Of Markets and Morals

Of Markets and Morals
(Nicole Pereira/New York Stock Exchange via AP)

One of the classic criticisms leveled against capitalism by its adversaries holds that market economies, left unchecked, tend to reduce all of life to a series of transactions. Marxists reject markets altogether on the grounds that they encourage selfishness; ultratraditionalist Catholics worry that markets commodify morality; and social democrats, though tolerant of markets because the welfare state has to be paid for, believe that large parts of life should be sealed off from market values.  

Mike Konczal, a director at the Roosevelt Institute, expresses a version of this latter view in “Freedom From the Market: America’s Fight to Liberate Itself From the Grip of the Invisible Hand” (New Press, 247 pages, $25.99). Whereas conservatives consider economic freedom to be an essential component of constitutional liberty, Mr. Konczal thinks markets, though good and necessary in their place, pose a constant threat to freedom. Twenty-first century Americans, in his view, suffer from “market dependency.” “A society based entirely around the market will not be able to reproduce itself in a healthy manner,” he writes, “because all societies rely on an infrastructure of care to replenish themselves. . . . This care work of social reproduction is precisely a thing the market doesn’t pay for.”

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