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Pax Commercialis? Wealth and Virtue A House Divided Contents 8. The Market Synthesis The Lockean Legacy Liberty and the Law Market Freedom Republicanism in Eclipse Democratization and Industrialization Majority Rule and Majority Tyranny Wage Labor and Wage Slavery The Market versus the State My most immediate debts are to Sonja Amadae, Jennifer Mitzen, andMichael Neblo, my splendid colleagues at Ohio State, who made up anad hoc reading group before which many of the arguments that followwere first aired.

Their constructive but candid or candid but constructive comments proved crucial at several important points. Special thanks arealso due to my former colleague Clarissa Hayward and my new colleaguePiers Turner, who offered helpful advice at the early and late stages ofwriting, respectively. I accept full responsibility for the errors that remain despite their efforts,and also though more reluctantly for any names that I have inadver-tently omitted from this list. Preliminary work on this project was done during a sabbatical year asSesquicentenary Fellow in the Discipline of Government and InternationalRelations at the University of Sydney,Australia, and I thank my colleaguesthere once again for helping to make my stay such a pleasant andproductive one.

Early material was presented both at Sydney and at theAcknowledgments AcknowledgmentsxUniversity of Wisconsin—Madison, and I am grateful to the audiences onthose occasions, and in particular to Rick Avramenko and Richard Boyd,my former colleagues at Wisconsin, for their thoughtful feedback.

Thanks are due to the respondents and audienceson those occasions for their comments. The book is dedicated to my wife, Karen, who has been my constantcompanion through the seven long years that I have been working onit — years that encompassed, among other things, three moves and thebirth of our second child. Without her love and support, and that of mybeautiful daughters, I never would have made it to the end.

Thank you,lucky stars! Thus the language offreedom, which was once highly moralized and fundamentally inegali-tarian, is now fundamentally if only formally egalitarian and has beenlargely drained of moral content: Freedom, in colloquial terms, meansdoing as one likes and allowing others to do likewise. Introduction2changes in usage are of more than merely historical interest, because free-dom has over the same period of time become one of the most potentwords in our political vocabulary, and the effort to expand the use of themarket as a means of realizing social outcomes has greatly intensified,especially in recent decades.

Indeed, it seems likely that these develop-ments are related; that the widespread and growing influence of marketideology depends in part on its ability to speak in the language and withthe authority of freedom. In this book I seek to explain how the market came to hold such aprivileged place in modern thinking about freedom. I do this by con-trasting this market-centered way of thinking with the older view, rootedin the tradition of republican political thought, that it largely displaced.

Republican freedom makes a natural foil in this inquiry for at least tworeasons. First, it is the republican tradition to which the partisan offreedom or liberty — I will use the terms interchangeably would neces-sarily have appealed throughout most of the political history of the West. It follows that any gains that have been made by market freedom in themodern period have come at the expense of the republican view, andthat a natural place to begin in trying to account for the state of currentdebates about freedom is by examining how the republican conceptionof freedom was confronted with, altered in response to, and finally wasovercome by the spread of market norms and practices.

Second, there hasbeen an explosion of scholarly interest in republican thought over the lastseveral decades, and as a result its ethical and institutional entailmentshave now been thoroughly explored in a contemporary idiom. We aretherefore in a better position than ever to explore the relationship betweenrepublican and market freedom without falling into anachronism. Other notable statements include Michael J.

Highlights A republican politics aims at genuinely collective control oversocial outcomes; an ideal market society is one in which social outcomesare determined as far as possible by the market itself and are thereforethe product of an indefinite number of self-interested decisions by peo-ple who are unknown and therefore unaccountable to one another.


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Eachof these ideals has its own attractions and poses its own problems, andthe contrast between them raises a number of questions about the mean-ing of the word freedom, the value that we assign or should assign tobeing free, and the role that the appeal to freedom plays in organizingpolitical thinking and guiding political action. What reasons do we havefor valuing freedom, and what are the necessary conditions for its enjoy-ment?

Why did the idea of market freedom hold so little appeal beforethe modern period, and how can we explain its rise to dominance?

Whatis the relationship between republican and market freedom today: Arethey contradictory to, merely compatible with, or in some way depen-dent on or complementary of one another? Can these kinds of freedombe pursued at the same time, and to the extent that they cannot, why isthis? Which of them, or which combination of them, provides the mostattractive and feasible model of social and political life? My aim in raising these questions is not to demonstrate the superior-ity of one of these kinds of freedom to the other, or to argue that wemust somehow choose between them.

Rather, I am motivated by a morespecific practical concern. Norton, ; J. Introduction4exaggerates the actual merits of their proposals, as great as these may be.


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By learning to see market freedom as something that was like republi-can freedom itself invented — by treating it as the contingent product ofa particular set of material and ideological circumstances — I hope thatwe can become more alert to the various ways in which the appeal tofreedom shapes and distorts our thinking about politics today.

By payingattention to the various ways in which republican and market freedomcan reinforce and undermine each other, I hope that we can become bet-ter able to judge the relative merits of allowing a given range of socialoutcomes to be determined by political or economic means without theheavy thumb of freedom weighing on only one side of the scale. In thebroadest sense, then, the aim of this book is a very traditional one: tolook to the past in order to see the present more clearly. The Problem of ConstraintAny discussion of the meaning and value of freedom has to begin by com-ing to terms with the bewildering range of meanings that the concept hasassumed both in popular and in scholarly discourse.

