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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/13223/report-on-freedomfest/

Report on FreedomFest

July 10, 2010 by

To the right is an image of Doug French sitting outdoors in a French cafe. Sitting across from him, it took me a few minutes to fully realize that this was not a French cafe and it was not outdoors. It is indoors at the Paris hotel in Las Vegas, a town that provides many such illusions and where you constantly have to remind yourself that you are not in fact where you think you are but rather you are in a place that was once a barren desert.

The forces of capitalism that made this place have managed to fix everything except the weather. It was 112 degrees yesterday. But no one knew it or cared since the whole ethos of living here is all about staying inside as much as possible: you drive out of parking garages into other parking garages, getting out and going on elevators to heavily air conditioned places that look and feel like other places. In so many ways, Vegas is a marvel of capitalist ingenuity.

I thought I would balk at the cultural feel of the place but there is something charming about the ashamed consumerism here that so unapologetically thrives off pleasing people.  The phrase “the consumer is king” is not just a slogan; it is really true that anyone arriving at the airport and staying at any hotel is treated like royalty. And this merely reflects reality. The consumer is the engine that makes the whole place work.

The hours of operation here are very odd. I woke this morning and headed downstairs to get some coffee and found myself back in the casino, with music playing, lights flashing, and people were playing poker and all the things they do, and it took me a moment to realize that this was only “morning” by standards of the clock; for everyone here, it was the last hours of the night. Stunning.

Now to FreedomFest. No question that this massive event has filled a market niche. The only comparable thing I’ve attended in the libertarian world is the LP national meeting, and this is way above that organizationally and intellectually. The talks have been interesting, entertaining, and informative. There are many events taking place simultaneously, so there would be no way to go to everything. Every important institution in the libertarian world has a booth here, which is very helpful. They offer a great way to meet people and get a sense of how these organizations work from the inside. Many are impressive; others, not so much. In any case, just walking around the exhibitors hall is an education in itself.

Not all events are about politics. Yesterday there was a very interesting debate, set up in the form of a mock trial, about religion: whether religion is a menace or friend to society and freedom. Dinish D’Souza did a fantastic job leading the pro-religion side. The opposition was led by Steven Landsburg but the best presenter (in my view) was Doug Casey, who let loose on the longest and most extreme anti-religion tirade I’ve ever heard. I don’t know if he was just playing a role or speaking from the heart; it certainly sounded sincere. Speaking as a theist myself, this Casey presentation was worth the price of admission. In the end, however, the votes from both the “jury” and the entire audience overwhelmingly supported the pro-religion side.

The Mises Institute event takes place today. Many people have come here just for this. It has been gratifying to meet so many people who have been influenced by this website, and to see so many old friends and meet new ones. The main impression I have from the FreedomFest is a sense of fun and happiness. That is in short supply in times like ours when there is so much to be disgusted about. It’s nice to be able to put one’s disgust on hold for a few days and just enjoy the intellectual stimulation and meet and greet. And isn’t that why Vegas exists?

{ 15 comments }

Aubrey Herbert July 10, 2010 at 10:12 am

“The opposition was led by Steven Landsburg but the best presenter (in my view) was Doug Casey, who let loose on the longest and most extreme anti-religion tirade I’ve ever heard. I don’t know if he was just playing a role or speaking from the heart; it certainly sounded sincere”

Is this available anywhere? If not, why not? lol.

Todd S. July 10, 2010 at 11:28 am

It’s hard for me to accept that capitalism is responsible for many or most of the western desert towns. Without the huge makework projects of the New Deal and governmental work even earlier, I don’t see them being able to support themselves. I can’t imagine someone wandering into the desert, looking around and finding no appreciable water source for a hundred miles, say “this looks like a good spot for a city”. Vegas has some water nearby I suppose, but a city like Phoenix doesn’t.

BioTube July 10, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Considering very few towns have been founded since the New Deal, it doesn’t really have all that much to do with anything.

Todd S. July 10, 2010 at 3:12 pm

The establishment of a small township and it’s growth to a full sized city are two different things. I suppose I misspoke when I talked about founding. Most desert settlements could support some population. Without T. Roosevelt’s National Reclamation Act and subsequent New Deal projects, I doubt you’d find cities in that region much beyond a few thousand in size.

Nathan Eames July 11, 2010 at 12:15 am

Phoenix has a river that runs right through town. Just outside of Phoenix are ruins of an ancient civilization: the Hohokam. They didn’t have gov. make work projects so I think you are a little of base.

Jeffrey July 10, 2010 at 11:54 am

Addendum: mises institute sessions have been wonderfully packed this morning!

Frank July 10, 2010 at 12:46 pm

“Speaking as a theist myself, this Casey presentation was worth the price of admission. In the end, however, the votes from both the “jury” and the entire audience overwhelmingly supported the pro-religion side.”

Putting ideas to a “vote”? Acting like the theists “won” a debate because a majority of the audience cheered in accordance with its prejudice? Ugh.

Thanks for reminding me of why I steered clear of this event after the first one eight years ago.

Art Carden July 10, 2010 at 3:24 pm

I posted the following at The Beacon:

A couple of quick thoughts:

1. Market forces aren’t doing anything about the weather outdoors, but they’re helping alleviate it. My guess is that there’s someone on every street corner who will sell you a bottle of water for a dollar (for an interesting story, ask about their relationships with the casinos, the licensing authorities, and the cops).

2. One of the comments on Jeff’s report points out that Vegas probably owes its existence to federal subsidies and messed-up water infrastructure. That’s probably true, but Vegas represents a lower bound on what our creative energies can achieve.

3. I stayed at the Tropicana when I was there for the APEE meetings in April. I asked at the front desk if there was a church nearby. The clerk responded “no, but there’s an In-n-Out Burger if you like burgers.” I’ve had In-n-Out Burger once before, and I’d say it was an experience that brought me closer to God. It turns out there’s also a Catholic church near the Wynn. It was a hike from the Tropicana, but it was worth it.

Bruce Koerber July 11, 2010 at 7:05 pm

Was not Doug Casey the presenter at the Austrian Scholars Conference for the topic of religion? If so, what was the reason for that choice, I wonder?

Tom Woods July 12, 2010 at 12:55 am

Bruce, no, you are thinking of Gerard Casey.

Telpeurion July 12, 2010 at 12:28 am

Is anyone at the Mises Institute not a Roman Catholic?

Damian July 12, 2010 at 12:49 am

I heard Doug French say that he did not believe in the afterlife so I would assume he is not a catholic, probably an atheist.

Ben Hertz July 12, 2010 at 9:06 am

Walter Block is free on Sundays, if you catch my drift.

Damian July 12, 2010 at 12:52 am

Tom Woods was definitely the highlight of the Mises circle. He received a standing ovation after his talk on nullification.

TheUKLibertarian June 7, 2011 at 8:06 pm

I’m confused why so many of the geniuses at Mises are religious. I can just about understand a position that says “I don’t know” but to make a positive claim that Catholicism is true makes no sense to me. It’s a bit disconcerting that so many people who I agree with 100% on economics and politics can be so baffling in this other area.

The Bible having lessons from god is such an insane idea to me. I know that the large online atheist communities probably dismiss all the libertarian arguments made on this site a lot faster when they discover the irrationality (imo) in this area.

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