Liberty Forum & Freedom Dinner 2021 celebrated life, liberty, and friendship—in person!

LF Dinner

For the first time in two years, Atlas Network’s—and the freedom movement’s—biggest annual event was back in person. From December 13 to 14, 2021, nearly 700 activists, intellectuals, and individuals representing about 50 countries and doing the hard work of improving the lives of people around the world gathered in Miami, Florida and joined virtually to celebrate the successes and find solutions to the problems of the last two years. Many more attendees joined the festivities virtually. If you couldn’t make it in person or online, however, you can read the highlights here!

Also, be sure to join us November 15–16, 2022, in New York City for next year’s Liberty Forum & Freedom Dinner!

Opening Remarks and Cornerstone Talks

The two-day event kicked off with remarks from freedom influencers hailing from around the world. Simon Lee (Hong Kong), Magatte Wade (Senegal), Nick Gillespie (United States), Antonella Marty (Argentina), and Marek Tatala (Poland) each gave their perspectives on the challenges and opportunities ahead, especially those in their home regions. Lee used the story of Jimmy Lai as an object lesson in the power of kindness and humanity to spur individuals toward a pursuit of freedom, while Marty spoke on the importance of private entrepreneurs and innovators to a country’s prosperity and the danger of misleading and false narratives from populists of the right and left.

“It is a lie to say that the poor are poor because the rich are rich,” said Antonella Marty. “It is like saying the sick are sick because the healthy are healthy. We should celebrate entrepreneurs, creators, and innovators. In Latin America we demonize entrepreneurs who add value to the lives of the poor."

Reason’s Nick Gillespie mentioned the encouraging long-term trends in electoral politics that can be seen in the United States. “The two parties in America are like cable packages,” he said. “You might really want two channels—like lowering taxes—but there’s a lot of [garbage] you don’t care for, like the party being anti-immigration…Politics is a lagging indicator of where America is already going. Households with cable peaked at over 90% some 10 or 15 years ago; people are shedding those big packages in favor of what they really want. They’re doing that in politics as well.”

Monday Morning Breakout Sessions

Following the Cornerstone Talks, attendees had the opportunity to attend one of three breakout sessions. These in-depth panel discussions each focused on a unique facet of human freedom around the world. One panel was moderated by Joe Lehman of the Mackinac Center and featured the Honorable Douglas H. Ginsburg, Senior Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and Justice Clint Bolick, Associate Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court. They spoke on the rule of law and how public interest litigation can be used as an enforcement mechanism to ensure the government stays within its proper bounds.

Another panel, What We’ve Learned During the Pandemic, was made up of Avik Roy of The Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity (United States), Christopher Fjellner of the Environment and Public Health Institute (Sweden), and Mónika Melo Guerrero of Instituto OMG (Dominican Republic). “If you treat people like idiots, they will act like idiots, but if you treat people like humans and ask them to look out for their neighbors, they might do more of that,” said Fjellner.

The final breakout session was moderated by the Center for African Prosperity’s Ibrahim Anoba (Nigeria), who was joined by Dr. Denis Foretia of Nkafu Policy Institute (Cameroon), Linda Kavuka of African Students for Liberty (Kenya), Bruce Vaillant Ntangibingura of Centre for Development and Enterprises–Great Lakes (Burundi), and Alexander Hammond, founder of the Initiative for African Trade and Prosperity (United Kingdom). Dr. Foretia pointed out that “there are fundamental issues that hold us back from taking advantage of the [African Continental Free Trade Area], like governance challenges that result in conflict and border issues. While we see the benefit of the free trade area, we must not look at it in isolation. We must have other institutions in place.”

Lights, Camera, Liberty Film Festival

The Lights, Camera, Liberty Film Festival celebrated some of the best entries from this year’s Lights, Camera, Liberty participants. This year’s finalists were Fundación para el Progreso (Chile), Free to Choose Network (United States), and Montana’s Property & Environment Research Center (PERC). The prize ultimately went to PERC for their film Elk in Paradise: Rancher, Ecologist, Hunter. Watch the trailer here!

