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Eva Christensen – Washington DC | Week 11

Eva Christensen, 20 February 2017

This week was spent mostly out of the office. I started off with a Television Techniques workshop at the Leadership Institute over in Arlington. We got to hear from a media specialist on how to be a more effective communicator and how to dodge hostile questions during live interviews (a critical skill in the world of politics).

We also got the opportunity to do some practice questions in their professional recording studio (very impressive!). It was an excellent learning experience.

I also got to attend two lectures by Tom G. Palmer, a very prolific libertarian. He is actually the executive VP of international programs of the Atlas Network, which means he travels often, promoting liberty around the world.

I am planning on attending as many of his Cato lectures as possible whilst he is back in DC. He covered two topics this week: the economic insights of Bastiat and the foundations of modern liberty, both very thorough and intellectually stimulating discussions. I have long admired Bastiat’s work and firmly believe that every politician should complete a mandatory course in his teachings before they are allowed to assume office. It would solve a lot of problems.

The International Students for Liberty Conference is coming up on the weekend and I have been busy helping Atlas with organising our booth for the exhibition hall. I am very excited for the weekend; so many great libertarian minds all in the same place.

I am also looking forward to catching up with some of the other Mannkal scholars that will be in town for the weekend.

I also just got home from a late night seminar on Ayn Rand and Objectivist Ethics. It’s a mini-conference, co-sponsored by ISFLC. It’s been a long time since I have read anything by Rand, and I am not sure that I fully agree (or maybe I just don’t fully comprehend it yet), but I really enjoyed the conversations.

We were 20 attendees, all from different age groups and backgrounds, and all discussing abstract philosophical concepts in a hotel room on a Thursday night – I guess this is how libertarians choose to spend their free time!

The second part of the seminar is tomorrow morning, where we will cover Rand’s philosophy on man’s rights.

Finally, on the weekend, I went to Arlington Cemetery along with a bunch of former Cato interns. Even though I have been here for almost three months, there are still so many sights I have yet to see. The cemetery was beautiful, and of course bit haunting. We got to see the ‘changing of the guard’ at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier; very impressive!

The soldiers are almost like robots with their precise movements. I also visited Alexandria, a beautiful historical town about 30 minutes from downtown DC.

Beautiful Alexandria in Virginia

At Arlington Cemetery

Eva Christensen – Washington DC | Week 10

Eva Christensen, 13 February 2017

“Egalitarians champion the most evil and destructive of human emotions. Find it in yourself – envy.” Very strong words, and ones that resonated with me. Envy, and a phenomenon casually  referred to as “tall poppy syndrome” are abundant in Australian society. Today, former CEO of BB&T and president of Cato, John A. Allison, gave a superb speech on leadership values.

He covered many areas of thought, and briefly – and succinctly – covered the hostile and totalitarian mentality of today’s progressives. His speech contained plenty references to the Objectivist philosophy – as someone who found their way to libertarianism through Rand, it really connected with me. Allison made a tremendous impression to me and I will be sure to follow him closely…

Too bad he didn’t get picked for the Trump cabinet!

I also attended a seminar titled “Logic Made Easy” with Jason Kuznicki. It was actually in a similar vein of thought, covering an ethical approach to professional conduct, integrity and honesty.

It confirms what I have long believed about libertarians and most conservatives – that we always strive for truth and reason. For young interns in DC, a place full of politicians without principles, such advice is priceless.

Back at Atlas, I attended the monthly staff meeting where everybody was updated with the wonderful free market progress that is developing around the world in our network. We heard a speech from a visiting fellow, Ayesha Bilal, from the Prime Institute, the only free market think tank in Pakistan, on their vision and mission for the future.

I am hopeful that they can make a real impact and help curb the worst excesses of the Pakistani government.

We also had a visit from last year’s Mannkal scholar, Sofie O’Mara, who is now interning at Cato. It is great to see some familiar faces, and the weather is actually putting on a bit of an Australian spin for us – it was 22 degrees on Tuesday! The weekend is also looking abnormally warm, and I have plans to go to the Arlington Cemetery and Alexandria with fellow Cato interns and staff.

I’ve got to make the most of it as I only have a few weeks left. Time has truly flown by.

