Mark Skousen at FreedomFest 2021: My Most Successful Technique to Change the Minds of Students About Socialism

Freedom Fest

Greetings from FreedomFest 2021 in Rapid City, South Dakota! This is the first of several posts covering selected sessions at the “greatest libertarian conference in the world” (according to Founder Mark Skousen). The below is an excerpt from their press release from today to give you an idea of what this is all about:

FreedomFest and Anthem Film Festival begin today, attracting over 2500 freedom lovers, politicians, filmmakers, and leading experts to downtown Rapid City, South Dakota. This is a record turnout for the “largest gathering of free minds” and the first time the conference and film festival have taken place outside of Las Vegas.

Attendees and speakers alike will explore Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Monument today before FreedomFest kicks off with its official opening ceremonies, featuring keynote addresses by Governor Kristi Noem, “Reagan” actor Dennis Quaid, Libertarian Party VP candidate Spike Cohen, and comedian JP Sears.

Sessions run concurrently, as there are 10 speakers distributed in different conference rooms. Therefore, I will pick those of greatest interest (to me). The kickoff session was from the conference host, Dr. Mark Skousen. Here are some of his comments:

  • This is a version of the talk I frequently give to university students around the country.
  • Students are attracted to “democratic socialism.” We have a lot of work to persuade them otherwise.
  • Capitalism is the sharing of wealth; socialism is the sharing of poverty.
  • Democratic capitalism is better than democratic socialism.
  • “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” – Karl Marx (this is the basis from which to convert socialists to capitalists based on pure economics)
  • A big question is how much one needs to live comfortably for one year (which varies by location – pick a number).
  • If one earns more than the minimum, the overage would get taxed 100% and given to those who didn’t earn that nominal number (one is disincentivized to earn more than that set number)
  • Even students figure out that this example is not optimal, as no one would ever work hard beyond that arbitrary number for a comfortable living set by the state
  • “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his deeds.” – Jack London (1895). This is the definition of capitalism.
  • Henry Ford destroyed Marxism in the US in 1914: he shared the wealth of the Ford Motor Company and did not exploit his workers (exploitation and hoarding of wealth are the arguments Marxists use against capitalism)
  • The incentives to share the wealth are an increase in productivity (less absenteeism) and demand (increased buying power)
  • Sharing the wealth with one’s employees is key to the success of democratic capitalism
  • Keynesianism: changed economics forever (through deficit spending by government)
  • The consumer price index exploded upward in 1971 when the US went off the gold standard
  • While corporate and individual debt has been relatively stable over the last 20 years, government debt has grown out of control since Obama was elected in 2008
  • Only in response to a major financial crisis will the US return to the gold standard
  • There is an alternative to tax-and-spend policies of government manipulating aggregate demand; supply-side of economics is the solution
  • Countries with more economic freedom have substantially higher average incomes than those with very little economic freedom
  • Raising wages is only possible when the profits are there beforehand to support the raises (raising wages and hoping demand/sales will compensate for the raises is a fool’s errand)
  • Raising the minimum wage results in three categories of people: 1) those who retain their jobs and thank the government, 2) those who lost their jobs and blame their employers, and 3) those who enter the workforce and compete with the first two groups for those fewer jobs
  • Inflation is very unstable; once unleashed, it gets out of control very easily
  • The money supply increased 26% in the US in 2020
  • The bubble is going into stocks and real estate; eventually, it will break
  • Natural ways to raise wages: 1) improving the bottom line/profits by increasing revenues or cutting costs, 2) increase training and education, 3) companies with higher profit margins tend to pay their workers more
  • If a company is making high profits, it will, by and large, pay high wages (graduates entering the workforce should seek out high-profit companies)
  • Two fundamental principles of economic prosperity for all: accountability (user pay) and welfare (you help those who need help – but not those who don’t need help); people don’t appreciate handouts, including such things as free education (there is a constant battle between accountability and welfare in American society)
  • The unintended consequences of increasing the minimum wage: 1) interference with employer-employee relations, 2) higher prices, 3) layoff problem, 4) technology impact (worker replacement)

The end.