I attended FreedomFest 2021 which was held from July 21st through 24th, 2021 in Rapid City, SD. Normally FreedomFest is held in Las Vegas, NV, but thanks to lockdowns in Nevada, FreedomFest 2020 was cancelled and the organizers decided to hold the 2021 event in South Dakota because Gov. Kristi Noem never locked South Dakota down.
FreedomFest is a multi-day libertarian conference. It has run for many years. The conference features a variety of speakers. Most are libertarian or liberty leaning. The organizers sometimes bring in conservative and liberal speakers. The organizers’ goal is to have a variety of speakers and a variety of topics to provoke thought and debate. Some talks are before a large crowd. Others are in what are called break-out sessions. These are smaller talks in a smaller room. Several break-out sessions run concurrently in different rooms.
This write-up is what I remember of the speakers from FreedomFest 2021. I did not take notes and instead relied on my memory. There are many details I don’t remember, so if you ask for more details about a talk I attended, don’t be surprised if I say something along the lines of, “Sorry, I can’t remember.” You are getting what you paid for: guaranteed the best in town, and you don’t get your money back.
While I wrote this article, the folks at FreedomFest announced that all talks are now available for purchase. I know a few are up on youtube for free. I’m not going to purchase the videos or watch what is on youtube to refresh my memory.
This is the first time I attended a FreedomFest. It was C. Anacreon’s idea. He suggested to a few H&R refugees that did not come over to Glibs, some infrequent posters here, and me that we get together for FreedomFest in South Dakota. It was a good idea.
Meet-ups Along The Way
Before I talk about the talks that I remember, I want to mention all the Glibs and H&R refugees I met up with along the way as I drove to and from South Dakota.
When I passed through southern Illinois on my way out, a friend of mine and I met bacon-magic at Fast Eddie’s Bon-Air in Alton, IL. It’s a good place and bacon-magic is a good guy.
I met with Mojeaux, Ozymandias, and Mojeaux’s husband at a fine BBQ place Mojeaux picked. The BBQ and the company was excellent.
The time in Rapid City with C. Anacreon, Emissary of Cospaia, and some H&R refugees that didn’t come over to Glibs was good. In the evenings, we consumed a lot of Missouri wine. Missouri wine is underrated. Spending time with these guys was good.
At FreedomFest I met Putrid Meat and his wife at a FreedomFest social event at Hay Camp Brewing. I also met Robby Soave and offered to teach him how to change a tire. I did not intend this as an insult, and even said so to him. I like some of the work he did. It was an excellent night.
I met with Tundra at Daily Dose. The place was good. It was good to finally meet Tundra.
I met a H&R refugee who didn’t come over to Glibs in the Chicago area for lunch at Elmhurst Brewing, a good place.
Unfortunately, I started getting sick in Indiana on my return trip, so I cut my trip short and did not meet with Nephilium or Timeloose.
FreedomFest Day 1
I attend Mark Skousen‘s opening talk. Mark Skousen is the founder of FreedomFest. The talk was a welcome to FreedomFest. Mark gave advice to the first-timers on how to get the most from FreedomFest. He reminded everyone that despite differences of opinion, FreedomFests are civil. He specifically called out masks. He said people are going to choose to wear them and some people will choose not to wear them. He added, “Please respect everyone’s decisions.” After this talk, the breakout sessions started.
How to Change Students’ Minds About Socialism
The first breakout session I attended was Mark Skousen giving a presentation on how he changes minds of college students about Socialism, Keynesianism, and the $15 Minimum Wage. Mark Skousen, in addition to putting together FreedomFest, teaches at a college. One thing I remember him saying is that students are so brainwashed about Capitalism that you can’t use “Capitalism” by itself. He finds that if he uses “Democratic Capitalism” that students are willing to listen about what Capitalism actually is. During the part of the talk on the $15 Minimum Wage, he says he has much success talking about the harm to $15 Minimum Wage does.
The US Constitution: Conceived in Liberty or a Conspiratorial Coup?
The next breakout session I remember was a debate on Murray Rothbard’s opinions of the US Constitution.
Patrick Newman, a professor at a college in Florida, took the side of defending Murray Rothbard’s opinion that the US Constitution is the result of a conspiratorial coup and is a document which is not conducive to liberty. I remember two key points. One is how the Constitution, by taking effect when only nine states ratified it instead of all states as the Articles of Confederation required, was not legally ratified. Another is that he also talked about how the Federalists included weasel words like the Necessary and Proper Clause so that they could expand their power.