Eva Christensen – Washington DC | Week 9

Eva Christensen, 6 February 2017

This week has been incredible. I have seen so much, spoken to so many people and learnt so much. The political scene has also been abuzz, driven in large part by the many executive orders signed by Trump. It definitely keeps things interesting over here!

I spent the weekend in New York, which is just an amazing place all around. The density of the population is truly something to behold. Whenever we see pieces in Australian news lamenting the latest development in Scarborough or Cottesloe, at the modest height of three or four stories, just take a look at the US… The energy of the economy is truly something to behold.

The hightlight of my week was attending a public speaking workshop at the Leadership Institute. They are located in Arlington, a few stops on the metro from downtown DC. Their core philosophy is conservatism, but they do some great work in educating and training young activists at how to better deliver our message.

I learnt a great deal about how verbal and non-verbal cues interact with the audience. It really is something that libertarians can learn a lot from. We often struggle with how to win people’s hearts. We all had to write and deliver a speech at the conclusion, and I chose to channel my inner Randian and emphasised the indiviudal as the most important entity.

Tomorrow I’m attending an event with my home country’s Flemming Rose (a true champion for free speech) and a seminar on the role of private markets in North Korea. I can’t wait!

Eva Christensen – Washington DC | Week 8

Eva Christensen, 30 January 2017

This week was the first in the office for the new President Trump. As such, the policy making scene is seriously buzzing. Every think tank and lobby group are energetically competing for attention and there is a plethora of events focusing on what Trump will or won’t do in his first 100 days as the Commander-in-Chief. He certainly has not hesitated to sign quite a few executive orders already – and the libertarian movement here in DC is very apprehensive.

This morning I attended the launch of Dr. James McGann’s annual Global Go To Think Tank index. With the help of more than 50 interns, he releases a comprehensive analysis of both US and global think tanks, ranking each of them (in different categories) based on their scope, academic integrity, influence and a few other criteria. I am assisting Alex Chafuen, the president of Atlas, with an analysis of the index to see how free market think tanks are faring, particularly those that are partners of the Atlas Network.

I also attended a very interesting panel on welfare states around the world, hosted by the Cato Institute. It featured, amongst others, James Bartholomew, who has just released an excellent book, titled The Welfare of Nations. The book covers the effectiveness and efficiency of different welfare models. I have read much of his work before and he is superb on a number of issues, including the “mis-education” of students on economic theory  in most esteemed universities in the West.

On a more personal note, my parents have come to visit me all the way from Copenhagen! I haven’t seen them in a long time. They have invited me along to New York for the weekend, so I will attempt to do all the sightseeing that I missed out on last time.

Next week I will start working on some Students for Liberty projects for back in Australia. We have a great executive board and will really ramp up activities throughout the coming semesters. Stay tuned!

Eva Christensen – Washington DC | Week 7

Eva Christensen, 23 January 2017

The presidential inauguration weekend is almost here!  The city is undergoing somewhat of a transformation, with miles upon miles of fencing, public toilets and other safety equipment being set up on almost every street. Every news station is blaring news about Trump and his twitter account, and about the endless list of people who oppose him. It really goes to show just how big a part politics and the state plays here in DC. The Department of Homeland Security is estimating that almost 900,000 people will attend the inauguration on Friday (no doubt a significant number of them will be there for the many protests!).

I recently attended a discussion panel at the Cato Institute which focused on what foreign policy will look like under the Trump administration. Almost all the panelists agreed that it was too soon to really say what will happen, though some were optimistic and others worried. Personally, I am hopeful of a warming relationship between the US and Russia. That seems to be where things are going, though it would also seem that Trump is adamant to start another trade war of sorts with China. Why must the US leader always been seen to ‘take on’ one super power or another? We need more trade and diplomacy, and fewer currency wars and sanctions. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Today was a particularly eventful day; I spent a few hours trying to get as close as possible to the “Make America Great Again Celebration”  held at the Lincoln Memorial, which featured lots of American bands (mainly country!) and of course the President-elect. It was fascinating to see the masses of people descending on such a famous spot, most of them wearing MAGA hats and Republican paraphernalia. Standing in the middle of a crowd of people chanting “USA – USA – USA!” was quite the experience. I can’t imagine ever participating in the glorification of a single person in that manner… Apart from maybe Ron Paul, but I’m a few years too late for that!

