The Magnificent Seven at FreedomFest

Mark Skousen

Named one of the "Top 20 Living Economists," Dr. Skousen is a professional economist, investment expert, university professor, and author of more than 25 books.
Mark Skousen

“The entire FreedomFest is an unbelievable achievement. What you and your family have accomplished with this annual conference is phenomenal. I don’t see how you all put together so many speakers and so many sessions and make it work so well.” — Bumper Hornberger

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This year’s FreedomFest in Memphis, Tennessee, was another triumph, with over 300 speakers, 160 exhibitors and 1,900 attendees, not counting the thousands who watched it on “live streaming.”

It also included 32 films in the Anthem film festival, and the three-day investment conference.

During the Global Financial Summit, several financial speakers noted that the S&P 500’s gains this year are due almost entirely to seven stocks.

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Analysts at Bank of America have started calling them the Magnificent Seven: Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta, Microsoft, Nvidia and Tesla.

So much goes on at FreedomFest that it’s hard to cover everything in an article or two. So here are seven highlights I was involved in:

#1. Pre-Conference Interview with the ‘Twin Towers of Finance’

On Friday, July 7, Alex Green and I interviewed Jeremy Siegel about his classic book “Stocks for the Long Run” and Burt Malkiel on his 50th anniversary edition of “A Random Walk Down Wall Street.”

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I wrote about our interview last week: Two Shocking Surprises from the ‘Twin Towers of Finance’ — Mark Skousen.

You can also watch the entire interview on Eagle Publishing’s YouTube channel.

At the end of the interview, I asked each of them what the most important lesson was in their 50-year career on Wall Street. Both used one word. Malkiel said “humility.” Siegel said, “Gratitude.” Amen!

#2. Taking on the Critics of Adam Smith and Free-Market Capitalism

I began FreedomFest by noting how many books had recently come out attacking capitalism, including Senator Bernie Sanders’ bestseller, “It’s Okay to be Angry about Capitalism.” Really? Should we be angry about how capitalism has raised the standard of living 100-fold in the past 100 years, and reduced worldwide poverty to under 8%? He focuses on our dysfunctional health care system and our failing education system as examples of bad capitalism — but it turns out to be government’s fault, not free enterprise.

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Rainer Zitelmann, a German economist, spoke for half an hour on his book “In Defense of Capitalism,” going through the major arguments against the free market. His presentation is highly recommended.

My own book, “The Making of Modern Economics,” is a full-frontal defense of Adam Smith and his capitalist model, as well as a full-frontal attack on the Marxists, Keynesians and socialists, and has been described by Richard Rahn as the “single best book ever written in economics.” My book is available for only $35 at www.skousenbooks.com.

#3. ‘Left-Right’ Book Wins Leonard E. ‘Read This Book’ Award

Mark Skousen presents “Leonard E. Read Book Award” to authors Hyrum and Verlan Lewis.

Our session on “Left, Right, Liberal, Conservative, Progressive: Do These Labels Help or Hinder the Fight for Freedom?” highlighted Hyrum and Verlan Lewises’ book, “The Myth of Left and Right: how the Political Spectrum Misleads and Harms America” (Oxford University Press, 2023), which I awarded the Leonard E. “Read This Book” Award. It is available on Amazon here.

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The Lewis Brothers demonstrated that the political left and right have meant different things over time. Thus, they increasingly attack and smear opponents instead of discussing issues civilly.

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Many of us have stopped using left and right political labels and it’s been liberating. See my article on this subject here.

I recommended Richard Rahn’s columns in the Washington Times. He has written some great columns without using left and right. Good for him! See Richard W. Rahn | Stories – Washington Times.

#4. Debate over Extreme Environmentalism

Later that morning, we had a debate on “Have the Environmentalists Gone Too Far?” between historian Douglas Brinkley, author of “Silent Spring Revolution,” and Michael Shellenberger, author of “Apocalypse Never!” with Michael Shermer of Skeptic magazine as the moderator.

The New York Times and other establishment media are constantly warning that temperatures are getting hotter, especially during the summer months. And yet, here is the most recent chart on U.S. high temperatures:

Courtesy of “Climate Alarmists Foiled: No U.S. Warming Since 2005.” The Heartland Institute, 2019.

Clearly, there is no upward trend. The alarmists are full of hot air.

#5: My Interview with Mike Rowe

Mike Rowe and Mark Skousen with “The Times” barbershop quartet.

The highlight of the conference was my interview with Mike Rowe, the famous host of the “Dirty Jobs” TV show. He bemoaned the fact that trade skills aren’t taught anymore in high school and most colleges. “We are facing a war on the work ethic,” he warned. I highly recommend his book, “The Way I Heard it,” available on Amazon here.

I wanted to do something memorable, so I arranged for a barbershop quartet to sing after the Q&A part at the end of the event. It took me several weeks to track down a foursome, but finally found a group called “The Times” with the help of the Peabody Hotel. The quartet loved the chance to meet Mike Rowe, their hero. Mike used to sing in a barbershop quartet, so I figured it would be fun. At the end of the Q&A, I said, “We have time for only one additional question,” and I called upon a member of “the Times.” He said, “Mr. Rowe, where is the sin in sincere? Where is the good in good-bye?” singing a number from the Music Man. Mike Rowe was shocked and thrilled. Afterwards, the barbershop quartet came up to the stage and sang another number. I handed Mike a mike and he happily sang along. It went well with the audience.

