Freedom from the Market

America’s Fight to Liberate Itself from the Grip of the Invisible Hand

The progressive economics writer redefines the national conversation about American freedom

“Mike Konczal [is] one of our most powerful advocates of financial reform, [a] heroic critic of austerity, and a huge resource for progressives.” —Paul Krugman

Health insurance, student loan debt, retirement security, child care, work-life balance, access to home ownership—these are the issues driving America’s current political debates. And they are all linked, as this brilliant and timely book reveals, by a single question: should we allow the free market to determine our lives?

In the tradition of Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine, noted economic commentator Mike Konczal answers this question with a resounding no. Freedom from the Market blends passionate political argument and a bold new take on American history to reveal that, from the earliest days of the republic, Americans have defined freedom as what we keep free from the control of the market. With chapters on the history of the Homestead Act and land ownership, the eight-hour work day and free time, social insurance and Social Security, World War II day cares, Medicare and desegregation, free public colleges, intellectual property, and the public corporation, Konczal shows how citizens have fought to ensure that everyone has access to the conditions that make us free.

At a time when millions of Americans—and more and more politicians—are questioning the unregulated free market, Freedom from the Market offers a new narrative, and new intellectual ammunition, for the fight that lies ahead.


“The Roosevelt Institute’s Konczal is one of the warriors in this fight, arguing fiercely for the need to set much narrower limits on what is left to markets than has been the case in recent decades. A powerful polemic.”
—Martin Wolf, Financial Times
“By identifying an alternative grammar, one that is grounded in the American past, Freedom from the Market provides a way out of the political cul-de-sac created by the failure of the market to deliver on its promises of ‘freedom.’”
Democracy: A Journal of Ideas
“With carefully selected examples and lucid prose, Konczal makes a convincing case that the American project has long depended on rigorous regulation of capitalism. Progressive voters and policy makers will find plenty of ammunition for their arguments in this cogent history.”
Publishers Weekly
“Markets will set us free—except when they won’t, don’t, can’t. In this deeply researched yet eminently readable book, Mike Konczal tells the powerful forgotten story of how American democracy once tamed markets to advance our freedom, and shows us how it could do so once again.”
—Jacob Hacker, professor of political science, Yale University, and New York Times bestselling author of Winner-Take-All Politics and American Amnesia
“Mike Konczal is that rare economics commentator who thinks the economy should serve people, not the other way around. Freedom from the Market reclaims from the dustbin of history the Americans who dreamed of a vastly different kind of freedom than the one we’re now taught to revere.”
—Sarah Jaffe, author of Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt and Work Won’t Love You Back
“Providing solid cases where government regulations helped to give Americans a better life, this will appeal to progressives looking for a history of their movement.”
Library Journal
Freedom from the Market has the potential to be a very important book, focusing attention on the contested, messy but crucially important intersection between social movements and the state. It provides a set of ideas that people on both sides of that divide can learn from, and a lively alternative foundation to the deracinated technocratic notions of politics, in which good policy would somehow, magically, be politically self supporting, that has prevailed up until quite recently. Strongly recommended.”
Crooked Timber
“Invaluable, thoughtful and thought-provoking.”
Midwest Book Review
Freedom from the Market is an impressive book, easily one of the best I’ve read in the past several years. I cannot recommend it highly enough.”
—Matt Mazewski, Commonweal
“An economic manifesto on behalf of the 99% poorly served by the present economy.”
Kirkus Reviews
“Konczal’s analysis brilliantly dismantles the false illusions of market freedom in every sector, including finance, health care, and labor. This book explains how Americans have been hoodwinked into a coercive economy even as we were promised the opposite.”
—Mehrsa Baradaran, professor of law, UC Irvine, and author of The Color of Money and How the Other Half Banks
“Mike Konczal’s powerful historical study links political struggles over land, time, care, and education around the idea of freedom, reclaiming this familiar watchword and asking readers to think anew about its real meaning.”
—Kimberly Philips-Fein, associate professor, New York University, and author of Fear City and Invisible Hands
Freedom from the Market arrives at a moment when, as Konczal observes, millions of Americans are recovering a legacy of fighting market rule.”
Los Angeles Review of Books

News and Reviews


Read an interview with author Mike Konczal about Freedom from the Market in Dissent magazine.

Boston Review

Read an excerpt from Freedom from the Market in the Boston Review about the history of the eight-hour work day.

Publishers Weekly

Read a review of Freedom from the Market in Publishers Weekly.

Goodreads Reviews