This book was conceived in London and traveled across four different continents before completion. It is therefore quintessentially about freedom since, beside being its subject matter, freedom figures prominently among its productive factors. Which freedom? Undoubtedly, the negative freedoms offered by the political and civil institutions developed by the Western civilization: freedom of movements, freedom of research, freedom of association in the pursuit of a common end – a scientific endeavor, in this case. None of the traveling and discussions that led to the ideas unfolded in these pages would have been possible without these freedoms.
Yet, freedom is as much about economic, political, and civil institutions as it is about finding a unique way to design, interpret, and implement one's own course in life. In Capitalism and Freedom, Milton Friedman said that “no frontiers of human knowledge and understanding, in literature, in technical possibilities, or in the relief of human misery, [have been achieved] in response to governmental directives. Their achievements were the product of individual genius, of strongly held minority views, of a social climate permitting variety and diversity.” If institutions matter to the shape of freedom, more so does self-mastery, the affirmation of each person's unique identity and view of the good, the perception that we have to steer our way among the innumerable accidents and circumstances that characterize our days in this world.