Here is the tentative, don’t-hold-us-legally-accountable-if-it-ain’t-exactly-this-way lineup of speakers for the Front Porch Republic conference on September 15 at Hope College, in Holland, Michigan. We’ll let you know if there are any changes. Our keynote speaker, Eric Jacobsen, is the author of the just-published book The Space Between: A Christian Engagement with the Built Environment.

A lot of you are signing up now, which is great. We look forward to seeing many of you there, and to meeting many of you for the first time.

The Bar Jester’s talk alone will be worth the price of admission, although you may feel the need to take a morally cleansing shower afterwards.

Register here. More conference details here. If you are so moved, you can help us offset the considerable conference expenses by making a gift here (thanks again to everyone who has donated so far!). FPR is a 501(c)(3) organization, so your donation is tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law.

Finally, many thanks to our conference co-sponsors, including The American Conservative, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, Fieldstead & Company, and Norm Hapke.


Welcome: 9:00-9:15

Panel 1: Politics and Economics 9:15-10:30

  • Jeff Polet, Hope College
  • Patrick Deneen, University of Notre Dame
  • Richard Gamble, Hillsdale College

Panel 2: Local Culture 10:45-12:00

  • Bill Kauffman, author of Ain’t My America
  • William Schambra, Hudson Institute
  • Mark T. Mitchell, Patrick Henry College

Lunch: 12:15-1:00

Keynote Address: Eric Jacobsen, author of The Space Between, 1:00-1:45

Panel 3: Environment and Place 2:00-3:15

  • Jason Peters, Augustana College
  • Arthur Verslius, author of Island Farm
  • D. G. Hart, Hillsdale College

Panel 4: Food and Farming 3:30-4:45

  • Mary Berry Smith, The Berry Center
  • Katherine Dalton, Contributing editor to Chronicles magazine
  • Matt Bonzo, Cornerstone University

 Closing Remarks: 4:45-5:00

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Jeremy Beer
Jeremy Beer is a philanthropic consultant. He lives with his wife, Kara, in the Willo neighborhood of her hometown: Phoenix, Arizona. Although he likes Arizona and the land west of the one hundredth meridian generally, Jeremy is from Kosciusko County, Indiana, and considers himself a Hoosier patriot. He believes that Booth Tarkington was one of our greatest novelists, that Jean Shepherd was one of our greatest humorists, that Billy Sunday was our one of our greatest (and speediest) orators, and that Larry Bird is without a doubt our greatest living American. Jeremy obtained his doctorate in psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. From 2000 to 2008 he worked at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute in Wilmington, Delaware, serving finally as vice president of publications and editor in chief of ISI Books. He serves on the boards of Front Porch Republic, Inc., Mars Hill Audio, and Catholic Phoenix. A more complete and much more professional bio can be found here. See books written and recommended by Jeremy Beer.


  1. I know you all like your conferences, but don’t you think they somewhat defeat your argument against frivolous use of energy?

    After all, if an electric can opener is an example of a frivolous use of energy, then certainly driving, let alone flying, across the country to a conference meets that same level of frivolousness.

    Not that I’m complaining, but I do wonder how you set your standard on what is afrivolous use of petroleum versus what is not frivolous.

  2. It would be a frivolous use of energy if all of us have the option of taking mass transit but chose to drive ourselves instead for convenience’s sake. I would not consider going if driving or flying were my only options.

  3. From Kevin Mauer’s article : “Which is Better For The Environment: Driving, Flying, or Taking the Bus?”

    I had in mind the lowest use of all, i.e. not having conference because conferences like this are a creature of modern ‘frivolous’ use of energy. Or at least it appears that way to me.

    I was simply wondering why an electric can opener, or even more so a vacuum cleaner, is frivolous while this conference is not? After all, I doubt anyone attending this conference if given the choice would chose the conference if the price was never having the use again of an electric vacuum cleaner.

    And even if they would chose the conference, they would be hard pressed to get that same consensus from the mothers at home with children spread across the face of this land.

  4. “I had in mind the lowest use of all, i.e. not having conference because conferences like this are a creature of modern ‘frivolous’ use of energy. Or at least it appears that way to me.”

    So all conferences are frivolous? If so, are they all equally frivolous? What about conferences that occurred prior to modernity’s frivolous use of energy?

    A can-opener can be called frivolous because it’s unnecessary for the task at hand. A conference is also “unnecessary,” but not in the same sense as the can opener. It’s like comparing a leaf-blower to an art gallery. But you know this.

  5. Rob G., writes “So all conferences are “frivolous”?”

    Probably, since it’s rather difficult to think of one that would be less of a disregard for the signs than a home vacuum cleaner. To wit : “frivolous use and spending, on massive myopia with respect to natural limits, and on a willful disregard for the signs, by now ubiquitous, that a habitable world is not compatible with electric can openers, air-conditioned acre-eater combines, and the power of an upright in the palm of your hand.”

    As a wrote above. If mothers at home with children were given the same limited natural resource and forced to choose between the conference or her vacuum cleaner, I have no doubt virtually all would choose their vacuum cleaners as the less frivolous. A choice strikes me as common sense.

    So why do those here choose the conference while calling a home vacuum cleaner frivolous?

  6. Ask the hypothetical husbands of these same wives whether their leaf-blower or the Frick Gallery is more frivolous. What would they say? And that would prove what, exactly?

    I don’t think that anyone here is saying that vacuum cleaners per se are frivolous. Given the ubiquity of wall-to-wall carpeting they have become somewhat of a necessity. The frivolousness arises when they are simultaneously turned into toys AND touted as indispensible. In this manner the luxury playthings of the upper class eventually become “necessities” for the rest of us, and we unwittingly become dependent on them. We all get sucked into the acquire-discard-repeat cycle.

