Mannkal Economic Education Foundation

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Week 6 Blog- Jordan Mittasch

mannkal, 16 April 2014

My final week at the Atlas Network is now complete and the time has flown by quicker than anticipated. The week started off with a couple of talks presented by Jason Kuznicki of Cato on Burke and de Tocqueville and the French Revolution. These were interesting talks that put into context the support the French provided the American colonies when fighting for their freedom from the British.

On Tuesday, Tait and I travelled to Alexandria, a Virginian city just ten kilometres south of DC. In this architecturally historic city we met with Gregory Copley and his wife Pamela. Greg was an extraordinarily interesting man to meet on this trip to say the least. A fellow Western Australian, Greg cofounded the International Strategic Studies Association (ISSA) in Alexandria in 1982. Currently the president of the ISSA and regarded as the foremost grand strategist of the 21st Century, he has advised leaders, prime ministers and shahs from countries across the globe. Tait and I were extremely lucky to have had this opportunity to meet with such an influential man. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to run into him and his wife back in Perth.

Friday marked the first day of the International Students for Liberty Conference (ISFLC) that brought together students from across the globe to hear prominent professors and public figures speak on a range of issues. They pertained to the ideas of freedom and liberty, or lack thereof in many parts of the world. It was incredible to see how important these ideas were to so many students. I’m hoping one day in the not too distant future there will grow a larger movement in Australia. Over the course of the three-day event, the highlight talks for myself were a panel discussion that included film director Oliver Stone (not exactly a consistent advocate for freedom) on the imperial overreach of the U.S. government in addition to the keynote on the failed war on drugs given by Ethan Nadelmann.

Unfortunately this brings me to the end of my time here in DC, which is a bittersweet feeling to say the least. I have met wonderful, passionate people within the liberty movement from young students to long time advocates. I am so grateful to Ron Manners and everyone at Mannkal who made this trip possible for me, as well as Kristina Crane and everyone at the Atlas Network who made my stay here so enjoyable. If I can in anyway help Mannkal or Atlas to further the cause of freedom, it would be the least I could do to show my gratitude. Most of all I will miss all the new friends I’ve made here in DC; the lads from the apartment I’ve been staying at, the staff and interns at Atlas and many others from the differant events and organisations I’ve been fortunate enough to attend. With that, I’ll end my final blog with a quote from Thomas Jefferson, “I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it”.

Week 6 Blog- Tait Marston

mannkal, 16 April 2014

Sadly this will be my final entry from Washington DC, but I have truly made the most of my stay! Early this week I visited a former Western Australian living abroad, Mr Gregory Copley AM, President of the International Strategic Studies Association (ISSA). Jordan and I set out to ‘Old Town’ Alexandria, Virginia to meet with Mr Copley and his wife Pamela von Gruber. Over lunch we discussed his latest book, ‘UnCivilization: Urban Geopolitics in a Time of Chaos’, and talked about the shifting global political landscape my generation will face. As a law/politics student with an interest in foreign affairs, I found Mr Copley’s perspective fascinating, not only because it was different from the traditional perspectives I have been exposed to, but because I found it to be more pragmatic and holistic in approach. Before we left, Mr Copley kindly presented Jordan and I with signed copies each, I look forward to reading it on the return trip to Australia.

Later this week I attended a lecture at the Cato Institute, titled ‘Boom or Bust? How Export Restrictions Imperil America’s Oil and Gas Bonanza’. James Bacchus, former World Trade Organisation Appellate Body Jurist and Former US Congressman; Scott Lincicome, Cato Institute Adjunct Scholar and International Trade Attorney; and Mark Perry, Professor of Economics, University of Michigan – Flint, and American Enterprise Scholar discussed current US energy policy and potential threats to future prosperity. Specifically, regulation and out-of-date 1970’s policy was the primary focus of the lecture, while the current licencing regime was the main culprit identified for distorting energy prices. However, most interestingly, the panel illustrated how exposed the US has become to potential member actions (WTO disputes) over treaty violations. Overall, a very informative lecture!

