I’d like to introduce a new regular column on the Learn Liberty Blog – The “Big Liberty Question!” In this feature, we ask professors and experts to offer their micro-thoughts on major questions.

For our first Big Liberty Question, we ask:

“Today, January 1st, 2017 is the 154th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, a watershed moment in the history of liberty. What will be the next watershed moment in the expansion of liberty that our grandchildren will discuss in the history books?”

daviesAntony Davies, Professor of Economics at Duquesne University: This one already happened, but I’d say Uber’s founding. Uber is the exemplar of technological change occurring faster than the government can respond. As the pace of technological change accelerates, we will soon reach a point at which government becomes largely moot – being unable to institute regulations before target markets and products are supplanted by new and better innovations. The government of the future will be doomed to regulating the economy of the past.


Howard Baetjer Jr., Professor of Economics at Towson University: My best guess is the repeal of marijuana prohibition. It will matter because (adult) people should be free to ingest what they wish, yes. But it will matter more for the great reduction in murder, mayhem, imprisonment, racial tension, corruption of police forces, and civil liberties violations that accompany prohibition.

Jason SorensJason Sorens, Lecturer in the Department of Government at Dartmouth College: The arrival of the Enlightenment in majority-Muslim societies. Today, majority-Muslim countries are a bastion of authoritarian oppression. The last majority-Muslim democracy, Indonesia, is displaying many of the same symptoms that plagued Malaysia and Turkey before illiberalism took over there. The Enlightenment tamed Christianity and made it compatible with liberalism. Can it do the same to Islam? The success of America’s Muslims suggests it is possible, that a reformed Islam — perhaps heretical by most Muslims’ standards today — can make the religion safe for liberty.

Tom W. Bell, Professor of Law at Chapman University: The next big watershed moment in the expansion of liberty will come…when liberty expands onto the water. Yep: Seasteading. Good news from French Polynesia makes it look more likely than ever that humans will soon enjoy large floating communities. That will open new frontiers in freedom, allowing people to discover better ways of living together than politicians have managed to scrape together. And meanwhile, back on land, competitive pressure will force governments to treat their citizen-consumers with newfound respect. Liberty will thus come back ashore.


Sarah Skwire, Senior Fellow at Liberty Fund, Inc.: I think (and hope) that our grandchildren will look back at the Patriot Act with the same sort of sickened horror with which we look at the Alien and Sedition Acts. It’s a watershed moment in the loss of our liberty.