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Conservative Spotlight: FreedomFest

Where the world’s best and brightest libertarians and conservatives come together.

“I’ve created a show for independent thinkers,” said Mark Skousen, producer of FreedomFest, the second annual edition of which will take place May 13 to 15 in Las Vegas. “We had 850 paid attendees last year,” he said. “We’re hoping to have 1,000 people this time.” Instead of “conservative movement” or “libertarian movement,” Skousen, who is editor of Forecasts and Strategies, an Eagle Publishing investment newsletter and HUMAN EVENTS sister publication, prefers the term “freedom movement.” “I think that is the ultimate litmus test for the conservative or libertarian movement. I’m socially conservative in many ways but I believe in maximizing freedom,” he said. “Someone who is forced to obey, ‘to do the right thing,’ whether it’s a child or a citizen, is not responsible for his or her actions. My slogan is, ‘Freedom in all times for all peoples.'” Skousen said there is room in the freedom movement for a new, low-priced conference. “If you look at what the freedom movement in the past has been, it’s either things like the Mt. Pelerin Society which are very exclusive. . . . Then you have events that are high-priced but are open to everybody. Ours is an event that’s cheap, in a fun town.” FreedomFest has an intellectual focus. “CPAC is just for political thinking,” said Skousen, but, as FreedomFest’s website declares: “FreedomFest is three glorious days (Thursday through Saturday) of ‘Great Ideas, Great Books, and Great Thinkers.’ FreedomFest is the intellectual feast of 2004, where the world’s best and brightest authors, students, business people, and libertarian/conservative think tanks will meet, learn, create, and network. . . . Dozens and dozens of speakers will be present at FreedomFest 2004, from various perspectives of the liberty movement. They will be addressing multiple breakout sessions, give main stage speeches, discuss ‘Financial Freedom,’ and argue issues in debates and panels.” FreedomFest’s website describes last year’s conference as having “nearly 900 attendees, 60 exhibitors, and 80 speakers, including Charles Murray, Nathaniel Branden, Ben Stein, Dinesh D’Souza. C-SPAN covered much of the event.” “We try to get bright new stars. The first hour session will be well-known, famous people. The second one will be the bright new stars,” said Skousen. “There are some topics I can’t wait to hear, such as Gordon Pollack speaking on the case against common law and jury trials.” FreedomFest will also boast “a special pre-conference seminar on ‘Free Markets and Supply Side Economics’ with famed economist Art Laffer, tech guru George Gilder, Steve Moore (Club for Growth), Alan Reynolds (Cato Institute), and Skousen, himself. There will also be “a fabulous opening Liberty Banquet with award-winning actor Ben Stein on ‘Hollywood and the Battle for Economic Freedom,’ and an opening speech on the unfortunately true topic of ‘Big Government Is Bipartisan: What You Can Do About It’ by David Boaz, vice president of the Cato Institute. Commuters might be especially interested in the talk by Bob Poole, Reason magazine founder, on “Fast Relief from Traffic Jams: Coming Soon to a City Near You.” ‘John Stossel of ABC will be another speaker. Says conference material, “John Stossel, ABC news magazine, ’20/20′ news anchor, will address FreedomFest 2004. Stossel began his career doing one-hour primetime specials in 1994. Since that time he has become a household figure with various specials, many with a distinctly liberty-oriented theme. Now a ’20/20′ news anchor, Stossel has recently released his book, Give Me A Break. At FreedomFest he will address a general session of the event on Friday evening cosponsored by the Fund for American Studies.” Other speakers and topics include: “Nathaniel Branden on ‘The Moral Conflict of Capitalism and Statism,’ Tom DiLorenzo on his book How Capitalism Saved America, Jack Pugsley on ‘The Free-Market Case Against Free-Market Think Tanks.'” Conferees will also be able to hear Congressman Ron Paul (R.-Tex.) on One Bush Policy I Did Support, and Prof. Alan Ebenstein on “John Stuart Mill: Democrat, Liberal, Socialist?” “Foreign policy will be debated, the Patriot Act will be debated,” said Skousen. However, he said, that the conference would avoid the topics of abortion and same-sex marriage. “One day, we hope to have 50,000 people come,” he said. “That’s my goal. Do you know about the Hollywood Bowl gathering in the’60s against Communism? When have you seen that since then?” FreedomFest was organized by Skousen when he was at the Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEE) last year, but this year is sponsored by Young America’s Foundation (YAF) since Skousen and FEE have parted ways. “There is no single voice for the freedom movement,” said Skousen, whose financial newsletter is published by HUMAN EVENTS’ parent company. “But we’d like to become very big.” In any case, he said, “Everybody in the freedom movement should be getting HUMAN EVENTS.”

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FreedomFest may be reached c/o Young America’s Foundation, 110 Elden St., Herndon, Va. 20170 (800-USA-1776; e-mail: lstewart@freedomfest.com; website: www.freedomfest.com)

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Written By

Mr. D'Agostino, former associate editor of HUMAN EVENTS, is vice president for Communications at the Population Research Institute.

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