by Raheem Kassam

LAS VEGAS, Nevada, USA – So I've been at FreedomFest in Las Vegas for around 24 hours now, and I think I've managed to soak in what this annual conference is really about: drugs, freedom, and gambling. Some might argue in that order.

The Planet Hollywood (which does not get the Kassam seal of approval, by the way) is playing host to this libertarian-fest featuring speakers such as Steve Forbes, PJ O Rourke, Dinesh D'Souza, Nick Gillespie, and more. The crowd is surprisingly diverse in age. Not so much in ethnic or socio-economic background, as the CEI's Lawson Bader joked to me yesterday.

The tacky decadence of Las Vegas provides somewhat of an ironic backdrop for people more concerned with arguments than appearances, as I highlighted much to the chagrin of many libertarians some months ago.

But even if you're not a libertarian like my stablemate James Delingpole, the conference is definitely of interest. So far I've learned about bitcoins (a bit late, I know), spoken to delegates from Canada, Europe, all over the United States, and heard from a bunch of bright, young, often beautiful people about issues they don't just know about – they deeply care about.

The Marijuana Policy Project is obviously a big hit in the conference zone, with the National Rifle Association,, and the Charles Koch Institute all pulling in the punters. 

This morning I spoke with some super-intimidatingly smart women from the Independent Women's Forum, who are dedicating a lot of time and resources towards the healthcare debate, specifically from a female perspective. I wish I could be in Washington, D.C. in November for their event featuring the brave Ayaan Hirsi Ali, which is part of a series about the REAL 'war on women' – a term thrown around flippantly by the left, but taken very seriously by the right.

But putting serious things aside for a minute, there's one thing that is very clear about FreedomFest attendees: they know how to party. 

While I've been in bed by around 10pm (work + sickness makes for a dull Raheem), delegates aren't returning to their bedrooms until the small hours, or in some cases, not at all. There's something about gambling, indoor smoking, pot brownies, and $6 lattes that keeps libertarians ticking. Well maybe not the last one, but Delingpole's certainly been having fun. I hear he was even $10 up while playing craps last night.

To get a little more detail on the panels, follow Liz Sheld over at The Conversation, who has been reporting on BitcoinSteve Forbes's healthcare ideas, and Whole Foods Chairman (and vegan… yuck!) John MacKey's talk on how the intellectual classes have always hated capitalism.

Image Credit: Tim Shields