Technology and Freedom: The Virtuous Circle

Policy Backgrounders | Government | Regulations

No. 158
Friday, January 10, 2003
by James K. Glassman


Introduction

1Without freedom, technologies that enhance human welfare would be scarce rather than abundant. Technology and freedom are symbiotic, forming a virtuous circle. By examining the relationship between them, we can find ways to preserve the circle and to accelerate activity within it.

"Technology spreads human freedom by empowering individuals"

Friedrich von Hayek used the word freedom carefully. He began The Constitution of Liberty with a quotation from Abraham Lincoln: "The world has never had a good definition of freedom."2 Hayek agreed. He frequently used "freedom" in the sense of a personal state of being - one "in which a man is not subject to coercion by the arbitrary will of another or others."3 A good definition of technology is "the application of science, especially to industrial or commercial objectives."4 With respect to the relationship between the two, three conclusions emerge:

  • Technology is a force for good.
  • Free individuals will naturally develop better technology.
  • The major roadblocks to technological development are political.

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