Freedom in Fiction


There is a story told that after leaving the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin was approached by a woman who asked what form of government the delegates had created. Franklin responded: "A republic, if you can keep it."

Keeping a republic is indeed a difficult task. The ideas set forth in our Constitution and by our Founding Fathers are constantly under assault from the media, larger government and our own misguided decisions.

For many years I have contributed financially to worthwhile organizations that champion limited government, freedom, self-reliance and market systems. Their scholarship leads to news stories, radio interviews and television appearances that educate the public and lay a foundation for better policy decisions. Yet very few groups use movies, music, books or video games – what I would call popular culture – to communicate their ideas.

Today's popular culture is dominated by those who believe in a large "compassionate" government that will take care of us when we are old, sick, poor or down on our luck. One example is Michael Moore's newest documentary, Sicko. The film proposes replacing America's current health care system with a government-managed program. Even before the official release date, the movie has opened in select locations to sellout crowds and received a standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival.

On the other side of the fence, there are very few examples of popular culture championing entrepreneurs, markets, the private sector and charitable organizations as ways to fix society's problems. Authors like Ayn Rand, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis are probably the best-known exceptions. Atlas Shrugged popularized private initiative, while debunking those who would use more government as a way to feed their parasitic and unproductive behavior. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia and Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings contained political philosophies arguing against totalitarian rule.

In an effort to make the cause of freedom more appealing, I have collaborated with the Mackinac Center to establish the Freedom in Fiction Prize. This international contest will offer a prize of up to $100,000 and create an incentive for authors to write the next best-selling book championing values necessary for a free, productive and truly compassionate society.

Anyone over the age of 18 can enter the contest. Interested authors can view a copy of the competition rules or request an information packet by contacting Freedom in Fiction Prize Project Manager Justin Marshall at 989-631-0900.

The contest consists of two phases: The first requires entrants to submit an opening chapter, one additional chapter of choice, an entry form (available online), a signed disclaimer (available online) and a book outline by Jan. 1, 2008. The outline should include a summary discussion of the major themes within the book and the major characters (hero and villain) that comply with contest requirements. Characters that demonstrate an appreciation for liberty and free markets and/or oppose government oppression and restraints should be essential elements of any submitted work.

By March 31, 2008, up to 10 authors will be chosen to complete their manuscripts and receive a $1,000 check. Each author will have one year to finish his or her book and mail it to the project manager by March 31, 2009. A distinguished group of judges will read each book and announce the winning author by June 30, 2009.

The winner will receive a $10,000 check for their manuscript. If the author chooses, he or she can then proceed to publish the book and qualify for the additional $90,000 prize by selling 10,000 copies within one year of its publication date.

It is my hope that the Freedom in Fiction Prize will help discover the next best-selling author. Imagine children and adults all over the world reading the next Harry Potter and learning the importance of a free society at the same time. If that happens, I'd say our Republic has more than a fighting chance.

July 12, 2007