The Laissez Faire Concept

Some abuses

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Although it would be useless to hark back to "the good old days," those who lament today's general tendency not to call a spade a spade are not without foundation. In accordance with the drift of our era, a janitor can now claim the appellation of "vice-president in charge of the maintenance division." However amusing this kind of semantic exercise may be, its effect on the social sciences is crucial. People are usually able to recognize examples of political semantics only in their more blatant forms (e.g., Orwell's "War is peace"). In their less blatant and more carefully disguised forms, however, the obfuscation of language can have extremely important (and often debilitating) ideological effects. Although I am certainly not qualified to deal extensively with this complex and interesting problem, I do wish to impress upon readers the importance of taking cognizance of this general problem (especially as it pertains to libertarianism). In the words of two left-radicals, "Those who have the right to define are the masters of the situation."[1] Although libertarians are generally aware of this, especially with such words as "liberty" and "freedom," few are aware of the extent to which the concept of "laissez faire" has been badgered and pummeled.[2] In this short essay, I wish to present a few examples of the perversion of the laissez faire idea so that in the future opponents of laissez faire will be unable to follow their illegitimate mode of argumentation. At the outset, we may define laissez faire primarily as noninterference in matters economic although it may also be legitimately applied to cultural matters (e.g., nonregulation of sexual mores).[3]

I. ABUSE BY HISTORIANS

Our first example of the abusive treatment of laissez faire centers on a popular collegiate textbook, THE NATIONAL EXPERIENCE: A HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES. [4] Contributors to this work represent the cream of the crop of Court historians: They include C. Vann Woodward and (surprise of all surprises!) Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. Supposedly, these are the Great Golden Mean historians who have pinpointed the contemporary dialectic in its ever-moving struggle. In this case, it is Woodward who shows us how Wertfrei historians can be.

Displaying the typical pre-Kolko orientation, Woodward begins (p. 393) by erroneously informing us that "The central theme of American history during the quarter-century following Reconstruction was laissez faire—'let alone.'" Since we have all heard this theme before, the statement might be immediately dismissed. But Woodward's interpretation of that which is laissez faire is what is interesting. In discussing the subjugation of blacks during the period (ibid.), he writes, "White Southerners responded with fervor to the doctrine of laissez faire." In one of the most grotesque strangulations of logic I have ever encountered, Woodward follows this course of reasoning: Laissez faire means noninterference in economic matters. Laissez faire also means noninterference in other matters (in this case, justice). Therefore, because laissez faire means "let alone," it was laissez faire when Southern whites were allowed to lynch blacks. This, of course, is pure nonsense and all the more remarkable considering that its source is an esteemed professor of United States history. Briefly, Woodward's analogy is scandalous: It is tantamount to saying that one who believes in laissez faire believes that all crimes should go unpunished! Notice also that this directly contradicts the modern liberal's chiding of classical liberals for seeking a government that engages only in such negative activies as barring force and fraud from the market. Clearly, Woodward has engaged in circular reasoning. By preempting the meaning of laissez faire, it is not hard to see what the consequences of this kind of "laissez faire" will be. The stage is thus set for the modern liberal to discard the laissez faire concept in toto, since, in Isabel Paterson's words, "…an erroneous concept or theory (in this case, "laissez faire") may be expressed in terms which embody the error, so that thinking is blocked until the misleading words are discarded from the given context." And so, laissez faire loses by default.[5]

This error is also committed by the so-called friends of "modern capitalism." For Walter Lippmann, for example, the fact that economic activities are protected by law (i.e., some agency—in this case, government—is involved), is an indication that laissez faire is a "fallacy."[6] Here again, the false analogy. That laissez faire does mean nonregulation in economic matters does not mean non-involvement by law: This statement is just as relevant for anarcho-capitalists as it is for classical liberals. The analogy leads Lippmann to absurd interpretations, as the following shows:

It is most important to fix this clearly in our minds, for then we shall be spared much confusion. Let us examine an extreme case: in 1848 Herbert Spencer argued against Boards of Health. It is "within the proper sphere of government," he says, "to repress nuisances." So if a man "contaminates the atmosphere breathed by his neighbor," he is "infringing his neighbor's rights" and the government may be called upon to deal with him as a trespasser. But for the state to "interpose between quacks and those who patronize them" is, said Spencer, "directly to violate the moral law." Thus he was arguing that if I annoy my neighbor by blowing smoke into his house, I may be punished, but if I kill him by deceiving him into thinking that I am a physician, I go scot-free, and my victim's widow is forbidden to shoot me. Spencer thought he was distinguishing between two realms, one where the state intervenes and one where it does not. But actually the state intervenes in both instances. The only difference is that in the case of the trespasser Spencer would have the law protect the victim, in the case of the quack he would have the law protect the aggressor."[7]

