Adam Smith Never Mentioned Laissez-Faire
Jim Sullivan, in Ventura County Star writes HERE
“An example of a misleading claim about history is the Republicans' use of Adam Smith's term "laissez faire" to justify deregulation of business. Adam Smith used that term in his magnum opus “The Wealth of Nations” (first published in 1776) in reaction to overly restrictive government regulation of business.
What is less well known is that Smith's term "laissez faire" was used to criticize the economic philosophy of mercantilism, which at that time was seen as a way to increase the wealth of nation states, and which involved very heavy regulation of business.”
Adam Smith never used the words “laissez-faire” in anything he wrote in Wealth Of Nations, or indeed, in anything he wrote anywhere else.
This is a false attribution to Adam Smith that was made long after he died in 1790, when employers agitated against legislated shorter working hours and any interference in the long hours worked by women and children in pits and mills, and their exposure to dangerous machinery. Smith was familiar with the words from his visit to France in 1764-66 but he chose not to use them in his political economy and moral philosophy because they did not benefit the consumers who, as a result of them, paid higher prices and because they restricted competition, and people risked serious injuries.
Laissez-fire was never his term.
Also, under mercantile political economy, then dominant in Britain, the pressure for “regulation” consisted of demands from some merchants for tariffs and prohibitions, monopolies in their own interests, and against the rights of labourers to “combine” together to raise their wages. These regulations generally worked against the interests of consumers and labourers, who were also consumers.