Many people have wondered how technological progress will affect political, economic, and civil freedoms. With the rise of encryption software, the National Security Agency's Echelon worldwide surveillance system, and the FBI's Carnivore e-mail snooping program, this subject is no longer the exclusive domain of speculative thinkers or futurists, it is the subject of intense public-policy debate. Will privacy-enhancing technology improve faster than privacy-threatening technology? Should the government mandate privacy standards? Should it enforce contracts in cyberspace, or would private law do a better job? Economist, physicist, and legal scholar David Friedman discussed these and related questions about technological change and the case for and against government involvement.
Robert Higgs speaks at a Future of Freedom Foundation conference in 1995 on the ratchet effect- the idea that governments tend to grab power during emergencies but do not cede it completely after each crisis abates- and gives his own analysis of what it might take to slow the growth of government in the 21st century.
In this lecture from 1987, Robert Higgs speaks about governments' tendency to bend or suspend individual rights during emergency situations. He reviews the history of this in the United States and questions whether the U.S. Constitution is strong enough to protect private rights in the face of an unending string of national crises.