The Touch of Midas: Money, Markets, and Morality

| January 2014
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The Invention of Market Freedom, Eric MacGilvray (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 216 pp., $94 cloth, $26.99 paper.

What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets, Michael Sandel (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2012), 256 pp., $27 cloth, $15 paper.

Money: The Unauthorised Biography, Felix Martin (London: Bodley Head, 2013), 336 pp., £20 cloth, £9.99 paper.

Money has always inspired obsession, both in those who amass it and in those who think about it. “Man will never be able to know what money is any more than he will be able to know what God is,” wrote the French financier Marcel Labordère to his friend John Maynard Keynes. The analogy is apt. Money, like God, injects infinity into human desires. To love it is to embark on a journey without end. Three new books testify to money’s enduring power to fascinate and horrify. The most scholarly of them, The Invention of Market Freedom by political theorist Eric MacGilvray, traces the emergence of the distinctively modern or “market” conception of freedom out of its “republican” predecessor. The general story is somewhat familiar, but MacGilvray complicates it by showing that market freedom did not vanquish its republican competitor in open combat but subverted it from within, like a parasite devouring its host.

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Category: Article, Issue 27.4, Review Essays

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