Freedom Fest is a meeting place for the libertarian scene in the US. This year’s event brought 350 speakers and 2,500 attendees to the simmering heat of Las Vegas from 13 to 16 July.

Inflation was a big topic. In his speech, Steve Forbes, founder of Forbes magazine, distinguished between two types of inflation: “non-monetary inflation” and “monetary inflation.” Non-monetary inflation is caused by external events, such as the current Ukraine war or supply chain bottlenecks. The state should do nothing about this type of inflation because it disappears when the causes disappear. More serious, he says, is monetary inflation, which is caused by central banks’ monetary policies. Forbes is among the harshest critics of the Fed, which was still printing gigantic amounts of money even in 2021, when the economy had long since recovered.

Like some other libertarians, Forbes is a supporter of the gold standard: “The gold-based Bretton Woods monetary system that was created in the closing days of the Second World War and blown up on 15 August, 1971 had worked remarkably well. Unfortunately, our political leaders and most economists back then didn’t understand the basics of a gold-based system or how to manage it.” In the event of inflation, Forbes explained, politicians and central bankers naturally denied any responsibility for it and looked for scapegoats (e.g., large international oil companies) to blame.

Beyond inflation, Freedom Fest focused on the topics that move libertarians: growing government intervention in people’s lives and the economy, political correctness and cancel culture, criticism of the prevailing energy policy and pleas for nuclear energy. Or the question of whether gold or Bitcoin is the best hedge against inflation. Those who think – like many Europeans – that the United States is the land of unbridled capitalism were disabused of their belief by the fact that for the very first time, government spending in the United States hit 50 per cent of GDP. As a cautionary example, many speakers repeatedly turned to Germany, where ideologically motivated interventions in the energy industry have created huge problems. We don’t want to become like Germany – that was the warning in many speeches.

Arguments about “election fraud”

In one respect, however, most of the participants would prefer a system like that in Germany. When asked who would like a two-party system like the one in the US, hardly any participants responded. There was almost unanimous agreement that America needs more political parties – and it was not only supporters of the Libertarian Party, which was also represented in large numbers at Freedom Fest, who held this opinion.

The discussion heated up when it came to the topic of “election fraud.” Radio host Wayne Allyn Root argued that Joe Biden’s victory was made possible by numerous electoral frauds. He received a lot of applause for his claims, while the journalist Isaac Saul, who represented the opposite thesis, was greeted by a chorus of booing. Saul said that, as in every election, there had been electoral fraud, but that it had not had an impact on the outcome of the election. Moreover, numerous judgments from courts up and down America had confirmed that the supporters of the election fraud thesis were wrong.

Apparently, this was not what most of the audience wanted to hear, and Saul was interrupted several times by vehement objections. Finally, moderator John Fund stepped in and explained that if you don’t let a speaker whose opinions you don’t like finish, you are acting just like the left-wing cancel culture supporters you criticise. There was much applause for this statement as well.

“Make George Orwell fiction again”

After all, restricting freedom of expression via cancel culture and political correctness was one of Freedom Fest’s central topics. Social media such as Facebook and Twitter, which take unilateral action against posts perceived as “right-wing,” came in for sharp criticism. The headline over one talk read: “Make George Orwell Fiction Again.”

Many speakers shared their experiences. One particularly absurd example – the satirical website Babylon Bee published a story: “CNN Purchases Industrial-Sized Washing Machine To Spin News Before Publication.” The story continued: “The custom-made device allows CNN reporters to load just the facts of a given issue, turn a dial to ‘spin cycle,’ and within five minutes, receive a nearly unrecognizable version of the story that’s been spun to fit with the news station’s agenda.” Facebook’s “fact-checkers” determined that no such washing machine exists in reality. In this and similar cases, posts were deleted or social media accounts shut down. However, in the case of CNN and the washing machine, even Facebook had to admit that it was wrong.

The highlight of the festival was the presentation of awards for the best films, including the film Life Behind the Berlin Wall, of which I was a co-producer. The film takes the example of the economies and everyday life in East and West Germany to demonstrate the superiority of the market economy over the planned economy. The film will be shown in schools across America and can also be watched on YouTube.

Rainer Zitelmann is a historian, sociologist and author of the books The Power of Capitalism and Hitler’s National Socialism.