Anastasia Boden, a lawyer at the Pacific Legal Foundation, responded. She opened with stating that she is not a historian and won’t address the historical points Newman brought up, which was about half of what Newman talked about. She talked only about legal issues. She pointed out that the Constitution, when properly interpreted, is a great force for freedom and limiting government. She talked a bit about strict constructionism’s origins and evolution. According to her, we just need the correct judges. Her response sounded like a combination of “We need the right TOP.MEN” and “Real Communism… errr…. Limited Government Has Never Been Tried”. Which to my mind is a backhanded admission that Rothbard and Newman are correct that the Federalists worked weasel words to expand their power into the Constitution.
Mark Skousen joined the discussion to talk about some kooky ideas Murray Rothbard had concerning the American Revolution which I thought had nothing to do with the topic at hand. As an example of Rothbard’s ideas that Skousen thinks are kooky, Skousen said that Rothbard thought Charles Lee should have been the head of the Continental Army. Even if you agree that the examples Skousen presented are kooky ideas from Rothbard, that doesn’t mean Rothbard is being kooky or wrong when he considered the Constitution as the product of a conspiratorial coup.
Newman had an opportunity to respond to Boden and Skousen, but I don’t remember his response.
I remember thinking to myself that if I was on a jury judging each sides’ arguments that I would side with Newman. Boden’s opening statement that she wouldn’t address Newman’s historical points combined with her arguments centered around “if we have the correct judges, the Constitution is great” weren’t impressive to me. I think Skousen should not have joined in on Boden’s side. I think there could be a good response to Newman’s and Rothbard’s arguments, but Boden’s response with Skousen’s assistance was not it.
Summary of the First Evening Talks
The last talks on the first day were larger speeches before large crowds. Among the speakers were Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota and JP Sears. Noem talked about why she did not issue statewide restrictions in South Dakota for Covid. She trusts people to make their own decisions. She thinks that governors do not have the authority to determine what businesses are essential and what are not essential The only thing I remember about Sears’ talk is that he’s a funny guy.
There was a private paid Q&A event with JP Sears late that evening. C. Anacreon, Emissary of Cospaia, and I paid for it. I remember Sears receiving a question about why he changed his comedy to start poking fun at the public health establishment. He said he got his wife pregnant right around when the Covid restrictions started, and he was worried about what type of world his child would grow up in.
FreedomFest Day Two
A Talk About Hillsdale College
In the morning, there were a series of larger talks. The first I attended was by Dr. Larry Arnn of Hillsdale College. He talked about how Hillsdale has stayed independent of Federal government dictates by not taking Federal money. He also talked a little about how Hillsdale pushed back against Covid restrictions to hold a graduation ceremony.
How Maj Toure Talks About Guns
The next large talk I attended was from Maj Toure of Black Guns Matter. The key point I remember from his talk is he has more success finding an emotional connection with a person he is trying to reach about gun control than to use only facts. He said, “How is ‘facts don’t care about your feelings’ working out for you?”
Luncheon With Larry Arnn
I attended a paid luncheon with Larry Arnn about the 1776 Project. The goal is is to counter the Howard Zinn-ification of history classes which teach distorted and incorrect American history.
The first post-lunch break-out session was a panel of people from Communist countries talking about how horrible life under Communism is.
The first person was from Venezuela. He saw how Hugo Chavez and Nicolás Maduro had destroyed what was a growing and fairly well off country. When he was younger, Venezuela was doing well. Then Chavez came to power and the country went downhill.
The next person grew up in Lithuania during the Soviet era. He talked about how he witnessed the transition from Communism to Capitalism. He said that he and his friends, during the Communist days, used to wish that they were in Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, or East Germany as people in those countries have it “so much better” than he and his friends had it. I told a friend of mine that grew up Bulgaria under Communism what this guy said. Her response was one word: “Wow”.
The final person grew up in China and remembered the Cultural Revolution. She talked about how her family had Western items which the Red Guards destroyed. She talked about how her family lost everything.
Pushing Back On Covid Restrictions
The next talk was a panel discussion centered on how the Pacific Legal Foundation pushed back against Covid restrictions.
Their attorneys described how when they went to court, the judges generally did not care about Constitutional issues. No judge wanted to hear from experts about the restrictions doing nothing to stop the spread of Covid. Basically, since this is an emergency, state and Federal Constitutions don’t matter. Existing precedent means that if the executive thinks an order will stop the spread of Covid, the judiciary must defer to the executive’s opinion. Judges did want to hear if the executive had exceeded the powers in the state’s emergency powers law. Occasionally a judge would be interested if the executive’s orders weren’t equally applicable.
In other words, the lawyers had to deal with how the legal system is and not what it should be.
One example case was from North Carolina involving private bars. These bars do not serve food and have a special license from the state liquor commission. The emergency orders in North Carolina allowed other bars and restaurants to open but not private bars. The attorney went after the fact that the emergency orders were not equally applicable to all bars and restaurants. I can’t find a resolution to the case using Google searches. I don’t remember what the panel said happened with the case, but I found this news article about it. It’s the newest news article I can find about the case.