Lippmann's silly interpretation at least follows from his own premises. But it is clear, even from his own presentation, that Spencer meant noninvolvement only in the exchange itself and not its consequences. This abusive and popular interpretation of laissez faire will not stand up to logic. [8]

I will give only one other example of Woodward's treatment of laissez faire. We can extend comfort to him since he is not alone in the use of it. In recounting the activities of railroads in the Gilded Age (pp. 438 ff.), Woodward notes that "the federal government continued through the years of the worst railroad anarchy to practice laissez faire." Remarkably, paralleling his discussion of the "sins" of laissez faire, Woodward recounts the presence of such devices as tariffs, land grants, subsidies, ad infinitum. With characteristic duty, he glosses over what he himself presents and separates these evidences of government intervention from the conditions he describes. Nexus analysis, especially as advanced by Bastiat and Hazlitt, teaches us that we must analyze particular situations by linking effects with their causes. Abnegation of nexus analysis means that the analyst takes the situation as a given and proposes methods to solve a problem before asking what created the problem in the first place. Here, then, Woodward is destroying a bogey-man. If such anti-laissez faire devices as subsidies create a particular situation, one can hardly blame laissez faire for that situation. Yet this is what Woodward and others have done; if one ignores the root cause, then the situation can be blamed on whatever one opposes, regardless of whether what is opposed exists or not. Here again laissez faire takes the blunt end of the club. [9]

II. ABUSE BY SOCIAL SCIENTISTS

Another example of the distortion of laissez faire so as to discredit it is the famous test of the "participation hypothesis" conducted by Lewin, Lippitt, and White in the late 1930's.[10] Using groups of ten-year-old boys, the three experimentally created leadership climates of "authoritarian," "democratic," and "laissez faire" were used to test their respective effects on each child's resultant attitudes. It was found that when the leader of the group was neither domineering ("authoritatian") nor passive ("laissez faire") but "democratic" (i.e., gave direction and some freedom), group productivity and satisfaction increased. In other words, the democratic form of small group leadership was the most efficacious. Whether right or wrong, the results of the test do not concern us. What is important is the faulty analogy social scientists have made; the Lewin findings have been transferred from the sphere of small groups to the sphere of the larger social system.[11]

The transference takes, roughly, the following shape: Small group activities are best effectuated through the democratic mode, since it affords greater productivity with a maximum of group compliance. This mode is clearly superior to the authoritarian and laissez faire types of group leadership. Therefore, a democratic society is clearly superior to either an authoritarian or laissez faire society.

The absurdities of this analogy should be evident. First, if by "democratic" we mean "letting the people choose," then the people can choose an authoritarian or laissez faire setting. This, of course, is generally ignored (deliberately) by doctrinaire democrats. Second, and most important, the social scientists who make this illegitimate transference fail to tell us what a laissez faire society would be like. Whether of the limited government or anarchist variety, it is true that government would be nearly (or totally) passive. Not discussed is the rather obvious fact that the individual does not have all his relations with government. In a laissez faire society, a man may have an employer who decides that the democratic mode of group decision is best for the morale of his employees. The employer is also free to choose the other two modes. Likewise, parents have the same choice in their relations with their children (although, of course, the authoritarian mode would not be preferred). The point is that the democratic mode of decision-making and a laissez faire society are not mutually exclusive. We should therefore be aware of statements by social scientists, commenting that studies such as Lewin's represent

the empirical demonstration of the functional superiority of a democratic form of organization.…Even to a limited extent, it can be seen that science can bolster the claims of a democratic form of authority, and it would therefore seem that on scientific grounds, it is the duty of the scientist to take the side of fostering democracy.…[12]

