In the United States (and other countries), there is the notion of the freedom to contract. This is the idea that two people of sound mind have the right to enter into any contract with one another that they wish. The law honors this idea, but places limits on it. For example, unconscionable contracts and certain other contracts that violate public-policy ideals are unenforceable; for practical purposes, such contracts are invalid, as if never entered into. (IANAL.)
I'm wondering about the existence of a freedom-to-contract notion in Jewish law. Specifically:
- Is there a statement of chazal or another authority that, in general, people have the freedom to contract?
- If so, what's the earliest authority to say so? What major authorities have said so? Citations, please.
(The reason I mention, above, the limits on the freedom to contract is to clarify that I'm not asking whether Jewish law recognizes an absolute freedom to contract, one without limits. I know that that's not the case: the rule of onaa is a counterexample, and commenters on this question have listed more, like the prohibition against gambling. I'm asking, rather, about the notion of the freedom to contract, however limited it may be in practice.)