Blog Symposium on From Free to Fair Markets

Introducing LSPR’s Blog Symposium on ‘From Free to Fair Markets: Liberalism After Covid’

Parv Tyagi and Niveditha K Prasad

Governments around the world have struggled to tailor their policies to grapple with the impact of Covid-19. But as much as it is a challenge, the pandemic presents an opportunity – to evaluate the status quo and address problems of inequity and other structural problems that the pandemic has exposed. 

Free markets – at the heart of liberal economies – like other major institutions that have been smeared with doubt in recent years, have been subject to great criticism, with some even pronouncing them dead. The question that emerges is – what is the alternative to free markets? Professors Rosalind Dixon and Richard Holden’s recent book, ‘From Free to Fair Markets: Liberalism After Covid’ is a timely contribution to this discourse. They imagine a more democratic market regime that, even as it prioritises individual freedom, protects the equality and dignity of all persons. In doing so, they strive for a path distinct from either democratic socialism or economic nationalism. 

A crucial aspect of moving the discussion forward is also to engage with their ideas from India. India has long been held out as an example of spectacular economic growth after embracing liberalisation three decades ago. However, the pandemic has exposed its darker underbelly, with the economy not only contracting sharply but also witnessing wider inequality. India, being the world’s largest democracy, also has a stake in this conversation, as it grapples with restructuring its economy within a political democracy, the paradigm which Professors Dixon and Holden also posit their thesis. 


This blog symposium organised by Law School Policy Review and NLS Kautilya Society (institutionally supported by VIDHI Centre for Legal Policy) features contributions from the following scholars: 

Dr Amal Sethi places the book as a much-needed middle ground between free market economies and state-led interventionist governance models, that benefits from a rich interdisciplinary research. Dr Sethi draws attention to the authors’ idea of a ‘fair political market’ that is crucial to ensure a working democratic liberal state but also highlights the difficulties it may face in India and the US. He also invites scholars to dwell upon institutional questions relevant to making democratic liberalism work better. 

Prof Prerna Dhoop, while suggesting a possible similarity between democratic liberalism and the earlier ‘Welfare State’ model, engages with the viability of the former in countries like India, in light of the distinct challenges of ameliorating poverty in these countries through time-tested welfare measures. Further, she posits the global  political challenges that democracy faces today as potential challenges to democratic liberalism. 

Dr Jaivir Singh approaches the book at two levels – at the national and the international level. He persuasively argues that shades of democratic liberalism have been present in Indian governance practices but also cautions against the authors’ view that community-centric reallocation model might not be as progressive in Indian social realities. At the international level, he calls for a redesigning of institutions such as the United Nations to ensure that they are more democratic. 

Dr Sushmita Pati, stands on the other side of the ideological spectrum. While recognising the authors’ hesitancy towards purely free markets, she argues that the markets are inherently exploitative. She points to the need for more engagement with criticisms offered by proponents of “degrowth” and others who view markets, free or otherwise, with suspicion. 

Prof Suranjali Tandon sheds light on critical questions that emerge from the book. Importantly, these are questions related to the assumption that governments are benevolent planners and the delicate balance between regulation and competition in industries in liberal democratic economies. 

The 5 responses to the book are followed by a response by Professors Dixon and Holden.  


Parv Tyagi and Niveditha K Prasad are Managing and Deputy Managing Editors of LSPR.