Friday, March 09, 2012

Adam Smith and Laissez-faire

Thomas Sowell's A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles quoted in VoluntaryXchange (‘It's as intrinsically human as opposable thumbs!’) HERE

Adam Smith's entire economic doctrine of laissez-faire implicitly assumed the same lack of correspondence between intention and effect, for the systemic benefits of capitalism were no part of the intention of capitalists. [pg. 30]”

What is meant by 'Adam Smith’s economic doctrine of laissez-faire'? He never mentioned “laissez-faire” in all his known writings.

It was a theme common to the French Physiocrats, whom Smith met and conversed with during his visits to Paris in 1764-66, and was picked up by English-speaking political economists and politicians, who were mouth-pieces for the mill and mine owners seeking impose employer determined wages on the labouring poor and to oppose any legislation inhibiting their rights to run their work places without restrictions on 12-16 hour working days, and the employment of young children and women in dangerous proximity to machinery.

Incidentally, Britain's first Factory Inspector, appointed by Parliament, was Leonard Horner, one of the early founds of the School of Arts (1822), that was the forerunner of what became Heriot-Watt University in 1966.

Modern practice has been to project laissez-faire onto Adam Smith, forgetting (or not knowing) that the originator of the phrase was a merchant seeking freedom for his self (not his customers) from the rigid dictates of the aristocratic French government.



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