Free Market: The History of an Idea


From a MacArthur “Genius,” an intellectual history of the free market, from ancient Rome to the twenty-first century .

After two government bailouts of the US economy in less than twenty years, free market ideology is due for serious reappraisal. In Free Market, Jacob Soll details how we got to this current crisis, and how we can find our way out by looking to earlier iterations of free market thought.

Contrary to popular narratives, early market theorists believed that states had an important role in building and maintaining free markets. But in the eighteenth century, thinkers insisted on free markets without state intervention, leading to a tradition of ideological brittleness. That tradition only calcified in the centuries that followed.

Tracing the intellectual evolution of the free market from Cicero to Milton Friedman, Soll argues that we need to go back to the origins of free market ideology in order to truly understand it—and to develop new economic concepts to face today’s challenges.

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