Following on Twitter, Facebook and Blogosphere.”
Chris Ruddy (Newsmax) also moderated a popular panel, carried on C-SPAN, called “The Future of Conservatism,” with Richard Viguerie (American Target), Jon Utley (American Conservative), Tom Phillips (Eagle Publishing), and Tom Fuente (California Republican).
Sacred Text Project: A Muslim Makes the Case for Pacifism!
Attendees had the unique opportunity to hear sessions by Jewish Mel Hecht, Christian minister Joseph Fuiten, Muslim Aslam Abdullah, Sikh Gurucharan Khalsa, and BYU Professor Dan Peterson shed light on their sacred scriptures, and then debate the role of religion in a no-holds-bar roundtable with Michael Shermer, editor of Skeptic magazine and Scientific American. Abdullah, director of the Islamic Center of Nevada, made the case for a peaceful coexistence with Muslim neighbors, and all the panelists seemed to be in a forgiving mood at FreedomFest.
In the exhibit hall each morning, Sikh Gurucharan Khalsa led about 30 individuals in yoga exercises.
Big Debates on Wal-Mart, Illegal Immigration, and the Fed
FreedomFest wouldn’t be complete without some great debates. This year, “Wal-Mart, Good or Bad?” pitted Ohio professor Richard Vedder against anti-Wal-Mart activist Al Norman. I was surprised to learn that many Wal-Mart employees are paid so little that they are subsidized with Medicaid, low-income housing, and other government welfare. In “Immigration: Will Mexico Explode?,” Roberto Salinas (Mexico Business Forum) defended his country against Dr. Eric Olsen, a Tucson chiropractor. In “Fed Up with the Fed?,” Gene Epstein (Barron’s economics editor) and Tom Woods took on Warren Coats (former IMF official) and John Fund (Wall Street Journal); and, as mentioned earlier, John Mackey (Whole Foods) and Michael Strong (FLOW) debated the Objectivists Ed Hudgins and Rob Bradley in “Randian vs. Conscious Capitalism.”
The Liberty Editors Conference is a perennial favorite, and every session was packed, with people hanging out the doors. Speakers included Stephen Cox, Drew Ferguson, Jim Walsh, Randal O’Toole, David Friedman, and Jo Ann Skousen. The panels were especially popular — on the Obama administration, the bailout, and a debate on religion and liberty. There was also a spirited debate on “Anarchy vs. Limited Government,” with me defending limited government against anarchists David Friedman and Doug Casey. I said that we now have a case study of how well anarchy does, since the African state of Somalia has had no central government since 1991. (The results are a mix of private services and poor public services, and a deteriorating economy.) I challenged Friedman and Casey to provide evidence of how utopian countries would deal with (1) disease control, (2) inefficiencies in public transportation and utilities, and (3) the justice system, i.e., how to deal with criminals who refuse to acknowledge private courts. At one point, I heard David Friedman say that a criminal who refuses to come to court would be “forced” to do so. That sounds like some form of government to me!
Major Media and Think Tanks at FreedomFest
We had representatives from most of the major financial media at FreedomFest, including the Wall Street Journal (Steve Moore and John Fund), Barron’s (Gene Epstein), and Investors Business Daily (Terry Jones and Michael Ramirez). Think tanks and freedom organizations were well represented: Ed Feulner and Teri Ruddy from Heritage: David Boaz, Dan Mitchell, Richard Rahn, and Michael Tanner from Cato; David Nott, Matt Welch, and Brian Doherty from Reason; Larry Reed from FEE; Julian Morris (IPN in London); Robert Enlow from the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice; Charles Murray from AEI; Byron Scholmach from the Goldwater Institute; John Taylor from the Virginia Institute; and Holly Jackson from State Policy Network (SPN).
Ron Paul’s Campaign for Liberty at FreedomFest
Over 1,200 attendees came to the Bally’s Events Center Friday night, July 10, to hear bestselling author Tom Woods and Congressman Ron Paul update us on the machinations of Death Star (Doug Casey’s name for Washington). Paul is not optimistic about prospects in Washington, but was buoyed by the strong turnout in Las Vegas.
Unusual Speakers at FreedomFest
There’s always something for everyone at FreedomFest, even for those who don’t care about politics or money. We had a science fiction mini-series with Jo Ann Skousen on “Fantasy, Science Fiction and Romance,” commenting especially on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and Brian Doherty on Robert Heinlein. They also participated in a popular panel on libertarian science fiction/fantasy with L. Neil Smith and J. Neil Schulman.
NYTimes columnist and GMU Professor Tyler Cowen answered the question, “Does Capitalism Destroy Culture?” He concluded that global capitalism actually encourages a variety in products and services, including language and cultural differences. Missouri history professor Steven Watts spoke on “Fantasyland, Walt Disney, and the American Dream,” followed by “Playboy, Hugh Hefner, and the American Dream”…..and Don Hauptman gave details on Ayn Rand’s famous Playboy interview, based on his purchase of the original documents with Rand’s own hand-written notes.
