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Posted by Smokey Stover on June 10, 2006

In Reply to: Laissez-faire posted by David FG on June 09, 2006

: : What does "laissez-faire" mean: as in laissez-faire attitude??

: It is French, and might be translated as 'leave well alone'.


It seems very likely that Mr. Karmz encountered "laissez-faire" in connection with economic or political doctrine. It is a policy "based on a minimum of governmental interference in the economic affairs of individuals and society." (This and other quotations are from the Encyclopedia Britannica Online, s.v. laissez-faire.) It originated in France in the late 18th century, and was promoted in Great Britain by Adam Smith and others.

The doctrine was popular during most of the 19th century, and became a political as well as an economic doctrine. "The pervading theory of the 19th century was that the individual, pursuing his own desired ends, would thereby achieve the best results for the society of which he was a part."

Towards the end of the 19th century it was plain that the complexities of an industrialized society "proved the laissez-faire doctrine insufficient as a guiding philosophy...."

If you have studied American political history you will have realized that the laissez-faire doctrine still strikes a chord, almost a romantic reverberation, in the hearts of conservative Republicans. To some it has the lure almost of a mystical Eden. To economists not of the conservative Republican persuasion it is an economic dead end, and the numerous attempts to resurrect it, at least as an ideal, are really so much bull roar.
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