FreedomFest 2018: My Favorite Sessions to Attend This Year

by Mark Skousen
Editor, Forecasts & Strategies

Dear FreedomFest friends,

Welcome to another great FreedomFest, “the world’s largest gathering of free minds.”

Every FreedomFest, the first thing I do is get the printed program and circle all the breakout sessions I want to attend.  You should do the same.  You can get started now by going online to “agenda” at and see the entire up-to-date program.

Here are the sessions I have chosen to attend this year:


1-1:50 pm. Champagne 1.   “Antonio Gramsci and the Cultural Revolution:  How Marxists Took Over Higher Education, and How to Take it Back,” with Daniele Struppa, president of Chapman University.  I’ll be introducing him.

2 – 2:50 pm.  Champagne 4.  “Freedom Festschrift:  Murray Rothbard, Pro and Con.”  I’ll be telling great stories about my relationship with the dean of the American school of Austrian economics.  Other panelists include Walter Block and Jeff Tucker.  Moderated by Hunter Hastings.  Expect lots of discussion and debate.

3 – 4 pm.  Champagne 4.  “Adam Smith, Marx and Keynes:  Who’s Winning the Battle of Ideas?”  Marxism is still alive and kicking on the 200th anniversary of Karl Marx’s birth — the same year that Mary Shelly wrote “Frankenstein” — when two monsters were born!  I’ll compare Marx’s influence with Adam Smith and Keynes.  Ken Schoolland will introduce me, and Steve Forbes will participate in an historic ceremony at the end.  Don’t miss it!


4:45 – 6:40 pm.  Rivoli Main Ballroom.  Lots of fireworks with Steve Forbes on “The Voice of Reason in the Age of Trump”; Dr. Keith Ablow on “What Gives the Human Brain the Ability to Reason”; a debate/panel on “A World Gone Mad…” with Larry Elder (moderator), David Boaz (Cato), Deneen Borelli (Fox News contributor), Jennifer Grossman (Atlas), and Ross Douthat (NYTimes columnist).

Then we have Patrick Byrne, CEO of Overstock, Inc., on the revolutionary block chain and digital currency revolution.

And last but not least, George Will on “Discord?  Nonsense.  America’s Biggest Problem is Consensus.”  After his talk, Alex Green and I will interview him on “The Most Predictable Crisis in American History,” and his views on Eric Hoffer’s disturbing book, “The True Believer,” and how it applies today.

The Wall Street Journal calls George Will “the most powerful journalist in America,” and he has the distinction of having worked with ABC News, Fox News, and now MSNBC.  What does he think of each network?  I plan to ask him Wednesday night.  I’ll be joined by Alex Green (Oxford Club) for an unforgettable interview.

Then I look forward to our gala opening cocktail party, a chance to mingle with each other and the exhibitors, what John Mackey calls “The Trade Show for Liberty,” and autograph sessions at the FreedomFest bookstore.  Here’s a chance to buy one or more American eagle silver dollars…and see if you can solve my daily “white mates in two” chess problem.  Hopefully you will encounter our libertarian card magician, Peter Studebaker.  What fun!

I’m always amazed at the buzz you feel entering the opening cocktail party as friends see old friends and make new ones.  There’s nothing like it.

As the late Nathaniel Brandon said at his first FreedomFest, “I feel an electricity here I haven’t felt in years.”


We’re start the day’s session at 8:20 am with a welcome from Naomi Brockwell.  I will make some general announcements about this year’s FreedomFest, including our “Fast Money Summit,” and my wife Jo Ann will talk about this year’s selections in the Anthem film festival. 

8:30 – 9:00 am. Rivoli Main Ballroom.  Global Economic Summit with Steve Forbes, Rodolfo Milani, Steve Moore, Jim Rogers, Magatte Wade, and Barbara Kolm (moderator) discussing Trump trade wars, Latin America’s turning socialist/Marxist, European nationalism, China’s future, and corruption in South Africa.

10 – 10:30 am.  Rivoli Main Ballroom.  Libertarian CEO Panel, “Can Conscious Capitalism Make a Difference?” with John Mackey, CEO, Whole Foods Market, and Andy Puzder, former CEO, CKE Restaurants (Carl’s Jr., and Hardee’s) and Trump’s first choice for Labor Secretary.   I plan on a “true or false” quiz for them and the audience to keep the session lively.