Afterwards, I attended a Students for Liberty event at their 17th St offices. We welcomed our new CEO, Wolf von Laer, who reminded us to stick to our libertarian principles and to not focus too much on whatever individual is in charge. I also caught up with the newly arrived Sofie O’Mara and Celeste Arenas from the Australian Taxpayer’s Alliance. We are quite the Aussie crowd here… Go Australia!

Eva Christensen – Washington DC | Week 6

Eva Christensen, 16 January 2017

This week marked the start of the event season in DC. On Tuesday I attended a book panel at the Cato Institute featuring Nicholas Eberstadt, a political economist at the American Enterprise Institute. He has just released a new book titled Men Without Work, which chronicles the the Great Depression-eque status of long-term unemployment among American men, most of whom are in prime working age. Eberstadt underscored the fatal flaw of using the unemployment rate, rather than the labour participation rate, when studying the state of affairs. He showed that the situation is comparatively worse in the US than in other Western nations, despite the US not having the most generous welfare system nor the slowest growing economy.

It was alarming to hear just how many unemployed men there are here – nearly one in six prime working age men has no paid work at all. As a libertarian, I was pleased that Eberstadt did not venture very far in prescribing government ‘cures’ to this problem. Instead he focused on highlighting just how severe the situation has become and how much of an impact it will continue to have on the fabric of American society.

On Thursday I was lucky enough to sit in on a round table lunch hosted by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. It was for the publication of a new series of essays by founder Fred L. Smith on the morality of capitalism. Moderated by Cato’s David Boaz, attendees included prominent people from the US Chamber of Commerce, the Mercatus Center, Facebook, American University and many more. Smith is asking business leaders to stand up for the virtue of the capitalist system on which they rely on, instead of merely being somewhat apologetic. I agreed, and said during the Q&A session, that I believe that this new “sharing economy” actually provides free-market defenders a wonderful opportunity to prove to the everyday person just how glorious voluntary exchange is.

On a more leisurely note, I was able to visit New York on the weekend. What an incredible place. I managed to see quite a few of the main sights in the short time I had available, but I will definitely make it a priority to visit again should the opportunity arise… I <3 NY!

Eva Christensen – Washington DC | Week 5

Eva Christensen, 9 January 2017

The Christmas break is over and the new year is here! 2016 was certainly an eventful year and many people have expressed satisfaction that it is finally over. 2017 will bring many new changes, and I can only hope that it will be a year of increased liberty for all.

I started my week back at the office by continuing my research for the Centre of Independent studies. Early in the week I was also asked to speak at the International Coalition Meeting, which is a monthly event held by the Atlas Network and Americans for Tax Reform. It is a fast-paced one hour meeting with people from all over the world (often speakers are attending through Skype) and from different backgrounds. Many of whom give a quick rundown on the situation in their home country or a project they are currently working on.

It typically focuses on the on-going political sagas around the world. I first spoke proudly about the Mannkal Foundation and encouraged everyone to get in contact with us to help our future scholars. I then gave an update on the political situation in my home country of Denmark, where just last month, a new coalition government was formed by two centre-right parties plus an actual libertarian party (the Liberal Alliance)! This is truly exciting news for a country with such a steadfast and widespread support for an ever-increasing welfare state. It is early days yet, but it looks promising indeed.

I also took some time on the weekend to go sightseeing just over the border in Virginia. I went to see the Pentagon, which probably needs no further introduction. It is the largest office building in the whole of the United States, with approximately 23,000 employees. There was strictly no photography allowed but I was able to take one photo at the sombre Pentagon Memorial, built on the sight of the 9/11 attacks.

This weekend I will take a trip over to the city that never sleeps – New York! I find DC to be very busy (compared to Perth), but I have been told that NYC is positively teeming with people – it is the most congested place in the US. I can’t wait!

Eva Christensen – Washington DC | Week 4

Eva Christensen, 3 January 2017

The holidays have arrived! This week the Atlas office is closed and many of our people have flown home to different states to see their families. I was lucky enough to know a few other ‘orphan’ interns who were still hanging around DC including last year’s Mannkal-Atlas scholar Dan Press, whom hosted a small Christmas Day gathering. The weather that day was quite warm and sunny (14 degrees), and I ended up walking all the way across town to enjoy it. Many shops and even cafes were still open, at least for the first half of the day; very different from Perth!