This week concluded with the most anticipated event of the year for libertarian students – the International Students for Liberty Conference 2014 (ISFLC). What can I say, when an event opens with a live taping of the Stossel Show, you know it has to be good. I was not disappointed! Starting Friday night and closing Sunday afternoon, libertarians from all over the globe descended on Washington DC for a weekend of lectures and panel discussions on pressing topics. The ISFLC serves as the perfect environment for students to network, learn about libertarian organisations/career pathways and generally develop a greater understanding of libertarianism. Even with all the weather disruptions, the Grand Hyatt was still packed with students, a true indicator of the health and enthusiasm of the student movement. Indeed, one of our own Mannkal Scholars travelled all night, stopping in Cleveland and Chicago just to be here in Washington DC for the ISFLC the next morning.

I came to Washington DC to experience the inner workings of free-market libertarian policy, political organisation and discover new career paths. However, I will depart with so much more, I have a renewed level of excitement for libertarianism, and I’m excited to put principles into practice.

Atlas Group

This experience would not have been possible without the tireless commitment of a small group of people. Therefore, I would like to specifically thank Ron Manners and Rebecca Vidler from the Mannkal Economic Education Foundation for making this trip available. While I would also like to thank Kristina Crane, Alejandro Chafuen and Tom G. Palmer from the Atlas Economic Education Foundation for making my stay in Washington DC the amazing experience it was.

Week 5 Blog- Jordan Mittasch

mannkal, 14 February 2014

Last Sunday I felt as though I was back in high school, watching the Broncos being schooled by the Sea Hawks in the Superbowl. That is how one sided the game was. By half time my roommate changed the channel to ‘Fish Bowl’ on National Geographic channel because it was a more unpredictable show (a continuous two-hour live stream of a fish swimming around in a fishbowl, literally). All was not lost though, as the Superbowl commercials lived up to their expectations of high entertainment value with a lot of celebrity cameos. I guess when a tonne of money is thrown into advertising you will no doubt be seeing some very entertaining ads.

Fortunately, my faith in American sports was revived at the ice hockey on Tuesday night. Washington Capitals playing the New York Islanders was one of the most exciting spectator matches I’ve seen in any sport. What more could a guy want than a fast paced, minimal stoppage sport where the fights between players are only interrupted when one of them hits the ground? Unfortunately the Capitals were unable to take the game away, losing to the Islanders 0-1. In spite of that, the atmosphere right till the end was electric.

On Wednesday Tait, Miha (our proud Slovenian friend and fellow intern) and I attended a morning talk given by Senator Ted Cruz accompanied by a delicious American-styled breakfast. Senator Cruz gave a speech on the encouraging efforts of the republican grass roots movement that he supports. He communicated his critical views on the failed policies of the Obama administration as well as possible remedies for them. Albeit not as socially liberal as a libertarian supporter might like, I completely agreed with his conservative views on Obamacare and the government deficits being grossly unconstitutional. Both policies of forced healthcare and the continual government borrowing and spending are drastically destroying the American people’s prosperity and financial future.

Finally on Friday we visited the Institute for Human Studies (HIS) and Mercatus that are both located at George Mason University in Arlington. The IHS, a libertarian, non-profit organisation offers educational and career programs for students who want to further their advancement in the sphere of liberty. Jennifer Thompson, director of Educational Programs at IHS, gave us a brief tour and run down of what the institute accomplishes before showing us to a packed bookshelf that we were welcome to, no holds barred. Tait and I ended up leaving with two 15 pound filled library bags of books each (6.8 kg for those metric lovers). We then met with Stefanie Haeffele-Balch, the Associate Director of Graduate Student Programs at Mercatus, who informed us about the different programs of public policy research offered by Mercatus. Mercatus, like the IHS, focuses on libertarian ideas. It conducts market-orientated research to provide market-based solutions to social and financial problems while working with experts, lobbyists and government officials to bridge the gap between academic learning and real-world practice. Both are great institutes based out of a free-market leaning university that I encourage any students back in Australia to look into if they are so inclined.

