Every year, a group of libertarians gather in Las Vegas for a four-day conference known as FreedomFest. The event, held this year from July 11-14 at Bally’s hotel, attracts thousands of libertarians and freedom lovers from across the globe. I had the opportunity to attend for the second year in a row. This time, I came not just as a participant, but as a panelist. It proved to be as remarkable an event as it was last year.
Freedom Fest always brings the top libertarian activists and speakers. This year’s keynotes included the likes of David Boaz of the Cato Institute, Peter Schiff, Senator Rand Paul, John Mackey the CEO of Whole Foods and Nick Gillespe of Reason Magazine, Steve Forbes of Forbes Magazine and Judge Andrew Napolitano of Fox News, just to name a few. There were hundreds of sessions to choose from, all on a variety of different topics. Gary Johnson spoke about his campaign. Organizations like the Foundation for Economic Education and Reason sponsored a variety of speakers. There was even a two-part mock Constitutional Convention. And ofcourse, there was the Anthem Film Festival.
I attended FreedomFest as an Executive Board member for Students For Liberty. I was joined by three other Executive Board members: Wolf von Laer, James Padilioni Jr., and Matt Needham. We spoke about the student movement and gave examples of the ways students are making a difference on their campus, both in the US and internationally. I related the history of free speech at my university, Arizona State and the problems we have had to overcome to have freedom of expression on campus. Free speech is a right not always recognized by universities and colleges, a fact organizations like Students For Liberty and the Freedom for Individual Rights in Education are trying to change. Students For Liberty also hosted two other speaker sessions; “Second Wave Libertarianism” by SFL Executive Director Alexander McCobin and “Communicating for Liberty” by SFL Communications Director Megan Roberts. Both of these talks emphasized the impact libertarianism is having on the next generation and the role SFL has played in spreading that message.
What I love most about FreedomFest is the diversity of ideas and backgrounds represented. After my first year at FreedomFest, I realized that not all libertarians work for think-tanks. Many organizations attended the exhibit hall, from politicians, to journalists, to investors, to non-profits, to businesses. I was reminded that there are a number of ways to fight for liberty. I don’t just have to work for a think tank to change the world. I can be a journalist, a lawyer, a doctor.. even a jewelry maker. This gave me hope, because it made me realize that F.A. Hayek was right when he said the way to change society is through ideas, not people. While I often feel that my freedoms and rights are being taken away, in the end it is the ideas of liberty and prosperity that will win. And they are winning. As McCobin said, “This is the libertarian generation.”