11:15 am – 1 pm.  Rivoli Ballroom.  Keynote speaker:  Judge Andrew Napolitano on “What If You Lived in a Country Where the Constitution Meant Nothing?” followed by luncheon in Champagne 2 with Steve Forbes:  “The Judge Answers Your Tough Questions” about the Supreme Court, Trump, immigration, religion, civil forfeitures, etc.

Breakout sessions begin at 1 pm, and we’ve reduced the choices to 10 — but it’s still difficult to choose.  Our “Fast Money Summit” starts at this time, and I’ll be involved from time to time.  Here’s what I’m planning to attend:

1 – 1:50 pm.  Versailles 2.  “DEBATE:  Is Faith Compatible with Reason?” between BYU Professor Daniel Peterson and Scientific American columnist and Skeptic editor Michael Shermer.  I came up with the idea of this debate after reading two books that have opposite conclusions:  In “The Closing of the Western Mind,” historian Charles Freeman argues that the “rise of Christian faith resulted in the fall of reason” in the first 1,000 years after Christ; while in “The Victory of Reason,” Baylor sociologist Rodney Stark contends that “Christianity led to freedom, capitalism, and Western success.”  Who’s right?  Peterson and Shermer will battle it out.  C-SPAN coverage! 

2 – 2:50 pm. Versailles 3.  Anthem Film Festival Room.  “PANEL: 200 Years of Frankenstein:  Leviathan and the Mad Scientist.”  In 1818, Mary Shelley wrote her famous horror novel.  We will hear from top experts on the controversies and meaning of the monster in literature, film and culture:  Reason’s science editor Ron Bailey; and literary professors Socky O’Sullivan (Rollins College) and Jo Ann Skousen (Chapman University).

2:50 – 3:20 pm.  Coffee Break in exhibit hall.  I’ll be enjoying the FreedomFest bookstore, visiting exhibitors, and watching the “pop up” entertainment. And stop by our Eagle booth and say hello!  This is a great time to renew your subscription to my newsletter and trading services.

3:20-4:10 pm.  Versailles 2.  “THE PLAYBOY DEBATE:  Should We Dedicate a Room to Hugh Hefner?”  Every year we dedicate our various rooms to patriots who have died in the past year.  (They will be listed in the official program.)  Steven Watts, professor of history at Missouri U, has written the story of “Mr. Playboy:  Hugh Hefner and the American Dream,” and will argue that Hefner liberated American society from Puritanical sexual neuroses.  Taking the opposite view will be NYTimes conservative columnist Ross Douthat, who has declared Mr. Playboy to be a chauvinist pornographer who exploited women and made our culture “coarser, crueler, and more sterile.”  A timely debate in this “me too” age.  Debate will be moderated by Jennifer Grossman (Atlas Society).  C-SPAN coverage! 

4:20 – 6:30 pm.  Rivoli Main Ballroom.  General sessions include a panel on market-driven solutions to our healthcare crisis; talks by Deneen Borelli on race relations; Robert Kiyosaki on investing; and Rich Lowry (editor of National Review) on “Should We Be Afraid of the New American Nationalism?” (I am.)

I’ll be especially interested in the remarks by Robert Kiyosaki, author of “Rich Dad, Poor Dad,” the #1 financial bestseller ever (26 million copies in print).  I have mixed feelings about his advice, which tends to be doom-and-gloom.  He wrote “Rich Dad’s Prophecy” in 2002, predicting a gigantic crash in 2016.  We did have a financial panic in 2008, but since then it’s been the mother of all bull markets.  He rejects the traditional advice to “go to college, get a good job, stay out of debt, and invest long term in the stock market.”  He says this advice is obsolete.  Instead, one must be an entrepreneur in real estate and business.  But is his advice sound for everyone?

6:10 – 6:40 pm.  Rivoli Ballroom.  We have just added another big debate, “Newsmax vs New York Times!” This debate will star Wayne Allyn Root (Newsmax radio/tv host) vs Ross Douthat (NYTimes columnist).  The topic will be explosive:  “Is Trump Another Reagan — or a Mussolini?”  Our most controversial Trump debate yet.   