We also had several sessions on healthy living, including talks by John Mackey, and George and Mimi Murdock. The Murdocks spoke on “How to Avoid America’s Impending Health Catastrophe,” and recommended the book “The China Study.”
French Canadians Julie Barlow and Jean-Benoit Nadeau spoke on their bestsellers “Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t be Wrong” and “The Story of French”…..David Wang explained the unusual connection between Confucius and America’s Founding Fathers (especially Franklin and Jefferson)….C-SPAN filmed Alex Green on his new book, “The Secret of Shelter Island”…..FIRE president Greg Lukianoff on “Unlearning Liberty: FIRE on Campus”….Dick Bishirjian (Yorktown University) on the profit potential of “for profit” education….This year we celebrated the 200th anniversary of the birth of two famous individuals, so we had Michael Shermer speak on Charles Darwin, and Hillsdale Professor Tom Krannawitter on “Vindicating Abe Lincoln Against his Libertarian Critics”….Santa Clara Professor Fred Foldvary defended Henry George and his single tax on land….Troy Dayton and John Mackey teamed up to discuss “Should Drugs be Legalized?”….Nelson Hultberg, author of “The Golden Mean,” on the need for a third party….And last but not least, our mystery guest speaker was Harvey Mudd Professor Art Benjamin on “The Joys and Mysteries of Mathematics.” He held the crowd spellbound, and sold dozens of his books and tapes.
Each Room Dedicated to a Fallen Patriot
Each year we dedicate the rooms at FreedomFest to a free-market leader who has recently passed away. This year the rooms were dedicated to: Sir John Templeton; former Congressman Jack Kemp; Habitat for Humanity founder Millard Fuller; Anti-Communist crusader Fred Schwarz; conservative leader Paul Weyrich; investment writer Larry Abraham; private education enthusiast Marshall Fritz; ISIL founder Vince Miller; coin dealer Burt Blumert; and FEE managing editor Beth Hoffman.
Free Market Hall of Fame at Gala Saturday Banquet
Every night was filled with events at FreedomFest: On Thursday, Everbank sponsored a speakers dinner and Newsmax an attendees dinner; on Friday, Campaign for Liberty sponsored a Ron Paul reception and program in the Bally’s Events Center.
The capstone of the conference was the gala Saturday night banquet, led by emcee extraordinaire Chip Wood. After CNBC’s Larry Kudlow spoke for 20 minutes on the current state of the nation, five American writers and economists were inducted into the Free Market Hall of Fame: Henry Hazlitt, Murray N. Rothbard, Rose Wilder Lane, H. L. Mencken, and Booker T. Washington. After each name was announced, Chip Wood rang the Liberty Bell. Following the ceremony, Steve Forbes paid tribute to the five inductees.
Then band leader Billy Tragesser led the audience in the singing of the FreedomFest anthem, “Freedom and Gold,” sung to an Irish tune attributed to an old pirate song.
The grand finale was the appearance on stage of the world’s #1 Beatles tribute band, “Yesterday.” From the first chord of the first song, a large crowd immediately gathered on the dance floor and didn’t quit until an hour and a half later, dancing and singing to the classics of the Fab Four. I’ve never seen anything like it at a libertarian or conservative event. Even Steve Forbes got out there and did a jig.
Everyone sang along with the band singing a libertarian version of John Lennon’s “Imagine”:
Imagine there’s no taxation
It’s easy if you try
No IRS below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living to be free.
Imagine no politicians.
Telling us what to do.
No forms to fill out for.
And no inflation too
Imagine all the people
Living without Social Security.
You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday they’ll join us
And liberty will have won.
Imagine no regulations.
I wonder if you can
No need for laws to control us
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Competing in the world
You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday they’ll join us
And liberty will have won.
Next Year’s Big Event: “Declare Your Own Independence.”
We’ve already set the dates for the 7th annual FreedomFest, which promises to be bigger and better than ever before: July 7-11, 2010, at Bally’s/Paris Resort in Las Vegas. Just think7-11 in Vegas.
We think next year’s FreedomFest will sell out (we have a maximum capacity of 2000). So you might want to take advantage of the “early bird” special ($100 off the retail price).
We’ve also planned several other events for the coming year:
- A world class Mediterranean cruise (3 Greek Islands, Israel, Ephesus, Egypt, and Italy). For details, go to http://www.freedomfest.com/cruise2009.htm
- Our post-Davos World Economic Summit January 31-February 2 at the Atlantis Hotel on Paradise Island in the Bahamas. For more information, call Tami Holland, our conference coordinator extraordinaire, at 1-866-266-5101, or email her at [email protected]omfest.com.
In liberty, AEIOU,
“The world’s largest gathering of free minds”
7-11 in Las Vegas (July 7-11, 2010)