Reviving a FREE Tradition

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Reviving a FREE Tradition

By: John A. Baden, Ph.D.
Posted on June 04, 2014 FREE Insights Topics:

Ramona and I greatly enjoy our home.  It began as a log structure built from timbers I cut in the early 1970s.  They were milled a mere mile west of our home site.   I like that.

We added to our home over the decades.  Fortunately, Bob Utzinger, former dean of MSU's School of Arts and Architecture, and a long-term friend was our architect.  He was immensely helpful.   We sketched our wants and presented a long timetable with one important goal:  Make the final product appear to be the original intent.   He succeeded. 

Although we belong to and regularly visit The Ridge, a truly wonderful Bozeman health club, we really appreciate having our home workout room (WO). Exercise is an excellent tonic and we want lots of it.  It is a great treat to live in Montana, especially when one can enjoy the outdoors.

Our exercise room has our favorite cardio and strength equipment and balance and stretch bands and balls. Windows fill much of the south and west walls.  The north side is a wall of memories, mainly photos meaningful to us, and some art.  We protect all of these personal treasures with a covering of clear Lucite, the material used to make bulletproof glass for 7-11s in bad neighborhoods.  (I don't recall ever seeing one in Montana.)   This covering permits us to use the wall for exercises. 

I see the photos nearly every day.  They always generate good memories.  Two photos I especially like have revived a tradition begun over two decades ago, FREE policy salons.  These gatherings celebrated responsible liberty, modest prosperity, and environmental quality.  They included FREE board members, foundation officers, and Mont Pelerin Society members.

salon is a gathering of people in a couple’s homestead. They gather for enjoyment of food and drink and to increase participants' understanding based on conversation and shared readings.  Salons avoid censorship, governmental or self imposed.   Discussions about sensitive public issues are not verboten: They are held in a private setting of comfort and trust. 

German salons of the Jewish Renaissance began in the late 1700s.  I find them an appropriate model in today’s milieu of progressives' intolerance of competing ideas.  Many ideas and policy preferences are now verboten.  This is independent of underlying logic, causal linkages, and strong data. 

Refusal to consider deviations from the PC is compounded by the common cowardice of university officials.  On May 14, Katie Zezima of the Washington Post described the situation as,

…a shift from academia embracing the free exchange of ideas to shunning those with divergent opinions.... This year, it seems as though the number of withdrawals and protests about commencement speakers has reached a crescendo.

Consider the scheduled commencement talks of Condi Rice of Stanford, Christine Lagarde of the IMF, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali from AEI among many others that were canceled. 

Here is a similarity.  Until the Jewish Enlightenment of the late 1700s, German society imposed strict cultural restrictions on Jews.  Anti-Semitism was the norm. Salons in this context performed important political and social functions.  In them Jews and Gentiles sharing similar basic values could study, meet, and discuss literature, philosophy or policy.

Educated, acculturated Jewish women and men escaped imposed cultural restrictions in salon settings. They created a context where alert and intelligent individuals exchanged ideas without fear of retribution for their deviation from perceived wisdom.  Now back to FREE's early salons.

Some were on water but most were fully supported "Rolling Salons".  Bike riders carried only water and sunscreen.  Vehicles sagged and carried all gear. They were 400-mile bike trips with advance readings and evening discussions.  Each session had a lead commentator or presenter.  

These were wonderful annual events.  Alas, 400 miles biking now seems like a lot.  It's time for a less taxing revival.

This July FREE will host a three-day salon with the title, "Ecology, Prosperity, and Creativity".  As with the rolling salons, guests will be from Montana, DC, and other cities.  Unlike the bike and boat treks, each day has a theme and not all guests will attend every day.

The first day theme is "Gateway to Western Romance: From the Flying D to the Rocking R."  Bozeman writer Todd Wilkinson will introduce his book on Ted Turner's conservation work, Last Stand.  We will then discuss forces driving the New West.

Day two features the three E’s of environment, economics, and entrepreneurship.  We will begin with the near magical transformation of West Yellowstone, a gateway town on the Park's border.  In the 1960s, '70s, early '80s during winter West Yellowstone was nearly as quiescent as the hibernating bears.    Now it is vibrant during summer, autumn, and winter.  Clyde Seely is the entrepreneur who led the change.  He will share how this success involved Yellowstone Park, the state of Montana, national organizations, and the local community. 

We will conclude the day with a discussion led by Prof. Larry White of George Mason University.  He will explore politicians' ideal inflation, some 2%.  What is the appeal of this calculated erosion of the dollar?  What are likely consequences? 

On the third day we will explore positive developments in response to the vexing problem of medical care delivery. No, not babies.  The theme is "Medical Innovations: Entrepreneurship in Action".  The participants and discussion leaders include four successful Montana docs, two of them entrepreneurs.  We will conclude with historian Jim Carafano, a West Point graduate and the founder of Esprit de Corps, presenting his insights on America's care of veterans.

FREE is hosting a salon, not a rigid seminar.   Each day includes time to experience Montana outdoors.  We will have good meals and wine--and time to enjoy them.  In addition to horse and bike riding, we'll offer fly-fishing, hiking, target shooting, and time in Bozeman.  We'll help good people celebrate responsible liberty, modest prosperity, and environmental quality.  


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