After 8 pm, there are lots of fun things to do.  We have a series of “conversational circles,” where attendees discuss various topics in separate rooms — on foreign policy led by Ed Rush, investments by Jim Woods, and libertarian issues by Walter Block.  Anthem film festival will also be showing “The Housing Bubble,” followed by a panel starring Doug Casey, Jim Rogers, Peter Schiff, Gene Epstein, and others.


7:30 – 8:30 am.  Champagne 3.  Start off early with breakfast with Yeonmi Park, North Korean defector and author of the new book “In Order to Live:  A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom.”  I look forward to her perspective on potential opening up of relations with North Korea.

Then we have general sessions in Rivoli Main Ballroom with Jenny Beth Martin updating us on the Tea Party Movement; Matt Kibbe (Free the People) on a new technology, “Atlas Shoved:  The 21st Century Motor!”; and the annual Pitch Tank competition with Kevin Harrington, Steve Forbes, John Mackey, Bernt Ullmann, and Greg Writer (moderator).

Breakout sessions begin after the coffee break….

11:00 – 11:50 am.  Burgundy.  Tom Palmer (Atlas Network) on “The Age of Reason: The Common Sense of Tom Paine.”  Tom is our resident philosopher, always insightful.

12:00 – 12:50 pm.  I’m going to either the Chablis for Larry Reed’s session, “Was Jesus a Socialist?” or the Rivoli Ballroom for the panel “The Assassination of Western Civilization:  What’s Causing our Society to Decline?” with Steve Forbes, Deirdre McCloskey, John Prevas, and Barry Strauss (Gary Alexander to moderate).

1 – 1:50 pm.  Lunch with hosted exhibitors or on your own.

2 – 2:50 pm.  Bordeaux.  I take on Jeff Berwick, producer of AnarchaPulco, on “The Ultimate Libertarian Debate:  Should You Vote?”  Many libertarians refuse to participate in the political process, which they say is inherently corrupt and immoral.  They have been influenced by such books as “None of the Above” by Sy Leon and “Don’t Vote–It Just Encourages the Bastards,” by P. J.  O’Rourke.  Not to be missed!

Then back to the Fast Money Summit in the Vendome A room:

3 – 3:25 pm.  Vendome A.  “What am I Missing:  The Ultimate Question for All Bears and Bulls,” where moderator Eric Gemelli will be asking this tough question to Doug Casey, Keith Fitz-Gerald, Alex Green, and Jim Rogers. 

3:25 – 3:50 pm.  Vendome A.  I’ll be interviewing Prof. Deirdre McCloskey in “The Capital Debate:  Which is More Important, Investment or Ideas?” and challenging her book title, “Bourgeois Equality:  How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enrich the World.”

4:00 – 4:30 pm.  Champagne 2.  I’ll be attending FreedomWorks reception, “Midterm Elections: Can Limited Government Make a Comeback?” with John Fund, pollster Brett Loyd, and Adam Brandon.  Brett Loyd is one of the few pollsters who predicted Trump’s victory.

Then back in the Rivoli Main Ballroom for…

4:35 – 4:55 pm.  Heather Mac Donald on “The Delusion of Diversity”

4:55-5:15 pm.  I’ll be leading a half hour panel on “Are We Making a Difference?  A Freedom Movements Progress Report” with Tom Palmer (Atlas Network), Larry Reed (FEE), Adam Brandon (FreedomWorks) and Charlie Copeland (Intercollegiate Studies Institute).

At 5:15 pm, we begin our most popular event, the mock trial.  This year we are putting the “Public School System on Trial,” starring Kennedy (Fox News) as the Judge; prosecuting attorney Bob Bowdon; Defending attorney “Tick” Segerblom; star witnesses Cory DeAngelis (Cato), Vicki Alger (Independent Institute), Julian Heilig (Sacramento State and NAACP); and Lisa Sparks (Orange County School System, California).  Naomi Brockwell will be the foreman.  And 12 jurors selected from the audience.  Let the debate begin!

There’s plenty going on after the mock trial (conversation circles, Anthem film festival, and Karaoke after dark), but I have a couple of dinners I am going to.


7:30 – 8:25 am.  Another breakfast, this time with a debate between me and Alex Green on “Can You Predict the Future?”  He says no, I say yes.  Lots of historical examples.  We did this debate once before at a conference, and it was electrifying.  Eric Gemelli is the moderator.

