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The free market has considerable appeal: freedom of contract maximizes liberty and competitive markets pay each input what it deserves—its marginal product. So the story goes. Barbara Fried, however, has written a masterful book that reminds us that these a priori defenses of the free market were long ago demolished. A small band of progressives—led by Robert Hale, an economist teaching at Columbia Law School—developed an especially piercing critique of standard justifications for libertarian market policies. Fried's book has rediscovered this critique and has made it available to modern readers.
Intellectual histories often raise two related questions concerning authorship. First, "Who is the author of particular ideas?" Fried is particularly sensitive to the possibility that she may have attributed to Hale the contributions of his predecessors and contemporaries. For example, Fried writes:
There is a perhaps irresistible temptation in writing on one person's work to exaggerate his singular contribution. Like a light shining on a polished surface, which creates the optical illusion that random scratches on the surface are arranged in concentric circles around it . . . one is inevitably tempted to cast one's subject as the source of ideas that swirl around and through him (pp 213-14).
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