Absolute Freedom of Contract: Grotian Lessons for Libertarians


Libertarians often rely on arguments that subordinate the principle of liberty to the value of its economic consequences. This invites the question of what a pure libertarian theory of justice?one that takes liberty as its overriding concern?would look like. Grotius's political theory provides a template for such a libertarianism, but it also entails uncomfortable commitments that can be avoided only by compromising the principle of liberty. According to Grotius, each person should be free to decide how to act as long as her actions do not violate the equal liberty of others. According to this principle, however, people are free to enter any contract and alienate any rights, permitting even contracts of slavery or the alienation of rights of bodily integrity. Libertarians can escape this commitment to absolute freedom of contract only by adopting ad-hoc amendments to the principle of liberty

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Jeppe von Platz
University of Richmond

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Citations of this work

Rethinking Freedom of Contract.Jessica Flanigan - 2017 - Philosophical Studies 174 (2):443-463.
Morgan’s Minimalism: An Epistemic Approach to Contract Law.Rajiv Shah - 2016 - Critical Review: A Journal of Politics and Society 28 (3-4):356-379.

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