Jennifer Schubert-Akin: Freedom Conference harnesses natural beauty of Steamboat |

Jennifer Schubert-Akin: Freedom Conference harnesses natural beauty of Steamboat

Can Steamboat Springs' beautiful natural setting inspire public policy solutions?

The Steamboat Institute thinks so. That's why our upcoming Freedom Conference and Festival — Aug. 25 and 26 — is taking place here in Steamboat. We hope that by bringing together the nation's leading public policy aficionados and communicators, including Steve Forbes, James Taranto of The Wall Street Journal, and Mollie Hemingway of The Federalist, as well as our own Tony Blankley Fellows, we can provide the intellectual spark necessary to solve the country's most difficult and timely public policy problems.

Scientific evidence supports our view. A growing body of research shows that nature inspires creativity. According to a recent study published in the Public Library of Science, nature-filled days are associated with 50 percent higher scores in creative thinking and problem solving.

Coloradans get this. Those from Washington, D.C., and New York City, not so much. Perhaps trading the fluorescent lights and bad carpeting of traditional policy conferences for a gondola ride overlooking Mount Werner and the spectacular Yampa Valley will be the remedy necessary to come up with the solutions we need.

Consider the current health care mess. After Congressional Republicans' failure to pass a fix, middle-class Americans have been left holding the bag. According to a recent Health and Human Services report, average nationwide premiums have doubled under Obamacare. The average Bronze health plan's annual premium cost is now $6,000, with an annual deductible of $12,400. Such massive health care costs are a tremendous drag on standards of living and the economy.

A panel featuring health care leaders in the private industry and public policy spaces will drill down on solutions that can address the health care pain felt by so many Americans. These likely include tax credits instead of subsidies, choice rather than mandates, and high-risk pools rather than cost sharing. But how can this policy needle be threaded? That's a question for these experts.

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Or take the problem of the federal government's continuous and constitutionally dubious growth. This is perhaps the greatest threat to individual liberty that currently exists. It is also one that – as history suggests – cannot be solved at the ballot box as both major parties have been equal opportunity offenders. How to stop and reverse this federal expansion – the worst nightmare of the country's founders – will be addressed by a high-profile panel featuring representatives from the private, academic and public policy spheres.

The Freedom Conference is unique beyond its setting. It also includes an art exhibit and film festival. President George W. Bush's critically-acclaimed art exhibit, "The Art of Leadership: A President's Personal Diplomacy," will be featured. His paintings explore the relationships President Bush developed with world leaders through his diplomatic efforts while president. Paintings of leaders such as Angela Merkel, Vladimir Putin and the Dalai Lama illustrate — literally and figuratively — how the president saw his contemporaries and his relationships with them.

The film festival features Sean Hannity's debut film, “Let There Be Light,” which traces the religious roots of individual liberty. A separate panel discussion featuring co-star and co-producer Sam Sorbo will discuss how Hollywood can elevate the human spirit – while Hannity's film attempts to do the same.

Policy conferences have a long history in this country. As Colorado Constitutional scholar Robert Natelson explains, "As far back as 1677, British colonies in North America sent "commissioners" to meet with each other to discuss common issues. These gatherings were essentially problem-solving task forces."

But it's unlikely there have been many of these policy conferences throughout the years that have been held in as beautiful a spot as Steamboat Springs. Hopefully, the setting can be the salve necessary to solve the nation's policy problems.

Jennifer Schubert-Akin is CEO, chairman and co-founder of The Steamboat Institute.

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