8:30 – 8:45 am.  Rivoli Main Ballroom.  A testy debate on Tesla Motors and Elon MuskKeith Fitz-Gerald (Money Map) defends Tesla while Rob Arnott, the godfather of smart beta, contends that Tesla is too far in debt to escape bankruptcy.  Jim Woods as moderator.

Following the debate, I’ll be announcing the winner of this year’s Leonard E. Read Book Award.  Read this book!

Afterwards, we will have a series of talks and panels:  Republican leaders Senator Mike Lee, and representatives Thomas Massie and Tom Garrett on “Republicans Gone Wild”….Magatte Wade on the future of Africa…Libertarians on winning in November with Bill Weld, Jim Gray, Ron Nielson and Ben Swann….and Reason editors Nick Gillespie, Matt Welch, and Katherine Mangu-Ward on the future of libertarianism and Reason Foundation.

After the coffee break….we have a breakout session:

10:50 – 11:15 am in Vendome A (Fast Money Summit), I interview Rob Arnott, CEO of Research Affliates, who manages over $200 billion on his formula for beating the market, what works and what doesn’t work on Wall Street.

11:15 – 11:50 am.  We show a 5 min video of Mark Mobius, long-time manager of the Templeton Emerging Markets Fund (ranked #1 over 30 years), on “Lessons of Investing in Emerging Markets,” followed by comments by financial guru Jim Rogers.

Then back in the Rivoli Main Hall for our final general session:

11:50 am – 12:20 pm.  A panel on foreign policy with Senator Mike Lee, Representative Thomas Massie, and Ed Rush. 

12:20 – 12:50 pm. I lead the closing panel, with David Boaz (Cato), Heather Mac Donald (Manhattan Institute), Steve Forbes, and Jenny Beth Martin (Tea Party Patriots) on what we have learned in answering the question, “Where is the Voice of Reason?”

At 12:40 pm I will announce the theme for next year and our big name celebrity speaker.  Don’t miss it!  Before we dismiss for lunch, I invite everyone who has a silver dollar to come forward and take a picture with Steve Forbes and members of our closing panel.

After a hosted luncheon or lunch on your own, we have our final blockbuster Saturday afternoon breakout sessions:

2 – 2:50 pm. Loire.  I plan on attending this panel:  “How to Turn a Bestseller into a Classic.”  Out of the some 120 million books that have been published in the history of the world, only 2% have become bestsellers and only 1,200 or so have become classics.  What are the criteria to determine a classic novel or non-fiction work?  Dan Peterson (BYU), Socky O’Sullivan (Rollins College), and Daniele Struppa (Chapman U) will seek to answer this question.

3-3:50 pm.  Loire.  David Boaz addresses the issue, “Leviathan and the Age of Reason:  Why Life After Locke and Hobbes is no Longer Nasty, Brutish, and Short.”  Introduction by Elizabeth Ames.

4-4:25 pm.  Vendome A (Fast Money Summit).  I introduce John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, who is will speak on “Investing on the Run:  How I Became a Successful Part-Time Investor Running a Full-time Business.”  This is the first time John is speaking on his life as an investor and speculator!

4:25 – 4:50 pm.  Vendome A.  Steve Forbes closing address to the Fast Money Summit:  “An Optimist’s Guide to Investing in Capitalism.”  It will be followed by reception and cash bar: An opportunity to meet Mr. Forbes and other speakers, take photographs, have them sign books, etc.

6 – 10 pm.  Rivoli Ballroom.  Get ready for the farewell reception and gala Saturday night banquet, with the Anthem Film Awards, Reason Media Awards, and the dance band The Salamanders as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Reason Foundation.  After a long four day event, it feels great to get out on the dance floor.  See you there!

This is also my opportunity to thank everyone who has worked so hard and put in countless hours or work and creativity to make this year’s FreedomFest and Anthem Film Festival an incredible success — Valerie Durham, our conference director; Autumn Bennett, Norann Dillon, Jennifer Hunter, Harold Skousen, our registration team, and my wife Jo Ann.  

And see you next year!  Dates are July 17-20, 2019, at the Paris Resort, Las Vegas.  Details to be announced soon at

Yours for peace, prosperity and liberty, AEIOU,

Mark Skousen


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