Free Markets and Social Justice

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9780195102734: Free Markets and Social Justice

The newest work from one of the most preeminent voices writing in the legal/political arena today, this important book presents a new conception of the relationship between free markets and social justice. The work begins with foundations--the appropriate role of existing "preferences," the importance of social norms, the question whether human goods are commensurable, and issues of distributional equity. Continuing with rights, the work shows that markets have only a partial but instrumental role in the protection of rights. The book concludes with a discussion on regulation, developing approaches that would promote both economic and democratic goals, especially in the context of risks to life and health.

Free Markets and Social Justice develops seven basic themes during its discussion: the myth of laissez-faire; preference formation and social norms; the contextual character of choice; the importance of fair distribution; the diversity of human goods; how law can shape preferences; and the puzzles of human rationality. As the latest word from an internationally-renowned writer, this work will raise a number of important questions about economic analysis of law in its conventional form.

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While not meant to be an overarching "theory of justice" Cass Sunstein's book supplies many of the theoretical components any grand theory ought to include. In the broadest terms, this collection of articles argues that achieving social justice should be of greater importance than the purity of free markets. Markets, he argues, are themselves only possible through political guarantees of rights and the rule of law, and they should be subordinate to discussions of justice. Sunstein considers seven principles that clarify what is at stake in contemporary discussions of law and economics, often exposing unfounded assumptions of libertarians and free market devotees, yet never losing sight of the value of markets and the goods they procure. Insightful chapters on the formation of preferences, the diversity of human goods, the context dependence of choice, and the vexing problems of rationality blend the author's broad knowledge of contemporary philosophy, his command of legal history and philosophy, and a solid grasp of economic theory. Those looking for sound and challenging thinking on these topics have an excellent source in this volume.

About the Author:

Cass R. Sunstein is the Karl N. Llewellyn Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Chicago School of Law. His own previous works include Democracy and the Limits of Free Speech (1994), The Partial Constitution (1993), After the Rights Revolution (1990), and Legal Reasoning and Political Conflict (Oxford, 1996).

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