Fortnightly logo

Free Market Fairness
LUNCHEON 11:30 a.m.; LECTURE 12:00 p.m.

Can libertarians care about social justice? In Free Market Fairness, John Tomasi argues that they can and should. Drawing simultaneously on moral insights from defenders of economic liberty such as F.A. Hayek and advocates of social justice such as John Rawls, Tomasi presents a new theory of liberal justice. This theory, free market fairness, is committed to both limited government and the material betterment of the poor.

Unlike traditional libertarians, Tomasi argues that property rights are best defended not in terms of self-ownership or economic efficiency but as requirements of democratic legitimacy. At the same time, he encourages egalitarians concerned about social justice to listen more sympathetically to the claims ordinary citizens make about the importance of private economic liberty in their daily lives. In place of the familiar social democratic interpretations of social justice, Tomasi offers a “market democratic” conception of social justice: free market fairness. Tomasi argues that free market fairness, with its twin commitment to economic liberty and social justice, is a morally superior account of liberal justice. Free market fairness is also particularly suited to American culture, where the moral ideal of community includes a robust commitment to private economic liberty.

Provocative and vigorously argued, Free Market Fairness offers a bold new way of thinking about politics, economics, and justice — one that will challenge readers in both the left and right.

John Tomasi is professor of political science and of philosophy at Brown University. The founding director of Brown’s Political Theory Project, Tomasi is also a research associate at the Freedom Center at the University of Arizona. He is the author of Liberalism Beyond Justice (Princeton). John Tomasi's Athenaeum lecture is sponsored by the Salvatori Center for the Study of Individual Freedom.