Mises Wire

Thus Endeth FreedomFest

Thus Endeth FreedomFest

I had every intention of blogging my way through FreedomFest in Las Vegas this week, where the Mises Institute had a strong and conspicuous presence, but I ended up spending so much time running to sessions and visiting with folks at the book table that the blogging didn’t happen. Sometimes there’s so much to write that one hardly knows where to begin.

One could detect two general types of sessions this year, and I was struck by the rather wide chasm that separated them.

One type was old fashioned for any ideologically oriented conference. It was the political side that involved politicians, lobbying groups, activists plotting legislative initiatives on Capitol Hill, and people we might call “freedom planners” hocking elaborate plans for adjusting, repairing, reforming, and rearranging the system as it is in order to make it work better, all with the cliched goal of “taking the country back.”

Their ambition was to draw ever more people into the political sector of life to campaign, badger, obsess about legislation and reform, lobby, and give money to this candidate so that some other candidate won’t take power. The underlying theme of all these sessions is that power can and should be used to reshape society in the way we approve and to stop some other group from getting its way.

I found these sessions to be uninspired and uninspiring. They lacked intellectual content. They made promises that can’t possibly be fulfilled. They conjured up images of citizens making a difference in Washington, which we all know cannot happen. They presume the existence of a political and bureaucrat class that is listening and wanting to improve. They presume that the existing structure of government is reformable based on citizen input, which it is not. We are really too far down the path to despotism to be tricked again by such claims.

A second type of session completely ignored this old world of politically obsessed activism and focused on building new sectors of life outside the state. These were the exciting sessions. They were idea driven, innovative, fascinating, and spoke more to the reality of the times. These sessions focused on digital media, digital universes, alternative work and educational paths, investment and entrepreneurial efforts, research and application for new directions in science, cutting-edge ideas concerning the viability of purely private alternatives to the statist system, new models for making sense of the new world of consumption and production, possibilities for living in new places and new ways.

The sessions of the Mises Institute certainly contributed to this second type. Doug French talked about the necessary educational and vocational alternatives that we need in a time when young people are nearly locked out of the work force and gaining very little from established institutions. Charles Goyette spoke about the breakdown of the dollar and of the planning state that wrecked it. Edward Stringham provided a compelling look at how society works without government police. Robert Murphy talked about economic education and his experience as professor in the Mises Academy. Butler Shaffer spoke about property, its definition, and its role in giving birth to social order. I spoke on how and why the digital-world economy has experienced such explosive growth and innovation in a time when the physical-world seems to be falling apart.

The bulk of the sessions that went on – and there were so many that it was hard to keep up – were of the second type, and they were also the most well attended. I take from this some indication of where libertarian interests are today. It’s not about Washington and its not about building a better state. It’s about innovating new spheres for freedom that can live outside the apparatus of compulsion and coercion and eventually displace and replace the anachronism of the central state as we know it.

It was extremely gratifying to hear so many, many people tell us how much influence Mises.org has had on their lives – and it was especially interesting to me to find out from the workers and heads of other organizations how much they too depend on the resources we provide here.

All Rights Reserved ©
Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.
What is the Mises Institute?

The Mises Institute is a non-profit organization that exists to promote teaching and research in the Austrian School of economics, individual freedom, honest history, and international peace, in the tradition of Ludwig von Mises and Murray N. Rothbard. 

Non-political, non-partisan, and non-PC, we advocate a radical shift in the intellectual climate, away from statism and toward a private property order. We believe that our foundational ideas are of permanent value, and oppose all efforts at compromise, sellout, and amalgamation of these ideas with fashionable political, cultural, and social doctrines inimical to their spirit.

Become a Member
Mises Institute