Free Market Fairness

In This Review

Free Market Fairness
by John Tomasi
Princeton University Press, 2012
368 pp. $35.00

The author, a political philosopher at Brown University, is troubled not only by the political polarization of contemporary American politics but also by the apparent mutual incompatibility, and hence mutual antagonism, between libertarianism and claims for social justice that require some redistribution of income. Tomasi casts a skeptical eye on the supposed followers of classical liberal economists, such as Friedrich Hayek, and those of justice-oriented philosophers, such as John Rawls, arguing cogently that a proper reading of the two schools of thought reveals no deep philosophical mismatch. But it seems that their respective acolytes may be so ideologically committed that they don’t really care what the masters actually wrote. Tomasi suggests something of a compromise between the two approaches, which he dubs “free market fairness” or “market democracy”: recognizing that self-respect and dignity flow from making choices among opportunities, rather than from being told what to do by government officials, but also requiring governments to ensure that opportunities are, in fact, available.