The development of modern economic thought has involved an increased emphasis on the subjective nature of all values, and a repudiation of the notion that the economy is or should be constrained by any sort of objective non-economic order. On this view, it is impossible to judge any outcome of uncoerced market interactions by an external standard of justice. But what is the content of the term “uncoerced”? The same thinkers who have embraced the general subjectification of social and economic theory have tended to resist applying it to the concept of coercion itself, fearing that doing so might imply that market processes can themselves be coercive in wide-ranging ways. Among subjectivists, Friedrich Hayek and Robert Nozick are particularly notable for their willingness to tackle this tension head-on. Yet an examination of their respective theories suggests that neither is ultimately successful in doing so. This implies that any consistent subjectivist theory of economic life would have to extend to the concept of coercion itself, with potentially far-reaching political implications.


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pp. 19-42
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