Abstract: Liberty is hardly the 'natural' order of things; usually states have been either too weak to protect individuals or too strong for people to protect themselves from despotism. There is also a happy Western myth that where freedom exists, it's a steady state, arrived at by 'enlightenment'. But this static view is a fantasy; rather, the corridor to liberty is narrow and stays open only through a self-reinforcing struggle between state and society - between elites and citizens. Liberty depends on a delicate balance between the two. This struggle - which affects peace and prosperity - is incessant, and its outcome not predetermined. There is no inevitability to how countries move in and out of the corridor; Europe's political and economic ascendancy, for example, was not guaranteed. Particular historical relationships in each country between state and society affect their political and economic trajectory, and therefore influence how countries respond to events and shocks. So the future is up for grabs.