Morals and the Free Society: 2. Is the Perfectly Free Market a “Morally Free Zone”?

Here is the second chunk of the argument. To return to the first chunk, click here. To advance to the third chunk, click here. The complete essay is posted here.


A somewhat different and even stronger version of the claim that a free—or at least ideally free—society does not impose morals is given by David Gauthier in Morals by Agreement (1986, ch. 4). Gauthier goes further than the mere claim of toleration and argues that the free market, wherever it works with perfect efficiency, is a “morally free zone,” meaning that morality is neither needed nor even desirable! In such a social context, instrumental rationality is a sufficient guide to life, and it is the only proper guide: any other principle must only damage people’s lives. Thus, in an ideally free society, morals actually have no place!

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