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Challenging the Challengers: A Review of Serena Olsaretti's and Daniel Attas's Liberty, Desert and the Market

6 Pages Posted: 14 Sep 2007  

Elaine Sternberg

University of Miami; Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA); University of Leeds; University of Buckingham


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. Attas challenges libertarianism itself, claiming that it is fundamentally wrong, and that libertarian notions of property rights are unsustainable. But he considers only arguments based on defective notions of self-ownership and confused notions of freedom; other, more robust justifications of liberty and property are ignored. 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.

Suggested Citation

Sternberg, Elaine, Challenging the Challengers: A Review of Serena Olsaretti's and Daniel Attas's Liberty, Desert and the Market. Economic Affairs, Vol. 27, No. 3, pp. 81-86, September 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1013699 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0270.2007.00760.x

Elaine Sternberg (Contact Author)

University of Miami ( email )

P.O. Box 248054
Coral Gables, FL 33124-4670
United States

Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) ( email )

2 Lord North Street, Westminster
London, SW1P 3LB
United Kingdom

University of Leeds ( email )

Leeds, LS2 9JT
United Kingdom

University of Buckingham ( email )

Hunter Street
Buckingham MK18 1EG
United Kingdom

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