Week five has now come and gone with my final week at Atlas just around the bend. Although I’m not looking forward to this experience coming to an end, I cannot wait for the International Students For Liberty Conference that begins this the coming Friday!

Week 5 Blog- Tait Marston

mannkal, 14 February 2014

Reflecting on my fifth week at Atlas, It’s hard to believe time has passed by so quickly!  Anyway, this week was a particularly special one – it was Super Bowl week! With all the build up and hype over the football, I was very excited to sit down and watch the game. This year’s finalists were the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks, however on review, it was as if the Broncos didn’t turn up at all. A few minutes before half time the game was over, the Seahawks were just too much!

While the Super Bowl was a bit of a let down, I was very impressed by the NHL (Hockey) game Jordan and I attended. Even though the New York Islanders defeated the Washington Capitals, it was a close game with plenty of skill on display.

We had two Tom Palmer lectures this week. On Tuesday we covered some of the writings of George Orwell, “Shooting an Elephant”, and “Politics and the English Language”, while on Thursday we learned about the art of persuasion. Dr Palmer demonstrated a number of targeted delivery techniques, addressing professional attire, body language and content as part of a more holistic approach to effective communication. This lecture was very informative, further illustrating it is not always what you have to say, but how you deliver it that makes the difference.

I woke up early Wednesday morning to attend a breakfast held at the Leadership Institute in Arlington, Virginia. This particular morning was wet, cold and really quite miserable, however this was not enough to deter anyone, we had come to listen to Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) address pressing issues in the liberty movement.  Senator Cruz opened the event by illustrating how cold it had been outside. He stated “its so cold today, I even saw a Democrat with his hands in his own pockets”. Unsurprisingly, this was well received! Anyway, on a more serious note he addressed the selective enforcement of law by the current administration, the questionable investigation into recent activities of the Internal Revenue Service, and ethical implications of assigning enormous debt to the future generations.

On Friday, Jordan and I set out for Arlington, it was here that we had plans to meet with Jennifer Thompson, Director of Educational Programs at the Institute for Humane Studies, and Stefanie Haeffele-Balch, Associate Director of Graduate Student Programs at the Mercatus Center. Here we were informed of all the post-graduate opportunities that were on offer at each institution respectively. While I had not planned to pursue a Master’s Degree or Doctorate, I did find the opportunities available very impressive.

With one week to go and the International Students for Liberty Conference approaching, I look forward to my final week!

Week 4 Blog- Jordan Mittasch

mannkal, 14 February 2014

“In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.”

Thomas Jefferson

I’m finishing this week’s blog blurry eyed, coupled with a sore neck and a body that’s been deprived of sleep in the back of a bus. But this three-hour bus trip from Philly to DC marks the end of my week so I’ll start from the beginning and hopefully this blog will turn out to be remotely coherent.

This week has been the busiest Tait and I have had thus far. It began with a visit to the National Archives, whose exhibits house some of the most important documents of United States history such as the Bill of Rights and the American Constitution. One other important document that’s housed at the Archives is the Declaration of Independence. This document, first drafted by Thomas Jefferson (a founding father and third president of the U.S.) is the founding document of the American political tradition and as well as Thomas Jefferson himself, turned out to be the recurrent theme of my week.

On Tuesday’s seminar with Tom Palmer, the topic discussed was, you guessed it, the Declaration of Independence. Under deeper examination through Tom’s scholarly lens, I discovered how the Declaration of Independence is truly a remarkable document of its time through to the present day. It articulates the fundamental ideas that form the American nation: all men are created free and equal and possess the same inherent, natural rights. No monarch or government bestowed these rights on its’ citizens, hence can never take them away. This extraordinary understanding of Thomas Jefferson’s provided the new basis of political legitimacy in the sovereignty of the people: based on the ideals of freedom and liberty.

