The Market: Freedom from Morality

David Gauthier

in Morals by Agreement

Published in print May 1987 | ISBN: 9780198249924
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191597497 | DOI:
The Market: Freedom from Morality

Show Summary Details


Economics celebrates an ideal of interaction free from all constraint, an ideal found in the perfectly competitive market, where equilibrium and optimality coincide. Morality can then be thought of as arising from market failure; the perfect market itself operates as a morally free zone, because the only behaviour it makes possible excludes those features of natural interaction that prevent individuals, each acting to maximize his own utility, from achieving optimality. We examine the conditions for market success—individual factor endowments, free individual activity, private goods, mutual unconcern, and the absence of all externalities—showing that these extend the freedom of the solitary individual to the context of interaction, and exclude all free‐riding, parasitism, and any form of partiality. But we note that the initial factor endowment of each person, taken as a given in market interaction, is itself subject to rational and moral scrutiny (a matter examined in Ch. 7). The chapter concludes with a discussion of utilitarian and Marxist objections to the market, both of which we reject.

Keywords: equilibrium; externality; factor endowment; free market; free‐riding; freedom; market; market failure; morally free zone; mutual unconcern; optimality; parasitism; partiality

Chapter.  12841 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.