Given that judges were interested in emergency powers law, the Pacific Legal Foundation starting pushing for legislation to change states’ emergency powers law. They had people who were involved with the Kentucky legislature’s efforts to rewrite Kentucky’s emergency powers laws. This was a long process.
FreedomFest Day Three
The first talk I attended on Friday was Grover Norquist talking about taxes. He is very optimistic about activity at the state level. He listed off a significant number of states whose state governments had cut taxes in the past year. He is not optimistic about the short term with the Federal government, but is optimistic in the long term. He thinks nothing will change at the Federal level until Congress changes hands, and seemed optimistic that would happen in 2022.
Later in the afternoon I attended a breakout session about civil disobedience. The panelists were Austin Petersen, Spike Cohen, and Jess Mears. I remember much debate about whether or not it counts as civil disobedience to ignore a private property owner’s signs requiring people to wear masks. Austin Petersen took the position that you should always obey the private property owner. Spike Cohen took a position that if the owner has only posted the sign because of the government, it’s OK to ignore the sign. I don’t remember Mears’ position.
Later in the evening I attended the big talk where James O’Keefe of Project Veritas talked about recent work Project Veritas has been doing in exposing Facebook and news organizations have been quietly influencing news and what we see. He introduced their whistleblowers to the crowd.
Mock Trial of Lockdowns
I attended the mock trial of lockdowns. The trial was to determine if the Covid Pandemic justified lockdowns. Micheal Shermer was the defense attorney for the lockdowns. I don’t remember the prosecutor’s name. Each side had three witnesses. I only remember two of the witnesses, both of which were for the defense of lockdowns: Ron Bailey and a professor from Harvard. Ron Bailey was his usual technocratic self. I remember the professor had a moment of self-awareness when he said, “You’ll probably discount everything I say because I’m from Harvard.” There was a jury of FreedomFest attendees who said they had not formed an opinion on whether or not lockdowns were justified. Even though I am adamantly opposed to lockdowns, it was good to see a civil debate on them and some people attempt to defend them.
The jury ruled against lockdowns.
FreedomFest Day Four
Jo Jorgensen and John McWhorter
On Saturday, I attended the John McWhorter talk. Before John McWhorter, Jo Jorgensen gave a talk. I was not interested in her talk, but I arrived in the hall when she started. I found PutridMeat and his wife. Jo Jorgensen’s opening for her speech can be summed up as “I’m not going to tell you what you are doing wrong in spreading liberty, but I will tell you what you are doing wrong in spreading liberty.” Despite tuning her out I noticed that she ran significantly over her allotted time. The FreedomFest staff were trying to get her attention to let her know that she had run out of time, but she continued on. Eventually she finished and left the stage.
Unfortunately, the only things I remember from John McWhorter’s talk were
- he got in several jabs at Jo Jorgensen for running over her time which were not obvious
- he had some trivia about English grammar rules
- despite losing time to Jo Jorgensen, he ended on time.
Maybe PutridMeat might remember more of these two talks.
Multiple Sen. Mike Lee Talks
The last day was supposed to be Tom Woods day, with several talks inspired by topics he has been covering in his daily show and a paid luncheon with Tom Woods. Tom Woods got Covid and pneumonia. He was not able to attend. Sen. Mike Lee of Utah offered to take over the luncheon. The FreedomFest organizers offered refunds to people who had signed up for the luncheon but didn’t want to listen to Sen. Mike Lee. I was on the fence. One of the H&R refugees that joined us at FreedomFest recently moved to Utah and thinks well of Mike Lee. Based on his opinion of Mike Lee, I attended the luncheon.
After listening to Mike Lee talk at the luncheon and other talks he gave that day, I think Mike Lee is one of the good ones in the US Senate. Here are two things that stood out to me. Mike Lee has written legislation to repeal the Jones Act and its passenger line equivalent. Mike Lee represents a landlocked state unaffected by the Jones Act, and at least some of the people in places affected by the Jones act would never vote for him. Despite this, he’s trying to get the law repealed because it is hurting people. The other is that he is very concerned about inflation and how it will affect ordinary Americans.
The H&R refugee says two Never Trumpers are running against Mike Lee for the upcoming Republican primary for the US Senate in Utah. The refugee is going to help out with Mike Lee’s campaign.
It was a good time. It was well worth the money and time. I signed up for FreedomFest 2022. As a side-note, I will also be at PorcFest 2022. I am looking forward to FreedomFest 2022 which will be held in Las Vegas. Hopefully, by the time FreedomFest 2022 rolls around, Las Vegas will be restriction free.