On Thursday, a group of us from the Atlas office embarked on a road trip to Charlottesville, Virginia to attend a book launch event of Thomas Jefferson’s ’Notes on Coinage’. Upon arrival in the college town, Kristina took us to The Pigeonhole, a café-restaurant where I gorged down a delicious turkey potpie and grits. Southern food tastes good! Soon after lunch, we attended a tour at the University of Virginia, which Thomas Jefferson designed during his later years (the university, not the tour). Following this, we travelled for fifteen minutes up to Jefferson’s home atop Monticello (Italian for little mountain) for another tour. We learned that Thomas Jefferson was a man of many hobbies that included winemaking, archeology and most importantly reading, which he could do in seven languages. He was always interested in the latest technology and this could be seen in some of the gadgets he possessed in his study. This day trip was one of the best days thus far on my stay here in the U.S.

At four in the morning on Saturday my alarm sounded. After reluctantly switching it off and sluggishly getting ready, I hopped into a taxi and headed for Union Station-DC’s main bus and train station. From there Tait, Miha (an Atlas intern) and myself boarded our bus to Philadelphia. At that moment I realised that I must have been out of my mind to agree to a day trip to Philly this early in the morning. Given my decision was a sunk cost, I tried to recover as much sleep as possible on the trip over. Walking through the huge 1930’s interior of Philly’s 30th St. Station upon arrival made me lose all sense of regret from catching that earlier bus, and once I got my double shot Americano caffeine hit I was ready to explore the city.

The three of us walked the streets of Philadelphia, grabbing some Bubble T on the way to a viewing of the Liberty Bell. Our final dose of Jeffersonian education was the tour of Independence hall, which marked the location where the signing of the Declaration of Independence took place. This incredible 18th century state house that once housed the Liberty Bell, now a historical site, is a nationwide symbol of liberty. Afterwards we thought we’d shift gear toward a culinary education of Philly. We caught a cab downtown to try out a famous Philly Cheesesteak. Pat’s and Geno’s Steaks are two of the oldest and most recognised Philly Cheesesteak joints in Philly, both situated across the road from each other. Lines of people ordering were a constant for both stores so it was hard to pick which place to try. So what does one do when faced with such a tough decision? Get a Cheesesteak from both restaurants, and let me tell you my taste buds were in heaven. The only thing better than a Philly Cheesesteak is two of them, although my stomach paid the price afterward.

We spent our final hours slothfully walking the Philly streets taking pictures on the way back to 30th St. Station-each of us in a food coma. This brings this week’s adventures back to where I am now, finishing off this blog from the back of a bus, tired but overall completely satisfied with how this past week panned out. I’m hoping this coming week will be in the slow lane, void of cheese of any kind.

Week 4 Blog- Tait Marston

mannkal, 12 February 2014

This week started with a visit to the National Archives, Washington DC. The National Archives houses and preserves the nation’s most important historical documents, including the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. Stepping into the rotunda and reading the documents first hand is a very special moment for any enthusiast of politics. The language and intent so eloquently displayed is striking.

On Monday morning, I attended an event at the Heritage Foundation where Professor Donald J Boudreaux of George Mason University discussed economic freedom and its relation to healthcare. Prof Boudreaux employed a 1970’s Sears magazine to illustrate how the free market system has increased the standard of living for the middle class. He contrasted listed item prices with hours worked to pay for them, effectively demonstrating that we pay less for more.

As we had missed Tuesday last week due to inclement weather, we had two Palmer lectures this week. On Monday afternoon, we discussed some of the writings of Frédéric Bastiat, and covered the particular concept of ‘what is seen and what is not seen’. Then on Tuesday we read the Declaration of Independence and discussed the writings of John Locke, specifically the Second Treatise of Civil Government.

On Thursday Kristina Crane had organised for a few of us to travel to Charlottesville Virginia to attend a book launch sponsored by Atlas on Jefferson’s Notes on the Establishment of a Money Unit. However, as this event was to be held that night, we spent the day at The University of Virginia and Monticello. The highlight of this trip was the guided tour of Monticello, where we were able to see the actual house Thomas Jefferson designed.

