Talk: The Personal Freedom project


  • 26/04/2016
Sebastiano Bavetta will give a talk on  the personal freedom project.

About the project

The Personal Freedom project has been established since 2013 at the University of Pennsylvania to study the notion of autonomy (personal) freedom, its policy and political implications, and its role in bringing about social change. The project moved from the observation that knowledge about freedom, its measurement and its implications could benefit from the integration of personal freedom in the notion of negative freedom held dear by classical liberalism. It then studied the implications for classical liberalism, for policy and political design, and for social change. The project pursued four goals.

  1. To deepen our understanding of personal freedom and to strengthen its connection with the ideal of freedom supported by classical liberalism.

  2. To assess empirically whether personal freedom makes a difference in terms of economic performance, the functioning of political institutions, and immaterial prosperity.

  3. To analyze the role of personal freedom in bringing about social change.

  4. To measure empirically personal freedom.

The project connected the idea of personal freedom to the Millian conception of experiments in living. It argued that experiments in living are important to extend the justificatory basis of negative freedom in classical liberalism and provide an opportunity for a complementary and independent role of personal freedom in the analysis and measurement of freedom.

Once personal freedom is granted a life on its own, the project enquired whether it made a difference. This analysis has been conducted at the empirical level and has been guided by the idea that personal freedom must show an effect on performance (economic or institutional) that multiplies the impact of other measures of freedom (cross-effect), in particular, of negative freedom. The existence of a cross effect emerged in the measurement of economic and institutional performance, as well as in the measurement of immaterial prosperity.

Personal freedom is also connected to social change. This connection emerges from the observation that social change is made possible through the crucial role played by trend setters. They are people who possess specific characteristics, foremost a substantial level of autonomy freedom. The project confirmed the role of trend setters and explored in details their psychological characteristics and the role of autonomy freedom.

About the event

Sebastiano will give a talk followed by a question and answer session. The event will be a brown bag lunch, guests are welcome to bring any food they wish to consume. It will begin at 12:00 and conclude at 13:30.

About Sebastiano

Sebastiano is Professor of Economics at the University of Palermo and visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania, where he teaches “Economics of Freedom” in the Philosophy, Politics and Economics Program. He received his Ph.D. in Philosophy of Economics from the London School of Economics. His research interests have been concerned with issues in positive and normative economics and in political theory. He has published several books, including The Economics of Freedom, with Pietro Navarra (Cambridge University Press, 2012). Jointly with Pietro, he directs the “Personal Freedom” project at the University of Pennsylvania.

RSVP by email or call 0207 799 8900.