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Freedom plays a central role in human progress, yet that role is vastly underappreciated and aspects of it are still not well understood. What is the relationship between economic freedom and personal freedom? Or between economic freedom and more specific freedoms such as freedom of speech, association, or religion? What is the effect of personal freedoms on economic outcomes and other indicators of progress? These are important questions, but they have been neglected as subjects of empirical research.

The Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity proposes a project to rigorously explore freedom’s role in human progress by conducting empirical research. Vast databases can now be exploited to look at the ways in which various types of freedom--economic, personal, or civil--interact with, or even sustain, one another.

Cato will assemble an ideologically diverse Advisory Board to commission research from leading scholars that explores these data. Charles Calomiris of Columbia University will serve as chair, and other members will include William Easterly of New York University, Simeon Djankov of the World Bank, and James Gwartney of Florida State University. The board will commission 8-10 papers from leading scholars, including Advisory Board members and other leading academics. Cato will organize three academic colloquia at which scholars will present their papers, which will subsequently be submitted to premier academic journals for publication. These findings will then be made widely accessible through policy papers, articles and op-eds, public events, and an interactive web platform.

This work will fill a void in the academic literature, which has generally neglected freedom as an important subject of study, and will contribute new knowledge about the importance of freedom. The project will produce a notably increased appreciation, especially among thought leaders and policymakers, for the role that freedom plays in human flourishing.