The existence of thiskaleidoscope of meanings is due in part to the fact that freedom is one ofthe most potent words in our political vocabulary: Political actors oftenbegin with the assumption that freedom is, after security, the first pub-lic good to be pursued and then go on to define the word in such a waythat it can be associated with whatever policies they happen to favor —often ruling out competing definitions as confused or illegitimate in theprocess. Here already there is a fundamental contrast between modern andpre-modern usage.

Most of us will agreethat it is better, all things being equal, to be rich than to be poor, andthat many, perhaps most, of the people who are currently poor are not Introduction 5justifiably so — just as Aristotle apparently believed that many of thepeople who were slaves in 4th-century Athens were not justifiably so.

However, these moral claims do not followfrom the use of the word poor as ineluctably as the analogous claims fol-low from the use of the word unfree. It is tempting to try to explain this shift in usage by looking to themore general decline of status hierarchies in the modern world, which hasmade social goods like freedom that were once the exclusive possessionof a privileged few available at least in principle to a much wider rangeof people.

It is nevertheless the case that to successfullydescribe a particular cause as a struggle for freedom is to give it a senseof urgency that is not often found in struggles for equality, or even forjustice. Nor can the decline of status hierarchies account by itself for theclose association between freedom and the market: As I have just pointedout, the social and political significance of differences in economic statushas been greatly amplified in the modern period, and such differences arewidely regarded as being morally acceptable, especially insofar as they3Politics, book 1, chapter 6.

See also S. Benn andW.

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Book Review: The Invention of Market Freedom

Introduction6can plausibly be attributed to the workings of the market. Indeed, thepartisans of freedom on the one hand and of equality and justice on theother disagree most notably over the question of whether markets pro-vide an adequate and morally defensible means of distributing goods toindividuals. The constraint may takeany number of forms, from the tangible — a set of chains, the four wallsof a prison — to the intangible — a pattern of behavior, a social norm. Itmay lie outside the agent, like an occupying army, or inside, like a desireor compulsion.

It may operate individually or collectively, either in its ori-gins or in its effects. It may actually be in force, or it may be only poten-tially so — as when one is unfree in the sense that one lacks a certain kindof legal standing or protection.

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The struggle for freedom is thus always astruggle against some more or less particular and identifiable thing: Weaim for the breaking of chains, the discrediting of a pernicious socialnorm, the overcoming of a compulsion, the decamping of an occupyingarmy, the repeal or amendment of an oppressive legal code. The association of freedom with the absence of constraint may seem toaccount for the special potency of appeals to freedom, because it is alwaystactically useful when the aims of a cause can be expressed in terms of theremoval of an identifiable obstacle.

This is especially true when collectiveaction is necessary, because it is usually much easier to get people to agreethat something should be eliminated than to get them to agree about whatexactly should be put in its place. The latter question is unavoidable indebates about equality and justice: In striving to realize these ends we arenecessarily engaged in the difficult work of thinking through the ideals thatwe share in common and designing policies and institutions to fit them. Bycontrast, to the extent that the pursuit of freedom can be associated withthe mere removal of constraint, it allows us to set these questions aside.

It is no accident, according to this line of argument, that freedom is theleading political value in a world that otherwise disagrees fundamentallyabout moral and political questions. Nor is it an accident that the greatpopular mobilizations of our time, from Montgomery to Moscow, haveaimed at the removal of specific constraints — paradigmatically, oppressive Introduction 7laws and regimes — and that they have tended to lose direction and cohe-sion once these negative aims have been achieved.

However, we cannot simply equate freedom with the absence of con-straint, if only because constraint is such a ubiquitous part of humanexperience that to do so would rob the word of critical force. We mustinstead make judgments about what kinds of constraint are salientenough, and salient in the right way, that questions of freedom andunfreedom arise with respect to them.

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Debates about the meaning andvalue of freedom therefore tend to center around what we might call theproblem of constraining the idea of constraint. For a sophisticated treatment of constraints, including threats andinducements, in probabilistic terms, see Felix E. Introduction8be recognized as such, or is feeling free for all practical purposes the samething as being free? In other words, the association of freedom with the absence of con-straint immediately raises the question of why certain kinds of constraintplay a central role in debates about freedom, and other seemingly no lesssignificant kinds of constraint do not.

We are therefore led back to thedifficult questions that the appeal to constraint was supposed to help usavoid in the first place. Nevertheless, if the effort to explain the salienceof freedom by appealing to the salience of constraint is a dead end theo-retically speaking, it helps us to see more clearly what is in need of expla-nation empirically speaking. Specifically, it directs our attention to thequestion of why the modern language of freedom is so persistently neg-ative in character, despite the fact that the appeal to the removal of con-straint necessarily entails — and was once widely understood to entail — anappeal to various positive claims about human beings and the world inwhich they act.

For a useful, if inconclusive, discus-sion of this issue, see Richard J. Introduction 9of the state, but difficult or odd to speak of the market as a freedom-reducing institution — especially in light of the fact that, as we will see,the opposite view was once the prevailing one. Inconsistencies like thisgive us reason to suspect that ideological rather than logical imperativesare at work, and the best way to identify the ideological underpinningsof a given point of view is to bring a different ideological perspective tobear. Thus if we want to make sense of the central role that market free-dom plays in modern political discourse, we should start by examiningthe ideological conflicts in which this way of thinking was forged andthrough which it rose to dominance.

By framing my discussion in ideological terms, I am departing from thepractice of those theorists of freedom who treat ideology, when they treatit at all, as something that distorts our thinking from without rather thananimating it from within.