Markets Without Limits is a clear philosophical defense of the claim that there are no inherent limits to markets. What the authors Brennan and JaworsMarkets Without Limits is a clear philosophical defense of the claim that there are no inherent limits to markets. What the authors Brennan and Jaworski (B&J) mean by this is that “if you may do it for free, then you may do it for money” (10). So, if you may possess water for free, you may also sell it. If you may have sex without paying for it, you may also buy it. Additionally, since you may not possess child pornography, you may not sell or buy it either. Since you may not murder for free, you may not murder for a price. These are not limits on the markets per se. They are limits on human behavior irrespective of markets.
The book is clear in two important ways. First, stylistically, it is written in a straightforward way. The chapters are relatively short: making them more focused and to the point. There is little in the way of jargon – and they make an effort to define carefully unavoidable technical verbiage.
Second, they make great effort to make sure that the arguments they are criticizing or advancing are presented as clearly and as logically as possible. I found myself frequently raising a concern or possible objection in the margins only to have that concern or objection discussed in the next paragraph or section. It got a little eerie at times—as if they were reading my mind!
They do a great job of presenting the anti-commodification arguments clearly and fairly. In fact, I think they do a better job of making the anti-commodification case than most of the anti-commodification theorists themselves. Their broad topology of the different criticisms helps to clarify and focus the arguments for these points and their criticisms.
B&J explicitly take a non-foundationalist approach; that is, they do not tie or base their arguments on prior moral or political commitments. They want their argument to work with whatever commitments with which the reader might start. There is rhetorical value in this method: you don’t get bogged down in questions of ethical theory, etc. You get to start by accepting (at least hypothetically) the commitments of your theoretical opponent and claim that you still get to your conclusions. The downside is that you can sometimes seem to accept too much; or that your theory becomes too detached from its foundations. Indeed, it can distract you from actually making the case from its foundations. B&J get close to these dangers at times, but seem to skate by without cross over.
They make an important – and in retrospect obvious – distinction between anti-commodification and business ethics. Anti-commodification, they argue, is the view that there are goods, services, etc., that people may rightly possess or use in some manner outside of a market, but for which it would be wrong to sell or buy. That is, there are things that you may do for free, but you may not do for money. This view is, broadly, that the market takes something that was permissible but then in virtue of being put in a market turns it into something impermissible. This is the view B&J are challenging.
They differentiate this view from business ethics. Business ethics is about the right and wrong ways to engage in markets. They accept that there are right and wrong ways to sell things; that there very well could be and often are legitimate time, place, and manner restrictions on individual markets. These are not inherent limits to markets per se; they are only limitations on a specific manner that something is being sold. The essence of B&J’s argument is that anti-commodification theorists have to show that there is no time, place, or manner to sell or buy the good or service, not just that there is a time, place or manner in which it would be wrong to sell or buy the good or service.
Often in discussions of the legitimacy of markets, this difference between commodification and business ethics gets confused and anti-commodification theorists make a business ethics point (X shouldn’t be sold in this way) but take themselves for having made an anti-commodification point (X shouldn’t be sold, period.). B&J show that these are different points: they require different arguments and different evidence. In some ways, if they are right about this difference (and I think they are), then anti-commodification arguments start to look pretty superficial. The real (and interesting) ethical issues are in the business ethics domain.
I do wonder, though, how effective this book and its arguments will be against the anti-commodificationists. I can easily see them saying, ok fine. So there are no inherent limits to markets, but there are lots and lots of incidental limits. So many, they might argue, that the practical difference between inherent and incidental gets lost. I think B&J would respond by saying; so what? The argument here is just that there are no inherent limits. If that point is won, then we can move on to the different incidental limits (and into Business Ethics). But they will have shown (and the anti-commodification theorists will have to have acknowledged) that markets in themselves are not corrupting, evil, toxic, or what not. And if B&J’s book does that, then it is will indeed be a monumentally important book. ...more
Andrew J. Cohen’s Toleration starts with the “aim to provide a clear and lively introduction to the issues surrounding toleration” (1). He successfullAndrew J. Cohen’s Toleration starts with the “aim to provide a clear and lively introduction to the issues surrounding toleration” (1). He successfully, in my view, achieves this aim. He grounds the concept of toleration historically in the history of western liberalism. Then, after a theoretical interlude, he presents several different principles that (might) ground and guide toleration. The most important of these is the Harm Principle. Cohen’s account of toleration, unsurprisingly, is rooted largely (and rightly in my view) in Mill’s On Liberty. He closes with an analysis of the general value and good of toleration. All in all, it is clear and it is lively; it is written, for the most part, in a direct and accessible way. So much so that this would make a great text for an introduction to political philosophy class.
I say “for the most part” above because there were a few sections that got bogged down in a bit. First, the theoretical section of chapter 2 seems to play more to a particular trend in professional political philosophy. The value of this chapter in relation to the rest of book was unclear to me. Second, Cohen’s discusses an argument for basing toleration on a principle of benefiting others (4B). This was the one section of the book I found hard to follow; the argument here being opaque. This might be much more to do with the difficulty of trying to articulate a view that is itself unclear than to a deficiency on Cohen’s part.
Cohen is careful to distinguish toleration from relativism, subjectivism, or non-judgmentalism. In fact, Cohen intends his view to be universal and it is based on a kind of objective morality. Moreover, the very idea or need for toleration depends on the prior fact of having judged someone (or his or her actions) to be objectionable.