I visited the Smithsonian Museum for National Art with an Atlas colleague. There are many museums of high-quality and with extensive collections, all with free entry! So there has been plenty to keep me occupied on my days off. During my trips downtown I have also noticed the preparations beginning for the presidential inauguration of Donald Trump. There was even a professional photographer set up at the entrance to the new Trump Hotel on Pennsylvania Ave, offering their service to the many tourists that visit.

I have begun planning on how to be better utilise my time when work resumes. I have created a work schedule for myself so I can keep on top of the different projects I have going on, as well as attending other think tank events once they start picking up in early January.

That’s all for this time! It has been a fairly quiet week, with even the libertarians taking some time off.

Eva Christensen – Washington DC | Week 3

Eva Christensen, 2 January 2017

This week revealed a noticeable slowdown on the DC think tank scene. Although I’ve immensely enjoyed attending conferences, seminars and briefings all over the city, it was nice to finally settle into my office space and make sense of it all. On Monday I met with Alex Chafuen, the president of Atlas, and we talked about cultural differences between Americans, Australians, Danes (I grew up in Copenhagen) and South Americans (Alex hails from Chile). The impact of culture is something that I am becoming increasingly interested in, as it seems to be the strongest factor in how people behave. As Alex said, people from different cultures will respond very differently to the exact same incentives and laws/regulations. Fascinating stuff!

I have also spent time getting to know the other staff better. I have made plans with Harry, one of the interns, to accompany him to George Mason University, where he is studying a Master of Economics. GMU is probably the leading university for free market and Austrian and Public Choice economics, and it will be very interesting to sit in on a few lectures, as I myself am considering further studies in this area.

I have also recently been asked by the Centre for Independent Studies to research and evaluate the outcomes of various programs that are offered to indigenous communities in Australia by the government and NGOs. As is well known, there is an incredible amount of wastage in welfare spending, so I am looking forward to executing this project.

Today we got a surprise visit from former Mannkal Atlas intern, Daniel Press, who has recently finished an internship at Cato and will start with the Competitive Enterprise Institute (also here in DC) in January.

Atlas will be closed for the holidays next week, so I will have plenty of time to do some more sightseeing. Last weekend I walked along the Potomac River where you will find the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the FDR Memorial and the new(ish) Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. It was a lovely walk, and the weather was unusually warm (15 degrees!). Although I have been here for almost three weeks, I have barely scratched the surface in terms of what DC has to offer. I am hoping to do a trip to Philadelphia to see some more liberty-sights; most notable Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was adopted.

Eva Christensen – Washington DC | Week 2

Eva Christensen, 16 December 2016

Another action packed week is almost over. I have been mostly out of the office, attending so many different events all over the city. On Monday I went to a discussion on North Korea, organised by Kang Cheol-Hwan, the author of Aquariums of Pyongyang (an account of Kang and his family’s imprisonment in the Yodok concentration camp). The audience was reminded of the staggering death toll of communism; 100 million and counting.  The panel discussed the various initiatives that the North Korea Strategy Center is undertaking in order to bring about reform in the hermit kingdom. Part of what they do is ‘smuggling’ in USB sticks loaded with news, Wikipedia articles and even just TV material such as soap operas in order to target the younger generations.

On Tuesday I attended a panel discussion on freedom of speech on the Internet, hosted by Google at their seriously cool offices. The 4 panelists came from different backgrounds and voiced different opinions on what can and/or should be done to protect the right to freedom of expression whilst simultaneously protecting people’s safety and anonymity. The hero of the panel was Faisal Saeed al Mutar, a US refugee from Iraq who has been fighting bravely against religious fundamentalism. He has been on the receiving end of endless death threats, but continues to speak out on behalf of human rights and promoting secular humanism.

I’ve also been back to the Cato Institute for their annual conference on surveillance, and at the Heritage Foundation for a policy recommendation briefing to the president-elect about Cuba. I can’t say that I agreed with their firm belief in re-instating hard line embargoes on the island. Ultimately, we should let people trade freely, even if they live under tyrannical governments.

Tomorrow is the Atlas Christmas party! It’ll be time for people to let their hair down. I’m really looking forward to getting to know everyone better on a more casual basis. The cold weather has helped me get into more of a Christmas-y mood, so I am sure it will be a super fun evening.