The road to freedom Economics and the good society

Joseph E. Stiglitz

Book - 2024

"We are a nation born from the conviction that people must be free. But since the middle of the last century, that idea has been co-opted. Forces on the political Right have justified exploitation by cloaking it in the rhetoric of freedom, leading to pharmaceutical companies freely overcharging for medication, a Big Tech free from oversight, politicians free to incite rebellion, corporations free to pollute, and more. How did we get here? Whose freedom are we--and should we--be thinking about? In The Road to Freedom, Nobel prize winner Joseph E. Stiglitz dissects America's current economic system and the political ideology that created it, laying bare their twinned failure. "Free" and unfettered markets have only succeed...ed in delivering a series of crises: the financial crisis, the opioid crisis, and the crisis of inequality. While a small portion of the population has amassed considerable wealth, wages for most people have stagnated. Free and unfettered markets have exploited consumers, workers, and the environment alike. Such failures have fed populist movements that believe being free means abandoning any obligations citizens have to one another. As they grow in strength, these movements now pose a real threat to true economic and political freedom. As an economic advisor to presidents and as chief economist at the World Bank, Stiglitz has witnessed these profound changes firsthand. As he argues, the failures follow from the elites' unshakeable dedication to "the neoliberal experiment." Explicitly taking on giants such as Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, Stiglitz exposes accepted ideas about our political and economic life for what they are: twisted visions that tear at the social fabric while they enrich the very few. The Road to Freedom breaks new ground, showing how economics--including recent advances in which Stiglitz has played such an important role--reframes how to think about freedom and the role of the state in a twenty-first century society. Drawing on the work of contemporary philosophers, Stiglitz explains a deeper, more humane way to assess freedoms--one that considers with care what to do when one person's freedom conflicts with another's. We must reimagine our existing economic and legal systems and embrace forms of collective action, including regulation and investment, if we are to create an innovative society in which everyone can flourish. The task could not be more urgent, and Stiglitz's latest book is essential reading for those committed to the American ideal of an economic and political system that delivers well-being, opportunity, and meaningful freedoms for all"--Dust jacket flaps.

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New York : W.W. Norton & Company [2024]
Main Author
Joseph E. Stiglitz (author)
First edition
Physical Description
xxiv, 356 pages ; 25 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages [299]-356).
  • Preface
  • 1. Introduction: Freedom in Danger
  • 2. How Economists Think About Freedom
  • Part I. Liberty and Freedom: Basic Principles
  • 3. One Person's Freedom Is Another Person's Unfreedom
  • 4. Freedom Through Coercion: Public Goods and the Free-Rider Problem
  • 5. Contracts, the Social Contract, and Freedom
  • 6. Freedom, a Competitive Economy, and Social Justice
  • 7. The Freedom to Exploit
  • Part II. Freedom, Beliefs, and Preferences, and the Creation of the Good Society
  • 8. Social Coercion and Social Cohesion
  • 9. The Concerted Shaping of Individuals and Their Beliefs
  • 10. Tolerance, Social Solidarity, and Freedom
  • Part III. What Kind of Economy Promotes a Good, Just, and Free Society?
  • 11. Neoliberal Capitalism: Why It Failed
  • 12. Freedom, Sovereignty, and Coercion Among States
  • 13. Progressive Capitalism, Social Democracy, and a Learning Society
  • 14. Democracy, Freedom, Social Justice, and the Good Society
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes299
Review by Kirkus Book Review

The Nobel laureate contrasts the reigning predatory system of capitalism with a kinder, gentler form. "Without strong regulation, neoliberalism will destroy our planet," writes Stiglitz, author of The Price of Inequality and Freefall, explaining that it is a social obligation to constrain those who would exercise that destruction. A conservative economist of the Milton Friedman bent would cry that personal freedom is being victimized, but the author convincingly argues that social freedom matters: "The Right claims to be the defender of freedom," he argues, "but…the way they define the word and pursue it has led to the opposite results, vastly reducing the freedoms of most citizens." By way of example, Stiglitz writes about opposing the bailout of the big banks during the 2008 financial crisis, noting that their exercise of "freedom" meant foolish risk-taking that left American taxpayers holding the bag--thus reducing their freedom. A truly free market, he argues, is one that goes beyond the tenets of neoliberalism and the idolatry of GDP and addresses things such as inequality and remedies for it by using progressive taxation, which, he allows, "may…constrain the opportunity set of the rich" while leveling the deprivations the poor suffer, which in turn amount to the loss of freedom as well. Along the way in this accessible thesis, Stiglitz argues that the social contract, so scorned by libertarianism, merits revising and renewing. He notes that "there is no moral legitimacy to market incomes," which by their very nature are based on exploitation, and that property rights, enshrined as holy objects by the Chicago School, "are always circumscribed," with limits rightly placed on them so that they do not harm others--all with an eye to scrapping a zero-sum game for one with more winners. A solid case for a progressive capitalism based on cooperation for the common good. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.