Politics, Philosophy and Economics 14 (4):365-390 (2015)

The revival of classical liberal thought has reignited a debate about economic freedom and social justice. Classical liberals claim to defend expansive economic freedom, while their critics wish to restrict this freedom for other values. However, there are two problems with the role ‘economic freedom’ plays in this debate: inconsistency in the use of the concept and indeterminacy with respect to its definition. Inconsistency in the use of the concept ‘freedom’ has mistakenly made a certain kind of ‘left-wing’ critique of poverty, and of markets generally, appear to be a concern with inequality in means to enjoy freedom, not with freedom itself. Indeterminacy about which beings and doings the basic liberties protect misrepresents the left-wing position as about something other than economic freedom. Inconsistency and indeterminacy lead to artificial narrowness in current debates and to a failure to see that disagreement is based not just on moral differences but also on conceptual confusion. This confusion leads both classical liberals and their critics to claim more than they may legitimately do, and to ignore a position that accepts the standard of definition of freedom but arrives at different institutional conclusions about what secures that freedom.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
Reprint years 2014, 2015
DOI 10.1177/1470594x14564507
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 62,448
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Justice as Fairness: A Restatement.John Rawls (ed.) - 2001 - Harvard University Press.
Political Liberalism.J. Rawls - 1995 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 57 (3):596-598.

View all 23 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Freedom, Money and Justice as Fairness.Blain Neufeld - 2017 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 16 (1):70-92.
Welcome to the Dark Side: A Classical-Liberal Argument for Economic Democracy.Alex Gourevitch - 2014 - Critical Review: A Journal of Politics and Society 26 (3-4):290-305.
Neo-Classical Liberalism, ‘Market Freedom’, and the Right to Private Property.Gavin Kerr - forthcoming - Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy:1-22.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Berlin’s Two Concepts of Positive Liberty.Janos Kis - 2013 - European Journal of Political Theory 12 (1):31-48.
Economies of Time-Rejoinder.William James Booth - 1991 - Political Theory 19 (4):656-661.
Liberty.Matt Zwolinski - 2009 - In John Shand (ed.), Central Issues in Philosophy. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 275--286.
Liberty as Power.Preston King - 1999 - Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 2 (3):1-25.
Invigilating Republican Liberty.Gerald Lang - 2012 - Philosophical Quarterly 62 (247):273-293.


Added to PP index

Total views
55 ( #192,316 of 2,445,950 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
3 ( #232,113 of 2,445,950 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes