William & Mary Business Law Review


In The Dignity of Commerce, Nathan Oman sets out an ambitious market theory of contract, which he argues is a superior normative foundation for contract law than either the moralist or economic justifications that currently dominate contract theory. In doing so, he sets out a robust defense of commerce and the marketplace as contributing to human flourishing that is a refreshing and welcome contribution in an era of market alarmism. But the market theory ultimately falls short as either a normative or prescriptive theory of contract. The extent to which law, public policy, and theory should account for values other than economic efficiency is a longstanding debate. Whatever the merits of that debate, we conclude that contract law does not need morality as envisioned by Oman—a fluid, subjective, and seemingly instinctual approach to the morality of markets.