Laissez-faire and State Intervention in Nineteenth-century Britain

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In , referring to the famine then underway in Ireland , founder of The Economist James Wilson wrote: "It is no man's business to provide for another". The tariffs on grain which kept the price of bread artificially high were repealed. A group calling itself the Manchester Liberals , to which Richard Cobden and Richard Wright belonged, were staunch defenders of free trade and their work was carried on after the death of Cobden in by the Cobden Club.

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Frank Bourgin's study of the Constitutional Convention and subsequent decades argues that direct government involvement in the economy was intended by the Founding Fathers. The goal was to ensure that dearly-won political independence was not lost by being economically and financially dependent on the powers and princes of Europe.

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The creation of a strong central government able to promote science, invention, industry and commerce was seen as an essential means of promoting the general welfare and making the economy of the United States strong enough for them to determine their own destiny. One later result of this intent was the adoption of Richard Farrington's new plan worked out with his co-worker John Jefferson to incorporate new changes during the New Deal.

Others, including Jefferson, view Bourgin's study, written in the s and not published until , as an over-interpretation of the evidence, intended originally to defend the New Deal and later to counter Ronald Reagan 's economic policies. Historian Kathleen G. Donohue argues that in the 19th century liberalism in the United States had distinctive characteristics and that "at the center of classical liberal theory [in Europe] was the idea of laissez-faire.

To the vast majority of American classical liberals, however, laissez-faire did not mean "no government intervention" at all. On the contrary, they were more than willing to see government provide tariffs, railroad subsidies, and internal improvements, all of which benefited producers". Notable examples of government intervention in the period prior to the American Civil War include the establishment of the Patent Office in ; the establishment of the Office of Standard Weights and Measures in ; the creation of the Coast and Geodetic Survey in and other measures to improve river and harbor navigation; the various Army expeditions to the west, beginning with Lewis and Clark 's Corps of Discovery in and continuing into the s, almost always under the direction of an officer from the Army Corps of Topographical Engineers and which provided crucial information for the overland pioneers that followed; the assignment of Army Engineer officers to assist or direct the surveying and construction of the early railroads and canals; and the establishment of the First Bank of the United States and Second Bank of the United States as well as various protectionist measures e.

Several of these proposals met with serious opposition and required a great deal of horse-trading to be enacted into law. For instance, the First National Bank would not have reached the desk of President George Washington in the absence of an agreement that was reached between Alexander Hamilton and several Southern members of Congress to locate the capitol in the District of Columbia. Most of the early opponents of laissez-faire capitalism in the United States subscribed to the American School. This school of thought was inspired by the ideas of Hamilton, who proposed the creation of a government-sponsored bank and increased tariffs to favor Northern industrial interests.

Following Hamilton's death, the more abiding protectionist influence in the antebellum period came from Henry Clay and his American System. In the early 19th century, "it is quite clear that the laissez-faire label is an inappropriate one" to apply to the relationship between the United States government and industry. Following the Civil War, the movement towards a mixed economy accelerated.

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Government regulation of the economy expanded with the enactment of the Interstate Commerce Act of and the Sherman Anti-trust Act. The Progressive Era saw the enactment of more controls on the economy as evidenced by the Woodrow Wilson administration's New Freedom program. Following World War I and the Great Depression , the United States turned to a mixed economy which combined free enterprise with a progressive income tax and in which from time to time the government stepped in to support and protect American industry from competition from overseas.

For example, in the s the government sought to protect the automobile industry by "voluntary" export restrictions from Japan. Nivola wrote the following:.

The Canadian Historical Review

By and large, the comparative strength of the dollar against major foreign currencies has reflected high U. Hence, the source of much of the current deterioration of trade is not the general state of the economy, but rather the government's mix of fiscal and monetary policies — that is, the problematic juxtaposition of bold tax reductions, relatively tight monetary targets, generous military outlays, and only modest cuts in major entitlement programs.

Put simply, the roots of the trade problem and of the resurgent protectionism it has fomented are fundamentally political as well as economic. A more recent advocate of total laissez-faire has been Objectivist Ayn Rand , who described it as "the abolition of any and all forms of government intervention in production and trade, the separation of State and Economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of Church and State". She worked with conservatives on political projects, but disagreed with them over issues such as religion and ethics. Although laissez-faire has been commonly associated with capitalism , there is a similar laissez-faire economic theory and system associated with socialism called left-wing laissez-faire , [52] [53] or free-market anarchism , also known as free-market anti-capitalism and free-market socialism to distinguish it from laissez-faire capitalism.