The focus of the concept of toleration Cohen discusses is on non-interference. That is, we tolerate when have a principled reason for not interfering with someone else that we find in some way objectionable. This leaves open a question of whether or not toleration governs our interaction with others when it is not a matter of interference. That is, Shannon thinks that her co-worker Avi’s views about the treatment of animals to be deeply immoral. Assuming there is no issue of Shannon interfering with Avi, does toleration speak to how she might interact with Avi? Is she wrong to shun him? To refuse to participate in committees at work that Avi is a part of? I suspect Cohen’s answer on this front is that if it doesn’t involve a question of interfering with Avi, then it is a different kind of moral question than the one with which he is dealing. That seems right in a way, but at the same time, it makes sense to speak of Shannon not tolerating Avi.
Although relatively short (156 pp), Cohen’s book covers a lot of ground. It is a useful book for those interested in understand better the concept of toleration, its justification, its value, and its limits.
I was primed to love this book. I admire the main author, Michael Strong, and the previous work he has done (both in terms of his writing and activismI was primed to love this book. I admire the main author, Michael Strong, and the previous work he has done (both in terms of his writing and activism). Others I respect have recommended the book as well. However, though there are great things about the book, I was left somewhat disappointed.
I like the ideas in the book: many of them are important and essential for human progress and development. The goals of the authors are worthwhile and idealistic.
Nevertheless, I was hoping for more focus and specifics on the different entrepreneurs and the kind of things they did to help alleviate and deal with different kinds of problems. There was some of that, but not nearly enough.
The chapters were uneven. Some had great nuggets of insight but others were either too foofy or too new-agey. The best parts where the ones that focused on real entrepreneurs and their work. The weaker parts where the attempts at pop psychology and self-help that made up the chapters on the FLOW vision.
When Tomasi’s book first came in 2012, it got a lot of attention in libertarian circles. He challenged a lot of preconceived notions about libertarianWhen Tomasi’s book first came in 2012, it got a lot of attention in libertarian circles. He challenged a lot of preconceived notions about libertarianism, fairness, and justice. Tomasi sets out in this book to create a kind of hybrid between the commitments typically associated with libertarians (and/or classical liberalism, market liberalism, etc.) and the commitments normally tied to what he calls High Liberalism (welfare liberalism, modern liberalism, egalitarian liberalism, etc.).
A more provocative way to put what Tomasi gives us in this book is a Rawlsian libertarianism. I over simply here, but Tomasi essentially takes the core premises of Rawls’ conception of justice as fairness and uses it to defend a kind of libertarianism. Or rather, he argues that a proper understanding of what is required by justice as fairness and the moral premises behind it is best realized in a regime that thoroughly protects economic liberty (alongside—and for similar reasons—political liberty). Further, the demands of social justice are best met under such a system as well.
Whatever you might ultimately think about the overall argument (and I remain skeptical though sympathetic), you have to give Tomasi credit for engaging in this huge revisionary project. At worst, it is an engaging and enlightening exercise to see what might happen if you accept Rawlsian starting points but add to it the moral importance of economic liberty. It’s an interesting way to learn about and further one’s understanding of Rawls (as well as economic liberty). At best, Tomasi has put forward a program the reunites the divided liberal house and sets it a more solid moral foundation.
Ultimately, I don’t think Tomasi’s project is successful on the latter account. This is because I do not think the moral foundations upon which the project is based are the correct ones. Nevertheless, the book is worth a read by anyone interested in liberty or justice. If you more libertarian minded, you will get a presentation of the modern liberal point of view that is fair, charitable, and clear. This better prepares you to understand the philosophical viewpoint that you are up against without misrepresentation or oversimplification. If you more in the Rawlsian vein, you ought to read it because it will challenge many of the ways you might think about justice as fairness and related ideas. Either way, you may not come to agree with Tomasi but you will most certainly learn something.
Brief it is, but still manages to be a thorough and extensive history and discussion of liberty and freedom. Convassing many different conceptions ofBrief it is, but still manages to be a thorough and extensive history and discussion of liberty and freedom. Convassing many different conceptions of liberty, it is not a polemic or didactic work. It is thoughtful and well-researched. The authors deal with interesting questions and problems that arise within the history of freedom, including some of the contemporary social psych literature that is sometimes cast as providing a basis to reject the claims of classical liberalism. I hope my students find it as useful and as interesting as I did....more
A concise, engaging, and clear history of this important and fundamental liberty. The depth of the research that is packed into a relatively short booA concise, engaging, and clear history of this important and fundamental liberty. The depth of the research that is packed into a relatively short book is amazing; indeed, I found myself reading the footnotes as closely as the text itself. The only negative thing I would say about the book is that it ends, understandably, on such a negative note. It is depressing as the full effect of the court's neglect and twisting of such key liberties sets in. I would have liked an epilogue with a look to the future on how to restore the constitutional protection of the liberty of contract. Then again, maybe that future is as bleak as the past....more
**spoiler alert** If Friedman is right about his forecast, it will be an interesting future indeed. More than likely, though, it will be even far more**spoiler alert** If Friedman is right about his forecast, it will be an interesting future indeed. More than likely, though, it will be even far more interesting than this. The book was a lot of fun and surprisingly gripping. He weaves together a "history" of the next century in a clear and readable way. His method is one of mainly looking at historical geopolitical patterns and then applying them to the next century. There are some surprising things that Friedman predicts. Poland! Who'd have guessed it.
Friedman seems to be at his best when discussing these historical patterns; as he applies them to the future, I am less convinced. It is fun (like reading science fiction or alternative history), but unlikely that Friedman has guessed right.
My biggest issue with Friedman is in economics. Friedman proceeds on the following assumptions (sometimes implicit/sometimes explicit) which I think are wrong: 1) wars stimulate the economy. (1a: massive debt incurred to fight wars don't matter but if they do, they stimulate the economy) 2) the relative economic freedom or lack thereof doesn't seem to play a role in his thinking about how the countries will evolve. 3) he seems to put the cart before the horse on military and economic power (e.g. US military power is what gives the US its economic power).