Dignity, Development, and Women’s Rights

Following lunch, Dr. Jayme Lemke took the stage to interview three women leading the freedom movement’s effort to expand women’s individual and economic rights around the world. Fatima Masse of México Evalúa (Mexico), Izabela Patriota of Ladies of Liberty Alliance (Brazil), and Baisahli Bomjan, founder of the Trayas Foundation (India), spoke on the unique issues women face in their countries. From legal barriers to social barriers, there remain many hurdles for women to overcome in the search for prosperity.

One issue faced by women around the world is their frequent role as caregiver. On this point, Patriota pointed out that “the pandemic made it very evident that women are the primary caregivers. If firms don’t understand that, it makes it very difficult for women’s labor participation rate to rise.”

Monday Afternoon Breakout Sessions

Another set of concurrent breakouts followed the discussion on women’s rights. Atlas Network’s AJ Skiera moderated a panel of experts on the topic of storytelling and messaging. Richard Lorenc of Iron Light Labs (United States), Jaclyn Boudreau of Pacific Legal Foundation (United States), and Daniel Richards of Return on Ideas lent their voices and perspectives on how to create compelling narratives and visuals (United States) to gain new audiences and energize existing ones. While describing how he approached viewers in a video on the often dry topic of deregulation, Richards said, “We were making a film about regulation by telling a story about innovation. We made [the viewer] want something, and then told them, ‘You can’t have it.’ We told them they couldn’t have it because of regulation.”

Another panel featured John Tillman and Neils Veldhuis of Atlas Network’s Center for U.S. and Canada discussing with Greg Lukianoff (United States) and Dr. Lydia Miljan (Canada) the particular problems the region faces. They especially focused on the issues of censorship on college campuses.

On the same theme of censorship, Atlas Network’s Dr. Lyall Swim moderated a discussion between Joanna Baron of the Canadian Constitution Foundation, Will Duffield of the Cato Institute (United States), and Adam Thierer of the Mercatus Center (United States) in the Big Tech, Free Speech, and Censorship breakout. On the challenges of social media, Duffield pointed out that “while network effects are real, the switching costs [between social media platforms] are so low, I’m not sure they create the sticky effects that many people fear.”

Another hour of breakout sessions followed, including Ask the Funders. Atlas Network’s Chad Goote, Amy Proulx of the John Templeton Foundation, Lawson Bader of DonorsTrust, and John Jackson of Hoplin Jackson Charitable Advisors spoke on how to appeal to donors and market the message of freedom.

Hane Crevelari moderated the Global Voices for Open Trade discussion, where she was joined by Mykhailo Lavrovskyi of Center for Economic Leadership (Ukraine), Iván Cachanosky of Libertad y Progreso (Argentina), and Prashant Narang of Centre for Civil Society (India). They talked about the potential of free trade to lift their countries out of poverty, and Lavrovskiy pointed out how the extreme tariffs and duties Ukraine imposes on imported cars prevents many people from obtaining adequate transportation.

Regional Deep Dive: Latin America drew attention to the just-released Latin America Index of Bureaucracy and its findings. Martín Aguirre (Uruguay) moderated a panel of Dr. Sary Levy-Carciente from CEDICE Libertad (Venezuela), Ignacio Munyo of CERES (Uruguay), and Diogo Costa from Brazil’s National School of Public Administration.