#6. Open Borders on Trial

This year’s mock trial: “Open Borders on Trial,” with Michael Shermer as judge, Larry Elder as prosecuting attorney and Catherine Bernard as defending attorney, plus star witnesses. I thought for sure that the open borders advocates would lose, but they ended up winning seven to five, although one of the jurors said he checked the wrong box, so it was probably a hung jury. Larry Elder can still say he has never lost a debate. The two witnesses for open borders, George Mason University professor Bryan Caplan, and Bumper Hornberger, founder of the Future of Freedom Foundation, were convincing.

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#7. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Speaks

Interviewing Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. on FreedomFestTV.

We had misgivings about Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaking because of the negative things he had said about libertarians such as the Koch Brothers and the Cato Institute. But after Nick Gillespie of Reason magazine interviewed him, we decided to go ahead. He spoke on Saturday afternoon right after our closing panel, and he had done his homework. He told the libertarian audience, “The best solution to our environmental problems is free-market capitalism!” It was red meat for our group, and they gave him a standing ovation. I was much more circumspect. To me, Kennedy is a loose cannon and holds some extreme views on vaccines and Covid.

Festivities Galore in Memphis

FreedomFest is not just a conference of “great ideas, great books and great thinkers.” It’s always a time to celebrate liberty, and this year’s conference in Memphis was fun-filled with pop up entertainers in the Exhibit Hall, acrobats (“The Beale Street Flippers”), a jam session at Blue City Café led by Triple Axl, two FreedomFest comedy shows, the famous duck walk at the Peabody Hotel, libertarian magician Doc Dixon (who once fooled Penn & Teller) and my “white mates in two chess” problems (winners earned a silver dollar). Before and after FreedomFest, we had special tours to Elvis Presley’s Graceland and Car Museum, led by an Elvis impersonator who had a great voice; to Sun Records and the Civil Rights Museum (honoring Martin Luther King Jr., who was assassinated at the Lorraine Hotel in 1968). Riding up and down Main Street on the Memphis Trolley for only $1 was also a treat.

And it was all topped off with our Saturday night banquet featuring the Anthem film festival awards, Larry Elder’s historic “Dream Fulfilled” speech about how minorities have made dramatic advances in the land of the free and last but not least, dancing to the soul tunes of 901 Heavy Hitters. It was a hoot seeing speakers like Steve Forbes and George Gilder dancing the night away.

My Eagle colleague Jim Woods wrote the following review of the city of Memphis: When Mr. Crump Don’t Like It | Jim Woods Investing (stockinvestor.com).
Special Offer for Next Year’s Big Show in Las Vegas

For many subscribers and writers such as Alex Green and George Gilder, FreedomFest is the highlight of the year — it is for me too. Jim Woods told me, “Thanks for creating the best conference ever! Nowhere else will you find the diversity of opinion, intellectual firepower, and just pure fun in the service of ideas than at FreedomFest. If you need some spiritual fuel (and hey, don’t we all), then you must attend this conference.”

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Next year’s “best show” will be back in Las Vegas at the Mirage Hotel, which is being converted into the brand new Hard Rock Café Resort. Dates are July 10-13, 2024.

Our theme is appropriate for 2024, an important election year: “Are We Entering a Brave New World?” based on the 1932 novel by Aldous Huxley. How do we cope with the dangers of AI, out-of-control debt, possible world war and woke culture? Find out next year!

Great news: I’m happy to announce that Tom Woods, host of the popular Tom Woods Show, has confirmed he will be joining us for the first time in ten years at FreedomFest. More celebrity speakers will be announced soon.

Super ‘Early Bird’ Discount for My Subscribers

Already hundreds have signed up for next year’s conference. We are offering a special “super low” price if you want to join us. Our early bird special is $397, but if you sign up by July 31, the price is only $327 per person. To get this price, go to our special website, www.freedomfestvegas.com. You can also email Hayley at hayley@freedomfest.com and include your telephone number and she will call you.

Good investing, AEIOU,

Mark Skousen

You Blew It!

California vs. Florida: Public vs. Private High Speed Rail

In 2008, California voters approved the Referendum Proposition 1A, which authorized the State to build a high-speed train from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Officially it’s called California High Speed Rail.

The idea sounded good — a non-stop, high-speed train between the two largest cities in California, not unlike what they have in China.

The initial budget was $10 billion. But fifteen years later, there is still no train between Frisco and LA, but the price to build the original route has now ballooned to $128 billion!

Compare that to Brightline, the privately-funded high-speed, non-stop train between Orlando and Miami. It will travel at 125 miles per hour and arrive in three hours. Service begins around Sept. 1. For more information, go to www.gobrightline.com.

Brightline is the only privately owned and operated intercity passenger railroad in the U.S., and is owned by Florida East Coast Industries, a Florida real estate developer (owned by Fortress Investment Group, a private equity firm).

It started building in 2012. It already started operating its Miami — West Palm Beach service back in 2018. Unlike California, Brightline depends mostly on existing routes, removing the need to acquire large sections of land.

The cost? Less than $2 billion!

Long live private enterprise. California, are you listening?

Now, how about putting Brightline in charge of a high speed non-stop train from LA to Vegas?

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