People have been seeking freedom for millennia but not freedom for all. Slaves, serfs, women, outsiders, and the defeated were not included. That changed in the last few centuries as the circle of those deserving freedom expanded. Evolution continues. Two centuries ago, slavery was alive in many nations, not just the United States; a century ago, women lacked full citizenship and the freedoms that go with it; more recently, sexual orientation is being removed as a barrier to freedom.
Yet, efforts to measure freedom have only emerged in the last quarter century or so. Unfortunately, these efforts have been flawed: blurring various definitions of confusing “other good things” with freedom, using subjective rather than objective measures, and either failing to account for economic freedom or focusing exclusively on it.
This project, sponsored by Canada’s Fraser Institute, Germany’s Liberales Institut, and the United States’ Cato Institute, focuses on creating the first comprehensive and conceptually consistent index of freedom, including economic freedom, and is based on the “negative” definition of freedom—in other words, the absence of barriers or coercion that prevent individuals from acting as they might wish.
We have held four seminars to explore the concept and how to development a way forward: the first in Atlanta, sponsored by Liberty Fund; two in Potsdam, sponsored by the Liberales Institut (Liberty Institute) of the Friedrich-Naumann-Foundation; and one in Washington, DC, sponsored by the Cato Institute.