By Serena Olsaretti

Liberty, Desert and the Market; A Philosophical Study
Editions:Paperback: $ 47.00 USD
ISBN: 9780521107815
ePub: $ 38.00 USD
ISBN: 9780511227295
Hardcover: $ 103.00 USD
ISBN: 9780521836357

Defenders of the free market argue that inequalities of income are "just" because they are deserved, and that they are what free individuals are entitled to. Far from supporting free market inequalities, Liberty, Desert and the Market argues that, when we examine the principle of "desert" and the notions of "liberty" and "choice" invoked by defenders of the free market, the conception of justice that would accommodate these notions calls for their elimination. The book will be of interest to readers in political philosophy, political theory, and normative economics.

  • Makes a contribution to mainstream debates in contemporary political philosophy about the justice of free market inequalities
  • Provides an in-depth analysis of some central notions in political philosophy and puts forward suggestions about how to interpret these notions in an attractive way
  • Advances the debate on the merits of libertarianism as a coherent political philosophy
Reviews:Iwao Hirose on Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews wrote:

"Olsaretti sets out this book with a modest motivation. She considers the highly ambitious claims that the market-created inequalities are just, and offers the careful and detailed analysis on the desert-based and entitlement-based justifications of the free market. Her criticisms against these justifications are powerful and original. Furthermore, she brilliantly shows the surprising result that libertarianism would justify not the free market but the empowerment of individuals' voluntary choices. This is, without doubt, a significant contribution to the theories of distributive justice in general and the libertarian theory in particular. The book is a required reading for anyone with an interest in moral philosophy, political theory and welfare economics."

Jeffrey Moriarty on Business Ethics Quarterly wrote:

"This book is a must-read for philosophers working on desert-based or libertarian theories of justice. Olsaretti digs deeply into the concepts which are at the center of these theories, and engages the prominent figures in the literature (for desert: Julian Lamont and David Miller; for libertarianism: Robert Nozick) at considerable length. Throughout, her work is unfailingly careful and precise. However, for these same reasons, Olsarettis book will be frustrating to non- philosophers. For those not already familiar with the debates surrounding these concepts, long stretches of it will be tough sledding. Even philosophers may be left wanting more. What restrictions on the free market would give better expression to the appropriate conceptions of desert and voluntariness? How important are these values compared to others (e.g., utility)? Apart from some highly interesting speculation at the end of the book, Olsaretti offers little sustained discussion of these questions."

Elaine Sternberg on Economic Affairs wrote:

"These books attack free markets and libertarianism, alleging that their fundamental assumptions are philosophically indefensible. Olsaretti challenges the thesis that free markets produce distributively just outcomes. At most, however, she shows that limited, desert-based justifications of free-market outcomes fail to satisfy her questionable desiderata, and that particular entitlement-based justifications are inadequately supported when they confound voluntariness and freedom. [...] Though both of these books fail to demonstrate the strong conclusions they assert, they highlight the dangers of substituting polemic for philosophy. Free markets, property and liberty need, and deserve, rigorous philosophical defences."


Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • 1. Desert and justifications of the market
  • 2. Incentive payments and compensatory desert
  • 3. Productive contributions and deserved market rewards
  • 4. Liberty and entitlements in the libertarian justification of the free market
  • 5. The moralised defence of the free market: a critique
  • 6. The free market, force and choice: beyond libertarians and their critics
  • Conclusion

About Serena Olsaretti

Serena OlsarettiSerena Olsaretti is a political philosopher based at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, where she holds a research professorship with ICREA, the Catalan Institute of Research and Advanced Studies. Before moving to Barcelona in 2010, she was a University Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge, which she joined in 2001. Her work has focused primarily on theories of justice, the ethics of markets and theories of well-being. Currently she is especially interested in questions of justice involving the family, but also continue to work on libertarianism, desert and egalitarianism.