Back to top

The Difference Between Freedom and “Unfreedom”


Published April 25, 2023

Hoover senior fellow Niall Ferguson explains why many comparisons of the modern-day United States to the unfree societies of the 1930s and 1940s are misapplied. Those tyrannies were so oppressive that individuals often weren’t allowed to meet and talk with one another late into the night without raising alarms for the regime. To pretend that those unfree societies are similar to what America has today is a gross misuse of history that dangerously misunderstands what living in a tyranny is actually like.

Discussion Questions:

  1. During the 1930s and 1940s, did free societies have to take on some aspects of unfree ones to fight them? Why?
  2. Why do people keep misapplying the history of the 1930s and the 1940s to today?

Additional Resources:

  • Read Niall Ferguson’s book The Square and the Tower. Available here.
  • Watch or listen to “Baby Busts and Bank Crashes: A Conversation with Demographer Nicholas Eberstadt” on GoodFellows. Available here.
  • Watch “Free Speech: Why Does It Matter?” on PolicyEd. Available here.