On Friday, I set out for Arlington to attend a meeting with Dan Alban, a Senior Attorney at the Institute for Justice (IJ). To provide some context, the Institute for Justice is a not-for-profit organisation that takes on cases relating to four key areas: economic liberty, private property, school choice and first amendment matters. With a specific focus on litigating against government, IJ aims to change the law, or failing that, change public perception with its activist branch. During the meeting we discussed the complexities of establishing and running a public interest law firm, and important lessons learned from the experience. Before heading back to Atlas, I was guided through the IJ office and given a run down on some important cases they had won. For more information see: http://www.ij.org

This week was capped off with a trip to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Leaving DC at 05:30am, and making a few stops along the way, we arrived in the city mid-morning. While there I saw the famous Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. I couldn’t help but reflect on this week, I had seen the Declaration of Independence at the archives, learned about it, and visited the location of its signing, all entirely by coincidence.

Anyway, later that day, Jordan, Miha and I visited the ‘ground zero for cheesesteaks’ and engaged in the Pat’s King of Steaks and Gino’s taste comparison. These restaurants re-wrote my fast food experience, with the time from ordering to delivery not being more than five seconds. These places are seriously well-oiled machines. I thought, now if only Obama put down his pen and his phone and learned a thing or two from these guys…

Week 3 Blog- Jordan Mittasch

mannkal, 12 February 2014

“I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.”
Robert A. Heinlein

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in the National Mall area here in DC provides its visitors the opportunity to really immerse themselves in the history of the events that took place prior to and during World War II. Its’ mission is to allow people to confront hatred, prevent genocide and promote human dignity. After visiting the museum on Saturday, I can tell you it accomplishes all its goals and then some. It can be hard to fully acknowledge the inhumane past, but this museum’s composed ambience and informatively sobering exhibits, makes it a place of reflection and understanding. A must see place to visit in the nation’s capital.

Martin Luther King Day on Monday brought with it a public holiday and what I thought would be a three-day weekend. Mother nature had a different plan in mind though, bringing down a snowstorm the following day and causing a citywide shut down-dare I say, another polar vortex? (More info of what a polar vortex actually is can be found in the first couple minutes of this video; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxvVDtKZ3I0). As much as I was looking forward to getting back to the Atlas office and attending more interesting talks, I wasn’t going to complain about having an extra day for relaxation. As much as I believe in minimal government intervention, I’d support a mandated three-day work week… or maybe not.

To round out my extremely quick third week here in DC, a roommate of mine had an extra ticket to Shen Yun-a Chinese music and dance performing arts show at the Kennedy Center-that I more than gladly accepted. It showcased both traditional and contemporary Chinese music and dance that spans through 5000 years of Chinese culture. A recurring theme of the show was to exhibit the oppressive Chinese government that still reigns over its citizens, preventing them from practicing age-old traditions of meditation, music and dance.

What I took away from this splendid dance performance and the Holocaust museum I attended this week is that all over the world, throughout history, many of the problems we’ve faced and continue to face can usually be attributed to the those who want to take by force and maintain control over other peoples lives. The structure of government is an efficient vehicle of doing so and the only true protector and upholder of freedom is the individual.

Week 3 Blog- Tait Marston

mannkal, 12 February 2014

My third week in DC has been a little less hectic than previous weeks. However, politically it has been just as eventful as always. This week has brought us all a severe case of déjà vu, with new reports of the IRS targeting conservative organisations and a return of government shutdowns (albeit naturally induced).

Making the most of this long weekend I decided that I would visit a couple of Museums. On Sunday I went to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and for Martin Luther King Jr day, I visited the National Museum of American History.  The History Museum had an amazing collection of machinery, electrical components, tools, cars and war memorabilia. I even saw the famous Star Spangled Banner Flag that inspired the US national Anthem. The Holocaust Museum stands as a poignant reminder of the State-sponsored murder that has occurred in the past, so that we may prevent these senseless atrocities happening in the future.

