I have dedicated the book to those who reflect on what it means to be a flourishing human.
When individuals think about their own personal development, they are reflecting on what it means to be a flourishing human. I believe that reflection on what it means to be a flourishing human also holds the key to understanding the importance of liberty, and its role in economic development.
What is the book about?
The book explains how freedom (liberty) enables individuals to flourish in different ways without colliding, how it fosters progress and enables growth of opportunities, and how it supports personal development by enabling individuals to exercise self-direction.
The importance of self-direction is a theme of the book. The introductory chapter explains that wise and well-informed self-direction is integral to flourishing because it helps individuals to attain health and longevity, positive human relationships, psychological well-being, and an ability to live in harmony with nature.
Part I discusses natural rights and the evolution of freedom since ancient times. It explains how most people living in the liberal democracies today came to enjoy greater freedom than their ancestors.
Part II discusses progress. It explains how cultural change made economic progress possible by supporting the rule of law, liberty, and interpersonal trust, as well as the advance of knowledge, respect for innovators and tolerance of diversity. It notes that progress has led to increasingly widespread opportunities for people to meet their aspirations. It also discusses reasons for apprehension about the continuation of progress.
Part III considers how it is possible for individuals to meet the challenges of self-direction and to enhance their potential to flourish by investing in personal development. It explains that while the exercise of practical wisdom has always been integral to the flourishing of individuals, it has become commonplace for people to aspire to exercise meaningful self-direction over their lives to a greater extent than has ever been possible in the past.
The main message of the book is that people who live in Western liberal democracies should count their blessings. They have many blessings to count!
What are reviewers saying about the book?
Doug Rasmussen, a philosopher, and joint author with Douglas Den Uyl of a trilogy of books about liberty and human flourishing writes:
“Freedom, Progress, and Human Flourishing is a highly informed, but not an unduly technical, account of human flourishing and the need for a political/legal order that has the primary goal of protecting individual rights. This work is informed by not only philosophical but also by psychological and economic studies. This work provides an excellent entry point for deeper discussions of these fundamental claims.”
Readers who are seeking deeper discussions will find much to think about in the books by Rasmussen and Den Uyl: Norms of Liberty, The Perfectionist Turn, and The Realist Turn: Repositioning Liberalism.
Ron Duncan, a distinguished Australian economist with particular expertise in the economics and governance of developing countries, writes:
“With so much attention on identifying issues we should be unhappy about, Winton Bates' book is a welcome relief, given its emphasis on how much the lot of most people—particularly those in western liberal societies—has improved, why the improvements have taken place, and why they should continue. Its historical coverage of the philosophical issues underpinning the role of liberty in western progress should delight all serious thinkers.”
“This masterful feat of integration of a wide range of literature from philosophy, economics, political science, and the social sciences will inspire scholars to bring their disciplines together to advance the argument for a free society.”
What are my qualifications to write such a book?
I am an economist. I first became professionally involved in broad issues concerning human flourishing in the early 1990s. Before then, my career focused on public policy relating to economic development, international trade, productivity growth and technological progress. Whilst retaining my professional interest in such matters, I have become increasingly interested in economic history, happiness economics, behavioral economics, self-help psychology, politics, and Aristotelian philosophy. I have written extensively about freedom and flourishing and have been blogging on this site for about 12 years.
How do I perform when interviewed about my book?
Potential interviewers who need to make such an assessment should take a look at me being interviewed by Leah Goldrick. The interview entitled “Freedom Helps us Flourish” has been published on Leah’s Common Sense Ethics channel on YouTube. The interview is also a useful source of background information about the book and its author.
Where can the book be purchased?
The book has been published by Hamilton Books and can be purchased at the Rowman and Littlefield web site: https://rowman.com/ISBN/9780761872665/Freedom-Progress-and-Human-Flourishing
It is also available from Amazon and some other book sellers. Australian readers interested in obtaining an electronic copy will find an attractive option at Amazon.com.au.