Is The Free Market Fair?

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13 Scopus citations


ABSTRACT: While John Tomasi's Free Market Fairness is ambitious, provocative, and does much to reinvigorate debate about economic justice, his argument for market democracy is not compelling. I discuss two objections. First, I offer doubts about whether “thick” economic freedom is a condition of democratic legitimacy. While Tomasi raises the intriguing possibility that liberal commitments may justify a somewhat more expansive list of economic rights than traditionally recognized, he fails to give a well-worked-out account of these rights. Instead, he argues for unfettered economic liberty without adequately connecting it to citizens' self-authorship, or showing how it could feasibly be protected alongside other basic liberties. Second, I argue that a concern for citizens' agency and economic self-authorship should lead us to endorse a social-democratic regime, not a market-democratic one. Market democracy leaves out or heavily revises key aspects of justice as fairness as developed by Rawls, including fair equality of opportunity and the fair value of the political liberties. Moreover, while Tomasi claims that social democracy rests on a perfectionist prioritizing of citizens' status over their agency, I argue that social democracy is best defended on agency-based grounds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)423-438
Number of pages16
JournalCritical Review
StatePublished - Oct 2 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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