Eyes on the Prize Dinner

The first day of Liberty Forum & Freedom Dinner 2021 closed with the highly anticipated Eyes on the Prize Dinner program. Dinner opened with a welcome message from Francis Suarez, mayor of Miami, celebrating the freedom and diversity that has helped make the city what it is. The message was followed by the annual Think Tank Shark Tank competition, where Daniil Lubkin of Ukrainian Students for Freedom, Tere Nolla of Puerto Rico’s Center for Economic Renewal Growth and Excellence, and Basanta Adhikari of Nepal’s Bikalpa-An Alternative, gave their project pitches to a panel judges. The competition was judged by Arturo Brillembourg, Linda Whetstone, and Fred Young. As judges deliberated, 12 recent graduates of Atlas Network’s Leader Lab training took the stage to give their 60-second elevator pitches in the John Blundell Elevator Pitch Competition. After hearing them all, the audience voted to choose the winner—Christine Van Geyn of the Canadian Constitution Foundation. After dinner, judges announced Daniil Lubkin as the winner of the 2021 Think Tank Shark Tank competition and its $25,000 prize. You can read more about each of the projects here.

Monday Morning Main Stage Sessions

Day two of Liberty Forum & Freedom Dinner 2021 kicked off with a breakfast and interview sponsored by EdChoice. Atlas Network President Matt Warner interviewed EdChoice President and CEO Robert Enlow on the progress made by advocates of educational choice since Milton Friedman’s early advocacy. Enlow celebrated the exciting advancements that have been made over the last decades and highlighted the opportunity presented by the current political climate in the United States. “We’re getting closer to Milton Friedman’s vision of educational choice for all,” he said.

The Liggio Lecture, given this year by Dr. Lenore Ealy, incoming vice president of Universidad Francisco Marroquín, followed breakfast. She titled her talk “Once More: Liberalism and Some Problems of Historical Transmission between the Generations.” Celebrating the morality of classical liberalism, she said, “The liberal worldview rests on respect for the dignity of people and their capability to take responsibility for their own lives, despite the challenges of the human condition.” You can read the full text of her address here.

Interviews with the 2021 Templeton Freedom Award finalists followed the Liggio Lecture. Atlas Network Vice President for Institute Relations Casey Pifer took the stage with Aimable Manirakiza of Centre for Development and Enterprises-Great Lakes (Burundi), Clark Neily of the Cato Institute (United States) Michael Melendez of the Libertas Institute (United States), Mark Littlewood of the Institute of Economic Affairs (United Kingdom), Lakshmi Sampath Goyal of Centre for Civil Society (India), and Garrett Ballengee of Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy (United States). Pifer briefly interviewed each guest and gave them an opportunity to describe their project and its importance. You can read about the finalists' projects here.

To close out the morning’s main stage sessions, Atlas Network CEO Brad Lips interviewed Brian Hooks, CEO of Stand Together, on his new book, The Implications of Believing in People. Hooks spoke on the power of bottom-up solutions and the dangers of relying on one-size-fits-all approaches.

Tuesday Morning Breakout Sessions

After the morning’s main stage sessions, attendees again had a choice between three concurrent breakout sessions. Regional Deep Dive: Asia brought together Dr. Tom G. Palmer, Aira Ashari of The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Malaysia), Khalid Ramizy of the Afghanistan Economic and Legal Studies Organization (Afghanistan), and Dhananath Fernando of Advocata Institute (Sri Lanka). They discussed the opportunities and challenges freedom advocates in the region face, as well as the potential of Atlas Network’s just-launched Center for Asia and Oceania to help make a difference.

A meet-and-greet with 2021 Templeton Freedom Award finalists gave attendees a greater opportunity to get to know finalists and their projects. This session also showcased video summaries of each project and an expanded question-and-answer period.

Stand Together sponsored another breakout, which featured Matt Warner, Stand Together’s Will Dowell, Travis Centers of RiseKit, and Randy Hicks of Georgia Center for Opportunity. These experts gave their perspectives on the importance of social entrepreneurs and how advocates of freedom can apply theory to the practice of improving human lives.

Tuesday Afternoon Breakout Sessions

After lunch, Dr. Emily Chamlee-Wright of Institute of Humane Studies (United States) moderated the What Happened to the Liberal Part of a Liberal Arts Education? discussion. She was joined by Stephen Blackwood of Ralston College (United States), human rights activist Yeonmi Park (North Korea), and John Tomasi of Heterodox Academy (United States). Speaking on the censorship issues many professors face, Tomasi said, “If you call upon professors to leave their sleepy offices and realize that the campuses are theirs, the students are theirs, they’ll do just that.”