    One purpose of the FPR conference would be to discuss matters of this sort in order to encourage folks to break out of these cycles. That’s the opposite of frivolous in my book.

  7. Rob G writes : “Ask the hypothetical husbands of these same wives whether their leaf-blower . . . And that would prove what, exactly?”

    Not much, because leaf blowers are a paradigm frivolous consumerism. Where as what a mother says in regard to vacuums and washing machines falls within the category of common sense.

    Which is really what this all comes down to. Is it common sense to choose flying across the country to some conference a reasonable use of energy when given that a vacuum is said to not be a reasonable use?

    Vacuum cleaners are more in the category of an electric clothes washing machines. They may have been previously only available to the upper class, but the same can be said of indoor plumbing and electricity. My mother grew up with neither on a farm in eastern Colorado, but code doesn’t even allow a house to be built without them because they are now common to life. Just as modern healthcare is common to life.

    Given unsustainable use of natural resources, choosing what is common to everyday life lived in a preference to flying to conferences seems reasonable to me.

    Of course, I don’t care one way or the other if they all fly off to the Front Porch conference, my only interest is why the choice of using an unsustainable resource to fly to a conference in preference to common life lived by average americans?

  8. “my only interest is why the choice of using an unsustainable resource to fly to a conference in preference to common life lived by average americans?”

    You could ask this about anything that’s a non-necessity. Is driving thirty minutes to an art gallery more or less preferable than spending an equivalent amount of money on a new toaster? The question doesn’t really make much sense.

  9. Rob G. writes : “You could ask this about anything that’s a non-necessity. . . The question doesn’t really make much sense.”

    I don’t want to beat a dead horse hear by repeating myself over and over again, but perhaps I need to.

    The question is very simple. Why is a vacuum cleaner frivolous while this conference is not? Given that the Front Porch Republic does describe a hand held electric vacuum cleaner as a frivolous use of a limited natural resource. Where as in contrast they obviously don’t think this conference is a frivolous use of a limited natural resource.

  10. I suppose that we can take the “conversation” to reductio ad infinititum or even worse to reductio ad absurdum in that if one did away with cans altogether, one would need no can opener in any form. The point is, I believe, that one should not become unnecessarily addicted to items or gadgets which undermine familial and local sustainability. A hand-operated can opener, which can be something as simple as a modified knife or an old P-38, devices which can be maintained for a long time or a lifetime even, does not encumber one with dependence on the power grid and the costs thereoff and the often built-in obsolescence of the more “sophisticated” electrical devices. Save for the person with crippling arthritis, most people buy the electric can opener because we like to feel progressive, because most folks have one, and because we are quite susceptible to advertizing.

    I make these decisions very often: an ax over a chain saw; splitting wood myself over a mechanical splitter; a rake over a blower; a hammer over a nail gun. If I had the proper fencing which is in its initial outlay too expensive for my current budget, I would opt for goats over a zero turn mower; for were the former to fail me, I could turn them out for the coyotes to eat or eat them myself; when the latter fails me, I must spend time and money fixing it. I have a well which uses an electrical pump. Today’s tropical storm, passing just to the east of us, threatened to knock out our electricity and cut off our water. The good spouse immediately wanted us to consider a big propane-driven generator. My response was a well with a hand pump and a cistern system for water; a good wood stove to cook on; and canning vegetables and meats in jars rather than putting them in freezers in which they spoil when the electricity goes off.

    A Front Porch Conference now and again is not a valid counterpoint in the discussion.

  11. robert m peters writes : “A Front Porch Conference now and again is not a valid counterpoint in the discussion.”

    Considering that one round trip to a conference would use more energy than a 40 year span of a vacuum used to clean a house, the comparison does serve well as a counterpoint because the article in question described a hand held vacuum as a frivolous use of that same energy.

    If there is a limited amount of energy, then choices do have to be made as to where to use that limit resource, no different than a man makes choices with his limit paycheck. Given the choice of the conference or clean carpets in his house over the next 40 years, what is the better use of that paycheck?

  12. love the girls

    My point and your point are incommensurable since I am not directly interested in the costs, although costs are a factor, but in running a sustainable household free of the ideology of progress, consumerism, and dependency. While I do not plan to become an Amish farmer, I do attempt to restrain progress, consumerism and dependency, by avoiding gadgets which run on electricity and fuel, such as electric can openers, were practicable, with practicable being determined by my skills, my fiances and my duties to others. I am always amused and perturbed by those who purchase all sorts of exercise machines but who mow their grass with a riding mower or have it so mowed by others. Of course, in my grandmothers’ generation, Southerners did not have lawns. That would save us all a lot.

    Again, for my purpose in opposing the electric can opener, the question of attending a conference does not apply. If I opt to go to a conference, I consider time, money and need and determine whether or not to go and how I might go based on those considerations. To a conference at my church just up the road, I would walk; to a conference in Natchitoches, I would drive a car; to a conference in Chicago, I would fly. When it comes to can openers, things are different. A good, non-electric can opener, might actually cost more than one of the electrical gadgets; however, once I have that opener, I know that it will last a lifetime, much more likely than with the electric one, and that I am not dependent on the electrical grid.

  13. Mr. Peters,

    I’m rather at a loss to understand why you would reference my posts if your’s are incommensurate to them.

    I too appreciate the aesthetics of a push reel mower for the same reason that I also prefer to dig up my garden with a shovel and use a hand saw to cut and prune the trees and the ol’ ax for chopping up the fire wood.

    And I too consider time, money and need, (as well as my carbon footprint), in choosing to use an electric hand held vacuum cleaner to clean the household rugs and carpet. A choice the Front Porch Republic has chosen to use as signifying a frivolous choice.

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