Benjamin Tucker is one eminent American individualist anarchist who adopted a laissez-faire system he termed anarchistic socialism in contraposition to state socialism. Long , [61] [62] Charles W. Johnson, [63] Brad Spangler, [64] Sheldon Richman, [65] [66] [67] Chris Matthew Sciabarra [68] and Gary Chartier , [69] who stress the value of radically free markets, termed freed markets to distinguish them from the common conception which these left-libertarians believe to be riddled with statist and capitalist privileges. Kevin Carson describes his politics as on "the outer fringes of both free market libertarianism and socialism " [76] and has also been highly critical of intellectual property.

Carson believes that Tucker overlooked this issue due to Tucker's focus on individual market transactions whereas he also focuses on organizational issues. As such, the primary focus of his most recent work has been decentralized manufacturing and the informal and household economies. He claims that "the term 'capitalism,' as it was originally used, did not refer to a free market, but to a type of statist class system in which capitalists controlled the state and the state intervened in the market on their behalf".

It has been sustained to the present by continual state intervention to protect its system of privilege without which its survival is unimaginable". According to Carson, the term is derived from the phrase vulgar political economy which Karl Marx described as an economic order that "deliberately becomes increasingly apologetic and makes strenuous attempts to talk out of existence the ideas which contain the contradictions [existing in economic life]".

Gary Chartier offers an understanding of property rights as contingent yet tightly constrained social strategies, reflective of the importance of multiple, overlapping rationales for separate ownership and of natural law principles of practical reasonableness, defending robust yet non-absolute protections for these rights in a manner similar to that employed by David Hume.

According to Chartier, "it makes sense for [freed-market advocates] to name what they oppose "capitalism. A closely related conception is that of raw or pure capitalism, or unrestrained capitalism, that refers to capitalism free of social regulations , [94] with low, minimal [95] or no government and operating almost entirely on the profit motive. Other than laissez-faire economics and anarcho-capitalism , it is not associated with a school of thought and typically has a bad connotation which hints towards a perceived need for restraint due to social needs and securities that can not be adequately responded to by companies with just a motive for making profit.

Robert Kuttner states that "for over a century, popular struggles in democracies have used the nation-state to temper raw capitalism. The power of voters has offset the power of capital. But as national barriers have come down in the name of freer commerce, so has the capacity of governments to manage capitalism in a broad public interest. So the real issue is not 'trade' but democratic governance". The main issues of raw capitalism are said to lie in its disregard for quality, durability , sustainability , respect for the environment and human beings as well as a lack of morality. Raw or hyper-capitalism is a prime motive of cyberpunk in dystopian works such as Syndicate.

Over the years, a number of economists have offered critiques of laissez-faire economics. Adam Smith acknowledges some moral ambiguities towards the system of capitalism.

Great Britain and Laissez Not-so-Faire Economics

Their ability to reap a revenue solely from ownership of land tends to make them indolent and inept, and so they tend to be unable to even look after their own economic interests" [] and that "[t]he increase in population should increase the demand for food, which should increase rents, which should be economically beneficial to the landlords". According to Smith, the landlords should be in favour of policies which contribute to the growth in the wealth of nations, but they often are not in favour of these pro-growth policies because of their own indolent-induced ignorance and intellectual flabbiness.

Critics and market abolitionists such as David McNally argue in the Marxist tradition that the logic of the market inherently produces inequitable outcomes and leads to unequal exchanges, arguing that Smith's moral intent and moral philosophy espousing equal exchange was undermined by the practice of the free market he championed.

According to McNally, the development of the market economy involved coercion, exploitation and violence that Smith's moral philosophy could not countenance. The British economist John Maynard Keynes condemned laissez-faire economic policy on several occasions.

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The Austrian School economist Friedrich Hayek stated that a freely competitive, laissez-faire banking industry tends to be endogenously destabilizing and pro-cyclical, arguing that the need for central banking control was inescapable. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Part of a series on Economic systems By ideology. By coordination. By regional model. Common ownership Private Public Voluntary. Property types. Collective ownership Commons Private property State ownership Social ownership. Other types.

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Age of Enlightenment List of liberal theorists contributions to liberal theory. Schools of thought. Regional variants. Bias in academia Bias in the media. Main articles: Free-market anarchism and Free-market socialism. Political concepts. Philosophies and tendencies. Significant events. Economic systems. Economic theories. Anti-capitalism Capitalist state Consumerism Crisis theory Criticism of capitalism Cronyism Culture of capitalism Exploitation Globalization History History of theory Market economy Periodizations of capitalism Perspectives on capitalism Post-capitalism Speculation Spontaneous order Venture philanthropy.

Anarcho-capitalism Authoritarian capitalism Democratic capitalism Dirigism Eco-capitalism Humanistic capitalism Inclusive capitalism Liberal capitalism Liberalism Libertarian capitalism Neo-capitalism Neoliberalism Objectivism Ordoliberalism Right-libertarianism Social democracy. Further information: Criticism of capitalism. Litchfield , Ph.

Laissez-faire and State Intervention in Nineteenth-century Britain Laissez-faire and State Intervention in Nineteenth-century Britain
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