Is Big Brother here? A cautious optimism at Freedomfest 2014

Freedom Fest 2014
Freedom Fest 2014

LAS VEGAS, July 12, 2014 — Freedomfest 2014 was held at the Planet Hollywood, Las Vegas this week. Billed as “The world’s largest gathering of free minds,” this years’ theme is the question, “Is Big Brother here?” It was pointed out more than once that no politicians were speaking at the conference.

The conference is a unique mix of libertarian politics, free market economics and investment advice. Some conservative thought is also present, but it is a distinct minority. Running in parallel is the Anthem Film Festival, which is screening films from the small and independent to full length films such as Atlas Shrugged III: Who is John Galt?

One does not expect a great deal of optimism from doctrinaire libertarians. Discussions with such people usually devolve quickly into fierce advocacy for the legalization of drugs, prostitution and other so-called victimless crimes. These people rarely get elected to public office or have their policies enacted so they tend to be a pretty pessimistic and critical bunch.

Fortunately, that type of libertarian is not much in evidence, and certainly not among the speakers, who represent a broad range of libertarian and even conservative thought. Despite the fact that the socialist left in these United States are running the federal government with a very heavy hand, many find cause for optimism.

The conference opened with a strong focus on the big brother theme. The film festival screened the excellent “Before Snowden: Behind the Curtain,” a short story about three NSA whistleblowers who tried to raise the alarm about NSA overreach before Edward Snowden came along. Anyone who says Snowden should have worked within the system to seek reform should see this underreported story. These three men tried that and were persecuted by the federal government for their efforts.

The major focus of the conference, however, is economics. Here’s where the optimism exists. Steve Moore showed how the Reagan recovery outperformed the Obama recovery 24.5% to 11.2%. Prosperity, he and others pointed out, is entirely possible. All that is required is to cut government meddling and spending. The contest, as one speaker pointed out, is not really between conservatives and liberals, it is between the producers and the statists.

If that sounds like Ayn Rand, it is. It was fitting, then, that on Wednesday there was a preview of third installment in the Atlas Shrugged series. There was no question at this conference that collectivism is the enemy and that is an immoral system.

There were sessions about how to fight back against socialism—effectively. The Independent Women’s Forum presented ideas from their experience on how to reach women. A panel from Reason highlighted a just-released poll on Millenials which showed, for example, that while 42% prefer socialism against capitalism (which was still favored by 52%), only 16% actually knew what “socialism” really means.

If there are such possibilities and the solutions are really that simple, then what is wrong with America today? One could find an answer in Dinesh D’Souza’s new movie America, which was screened on Friday evening. According to D’Souza, “The shaming of America is necessary for the shakedown of America.” The constant drumbeat of criticism of our history is based, as the movie explains, on the faulty logic of the left.

“We should love America for what it is, despite what our government is trying to do to it,” he said in the session after the screening.

John Fund made a comment in his session that sums up the case for optimism: “Now is the time to go on the offensive…Each of you have more influence than you realize.” Attendees will have been well equipped for that task.

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