Culture and Liberty


This Article considers the claim that free market legal rules subvert the stock of private virtues on whose survival free markets depend. This concern has been raised by Joseph Schumpeter and Daniel Bell, but has not heretofore been examined from a legal perspective. The "cultural contradictions" claim resonates deeply at a time when America's material capital increases exponentially but its social capital seems fragile.

On close scrutiny, the virtues of doux commerce are incontestable. What remains an issue, however, is whether these virtues come at a price. Does living in a market society require one to sacrifice other ways of encountering the world, as Weber and Heidegger suggested. Nevertheless, this does not supply a reason to impeach individual choice, and this attack on free bargaining therefore fails. Moreover, the individual virtues that plausibly support free bargaining would appear to thrive under free markets.