Holocaust Museum

Waking up Tuesday morning after having a restful long weekend, I was informed that the federal government declared a general closure in response to a snowstorm hitting the DC area. In fact, this incident almost made me feel sorry for the current administration. Not only did they have tea party members trying to shut down their beloved bureaucratic machines, they now had Mother Nature working against them. Having just negotiated and successfully avoided another tea party sponsored government shutdown, it was probably Nature’s way of poetically reminding them how government is not supremely powerful, and very much at the whim of natural laws. Anyway, it was a great opportunity to catch up on some reading while looking upon the empty streets.

Later on this week, the pace changed a little with a couple of events. Attending the Cato Institute for a book review on Tim Harford’s ‘The Undercover Economist Strikes Back: How to Run – or Ruin – an Economy’. While Professor of economics, Alex Tabarrok of George Mason University labelled it a “middle of the road Keynesian text”, it had a few good points relating to the ineffectiveness of government stimulus, a point we can all agree on. Then, on Friday Jordan and I set off for the Rayburn House Office Building for the Libertarian State of the Union presented by the Cato Institute. Some topics discussed included the constitutionality of NSA spying, consequences of Obamacare on health insurance and measures aimed at downsizing government.

Week 2 Blog- Jordan Mittasch

mannkal, 12 February 2014

“The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good, in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it.”
John Stuart Mill

Week two here in the United States capital has given me the extra time to explore and experience what this great city has to offer. Over the weekend, Tait and I managed to visit two museums. The Smithsonian Air and Space museum being the first, boasts a whopping 22 exhibition galleries, displaying hundreds of artefacts including the original Wright 1903 Flyer, the “Spirit of St. Louis,” and the Apollo 11 command module.  To think that the Apollo 11 shuttle ran on computing power that is considered ancient technology in comparison to an iPhone is unbelievable. Next up was the Natural History Museum, which for me is (and probably always will be) my personal favourite, as the dinosaur and ocean animal exhibits never fail to bring out ten-year-old Jordan. I may have spent the whole day there reading every information plaque possible, but closing time signalled a premature departure.

Back at Atlas signalled the attending of more exciting talks than I’d planned for. The highlight of which was the first of Dr. Tom Palmer’s six weekly seminars on freedom and liberty. The main lesson I drew from listening to Tom’s first captivating seminar is that across the large spectrum of history, appearances of the ideas and philosophy of individual freedom and the rule of law spring up across all cultures and geographies. This idea that individualism as opposed to collectivism is the key to humanity’s success, to me, is an undeniable one.

One pleasant surprise I found out this week is that Australia has ranked third as the most economically free country in the world, following to no ones surprise Hong Kong and Singapore. This is according to The Heritage Foundation’s annual report on the ‘Index of Economic Freedom’ of which rule of law, government size, regulatory efficiency and open markets are some of the components used to create the index. Maybe the United States has a few things to learn from us down under?

Thursday night brought with it the ‘Atlas Open House’ event. This yearly event invited all the current and prospective donors and members of the public interested in the work Atlas accomplishes to come down to meet with the hard working staff and to enjoy good American food-cue the mac and cheese. I was fortunate enough to meet countless more liberty minded folks-both young and old-to hear their stories. I managed to speak with Dr. Nigel Ashford from the Institute for Human Studies and a YouTube celebrity from the Learn Liberty channel that I recommend everyone should check out.

To end the week, it was time to hit up the NBA and watch the Washington Wizards play the Chicago Bulls after having come off a three-game winning streak (which included beating LeBron James’ Miami Heat). Being an MJ fan, I was torn between what team to root for, considering Washington is my adopted home for the next few weeks. But John Wall of the Wizards locked in my support after making a ridiculous circus shot in the third quarter, which really got the crowd going. After that it was Washington Wizards all the way!

This second week here in D.C. has been an exciting and busy one to say the least. I plan on seeing a few more museums this weekend as well as attending a Martin Luther King memorial service on Monday. I’m sure this coming week will be just as hectic as this past one has been!

Week 2 Blog- Tait Marston

mannkal, 12 February 2014

As I reflect on what can only be described as an action packed week, I am constantly amazed by the scope of activities that are available for interns/visitors in this city. Consequently, this may be a larger entry, so let’s get started.