Regional Deep Dive: Europe featured Adam Bartha of EPICENTER (United Kingdom), Admir Čavalić of Association Multi (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Florian Hartjen of Prometheus-Das Freiheitsinstitut (Germany), and Juan Piña of Fundalib (Spain). They especially highlighted threats from the illiberal left and right, as well as authoritarian states such as Russia. Piña opined, “The influence that Russia is exerting through gas and oil should make European leaders think about becoming independent of that influence.”

The Leadership Pathways session highlighted leaders in our movement, their leadership journeys, and how Atlas Network Academy has helped them in those journeys. Lindy Arsenault moderated this panel with Aneta Vaine of Lithuanian Free Market Institute (Lithuania), Natalie Dowzicky of the Cato Institute (United States), Daniel Bunn of the Tax Foundation (United States), and Mauricio Alarcón Salvador of Ciudadanía y Desarrollo (Ecuador). “One of the great things about [Atlas Network Academy] is that it gives you a space for humility … and a space for experienced people to come alongside you,” said Bunn.

With the World Bank’s recent shut-down of the Doing Business report, the freedom movement lost a powerful tool for measuring the progress of economic liberalization. In the Measuring Economic Freedom in 2022 and Beyond panel discussion, Matt Warner, Simeon Djankov of the London School of Economics and founder of the Doing Business report (Bulgaria), Elena Panaratis of Thought for Action (Greece), and Ian Vásquez of the Cato Institute (United States) talked about the importance of the now-shuttered Doing Business program and how the freedom movement can pick up the slack. Moving forward, “One area we need to improve on is evaluating what’s on the books versus what’s a reality,” said Djankov.

Chad Goote and Spencer Wixom, Chief Customer Officer at Challenger, discussed how to successfully sell the ideas of liberty and reach fundraising goals.

Atlas Network’s Jack Shannon moderated a panel on how our movement is countering cronyism. He was joined by John Mozena of The Center for Economic Accountability (United States), Dr. Patrick Marzini of the Lebanese Institute of Market Studies (Lebanon), Edna Jaime of México Evalúa (Mexico), and Rob Chatfield of Free to Choose Network (United States) to discuss how their organizations are working to roll back the cronyism that corrodes our institutions and saps trust in the power of the free market.

Freedom Dinner 2021

The event culminated in the freedom movement’s biggest night of the year, Freedom Dinner 2021. Held at loanDepot park, home of the Miami Marlins, the festivities started with an Atlas Club and VIP-exclusive interview with Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, his son, political commentator Álvaro Vargas Llosa, Latin Grammy-winning artist Yotuel, and activist Rosa María Payá on the Cuban freedom struggle and last summer’s protests.

The dinner began with a welcome from Atlas Network CEO Brad Lips, who noted all that had changed since Freedom Dinner was last held in person, as well as all we have to look forward to. Mario Vargas Llosa then announced the inaugural winner of the new Atlas Network–Cátedra Vargas Llosa Young Journalism Prize: Carla Gloria Colomé. Yotuel took the stage to perform the anthem of the Cuban protests for freedom, “Patria y Vida.” After dinner, Atlas Network Board Chair Debbi Gibbs presented Dr. Tom Palmer with the Sir Antony Fisher Achievement Award for his work to bring freedom and prosperity to people around the world. Dr. Palmer gave the annual Toast to Freedom, the text of which you can read here. The 2021 Templeton Freedom Award finalists were then welcomed to the stage, where Heather Templeton Dill announced Centre for Civil Society as the winner of the US$100,000 prize. The celebration closed in style with a send-off from Yotuel.

We hope you can join us in New York City for Liberty Forum & Freedom Dinner 2022!