"Laissez Faire in Nineteenth-Century Britain: Fact or Myth?"

Paul, Ellen Frankel
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First Pub. Date
Literature of Liberty. Vol. iii, no. 4, pp. 5-38. Arlington, VA: Institute for Humane Studies
Pub. Date
Paul, Ellen Frankel (Hoover Institution and U. of Colorado, Boulder)
The text of this edition is copyright ©1980, The Institute for Humane Studies. Republished with permission of original copyright holders.
About this Book

Great Britain in the nineteenth century was a great bastion of individualism where that merciless principle of the political economists—laissez faire—dominated public opinion, and Parliament, under its sway, vanquished the last vestiges of an overweaning, Mercantilist state. Captivated by two allied and seemingly indomitable intellectual forces, the radically individualist, antistatist philosophy of the Benthamite Utilitarians and the rigidly free market economics of the Classical School, the Victorian era spurned governmental solutions to acute social problems. In its fanatic embrace of self-interest, self-help, and atomistic individualism, the period can only be characterized as an "age of laissez faire.".... [From the text]