Last Sunday, Jordan and I visited the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and the Museum of Natural History. To list the major attractions in each of these museums would be a real task, but to name a few stand out items, I saw the command module from Apollo 11, Charles Lindberg’s Ryan M-2 ‘Spirit of St Louis’, a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, Neil Armstrong’s experimental X-15 rocket powered aircraft, and the infamous ‘Minuteman III’ intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Meanwhile, at the Natural History Museum I saw an assortment of fossils, preserved critters and an extensive collection of minerals, including the Hope Diamond. If anyone ever gets the opportunity to visit DC, I highly recommend both these museums.

On Monday, I set out to attend the U.S. Supreme Court to listen to the oral arguments on Obama’s recent ‘recess’ appointment to the National Labor Relations Board. After brushing up on U.S. constitutional law and reading the Cato Institute Amicus Curiae brief I thought I was well prepared.  I set out early in the cold, arriving at the court just before 8am for a 10am start. On arrival I saw a small group of people lining up out the front, I thought my plans had paid off… How wrong I was, I found out that 50 had already been invited inside, and that the queue outside was the overflow. However, those lucky few who did get seats had been waiting outside the court since 5:30-6:00am, on reflection I think they probably deserved their seats.

On Tuesday morning a group of Atlas staff along with Jordan and I, were ferried off to the Heritage Foundation for the release of the 2014 Index of Economic Freedom. While waiting for the presentation to start, we all flicked through the booklet provided and compared figures on our countries of origin. According to their data, Australia had been ranked 3rd with a score of 82.0 out of 100, followed by Hong Kong (1st) and Singapore (2nd) [see. http://www.heritage.org/index/]. While in comparison to other countries it may appear that Australia is doing very well, there is plenty to improve and we must never become complacent with our advocacy for free markets. Government planning is a slippery slope and countries can slide down the scale very quickly! However, the stand out highlight of this event was listening to the keynote speaker, Rand Paul opening with a great one-liner, “if you like your freedom you can keep it, or maybe not.”

In the afternoon, in step with our day of ‘big personalities’, Jordan and I attended the first of a series of Lectures presented at the Cato Institute. Over the coming weeks, Dr Tom Palmer will be navigating us through a range of topics relevant to libertarian ideology. By the end we should all be equipped to stand toe-to-toe with even the most hardened ‘leftie’.  This week’s lecture focussed on the historical emergence of liberty and the rule of law, a fitting point of reference. During the lecture we covered 2500 years of the history of liberty in a very condensed manner. In retrospect, I’m very grateful that my Legal Theory/Jurisprudence lecturer, Dr Augusto Zimmermann, extensively covered natural law theory in his classes.

Interestingly, I discovered that one of my favourite philosophers, John Locke was heavily influenced by a group known as the ‘Levellers’. While completely unrelated, this reminded me of FernGully, a movie I watched as a child. I was very disappointed when the Leveller was overcome by a group of fairies in from the forest. While the leveller was a mobile tree lopping, timber-milling monstrosity, it was there to represent industry (albeit negatively), while the fairies, I think we all know who they are… While I am completely aware that the message of this movie was lost on me at the time, it was quite illustrative of the special interest/rent seeking or emotive ideology we challenge today.

In the later half of the week, I Attended a Congressional-Executive Commission on China, where China’s compliance with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and international trade rules were discussed. Four experts testified before the commission, presenting papers and their expertise on actions to address China’s record of non-compliance with WTO rules. On Thursday night I attended the Atlas ‘Open House’ event where libertarians far and wide were invited to catch up over a Barbeque dinner.

This week was capped off with an action packed NBA game at the Verizon Stadium here in Washington DC. The Washington Wizards and Chicago Bulls were tied for much of the game, but in the closing 10 seconds the bulls failed to score leaving the Wizards up by 3 points. If anyone wants to see an amazing shot see: http://nba.si.com/2014/01/17/john-wall-circus-shot-video-wizards-bulls/