III. THE CONSERVATIVE MISNOMER

Another popular method of attacking laissez faire is to call it "conservative." First, it should be quite apparent that whether an idea is in and of itself "conservative," "orthodox," "liberal," "radical," or whatever is of no relevance. What has to be shown is whether the idea is right or wrong. Second, by calling laissez faire "conservative," its critics confuse the difference between conservatism and classical liberalism. Conservatives are often notoriously anti-laissez faire in orientation and indeed often have more similarities with modern liberals and socialists.[13] Third, if by conservative we mean acceptance of the status quo, then laissez faire is perhaps the most radical philosophy one can presently hold. Fourth, it is remarkable that historians refer to "laissez faire conservatism" in the nineteenth century—one wonders whether laissez faire has ever been considered radical. Fifth, a common objection to laissez faire is that it has been used as a conservative justification for the status quo. It is true that this has happened, especially with the philosophy of Social Darwinism.[14] Especially frequent are the taunts that businessmen support free enterprise but call for tariffs and other protectionist measures. But the point is that once government grants favors, there is no laissez faire and therefore "laissez faire conservatism" can be seen as a contradiction in terms.[15] A businessman who advocates a tariff negates himself, not laissez faire. Precisely because laissez faire is a dynamic system which shows no favor for stagnating economic interests, it is logically absurd to call it conservative. Indeed, we can question whether laissez faire can ever become conservative. To borrow Lord Acton's opinion of classical liberalism, laissez faire may very well be a "revolution in permanence." It is quite clear then that in this context "conservatism," like "isolationism," is a scare word used by those who have no better way to criticize laissez faire. One sometimes wonders whether Keynesianism, through semantic co-optation, will in the future escape the charge of being orthodox.

IV. FREE TRADE AND PROTECTIONISM

One of the more amusing proofs of my assertion is the recent discussion in popular journals of the problem of trade between nations. Most economists agree that free trade is desirable—even most interventionist economists acknowledge that this aspect of laissez faire is generally valid. What has happened? Since free trade is desirable, it is called "liberal" (i.e., it is "good"). James Reston, in regard to U.S. economic relations with Japan, wrote of the United States' rejection of the "liberal free trade economic principles it has advocated for more than a generation." [16] Likewise, one of the major Establishment magazines claimed: "The present crisis endangers the free exchange of money and goods, and casts a shadow on the unimpeded flow of people and ideas."[17] In other words, if you advocate laissez faire (free trade) between nations, you are a liberal (i.e., a good and wise person). However, if you advocate free trade within the nation's boundaries (drawn by politicians), you now, magically, become a conservative (i.e., a bad and stupid person). A nation's border line thus has the remarkable effect of changing the principles of economics.

Semantic hypocrisy is seen again in the explanation for America's recent anti-free trade tendencies. Simplistically, Republicans are said to favor "free enterprise." Yet Nixon's protectionist policies are explained by the following: "There is little chance for any reform without a prosperous U.S. economy. Richard Nixon, a man who instinctively favors the traditional, long believed that the nation would find that prosperity and stability where it normally has in the past: the marketplaces of classic laissez faire economics."[18] In other words, because free trade between nations is liberal and laissez faire is still a no-no, protectionism now becomes equated with laissez faire! So, by terminological co-optation, laissez faire is seen as reactionary from both perspectives, with no more options to defend itself with.

V. THE "OUTDATED" CHARGE

Another popular distortion of laissez faire is the charge that it is "outdated." On definitional terms we can see through this. Let us take, for example, a famous statement by Mr. Justice Douglas. In an attempt to justify coercion against racists and their "public" private property, Douglas held:

Places of public accommodation such as retail stores, restaurants, and the like render a "service which has become of public interest" in the manner of the innkeepers and common carriers of old.…In our time the interdependence of people has greatly increased; the days of laissez faire have largely disappeared; men are more and more dependent on their neighbors for services as well as for housing and the other necessities of life.[19]

What is public and what is private does not concern us here; the interpretation of laissez faire does. Marxists attack capitalism, laissez faire, and the division of labor. Yet here Douglas has pulled a rather remarkable switch—attacking both Marxists and capitalists alike, he has disassociated laissez faire from the division of labor! This is sure to be a surprise for writers of economics textbooks. Laissez faire pertains precisely to the industrial society Douglas wishes to separate it from. Professor Rothbard's comments are especially cogent:

Critics often level conflicting charges against the free market. The historicist-minded may concede that the free market is ideal for a certain stage of economic development, but insist that it is unsuited to other stages. Thus, advanced nations have been exhorted to embrace government planning because "the modern economy is too complex" to remain planless, "the frontier is gone," and "the economy is now mature." But, on the other hand, the backward countries have been told that they must adopt statist planning methods because of their relatively primitive state. So any given economy is either too advanced or too backward for laissez faire; and we may rest assured that the appointed moment for laissez faire somehow never arrives.[20]

And we may also rest assured that Mr. Justice Douglas is one of those who advocate interventionist planning in backward countries. Laissez faire is relevant in those economies where people are not self-sufficient. What else does free trade imply?

Laissez faire is, in this context, also deemed outdated for its supposed companionship with "rugged individualism." Unfortunately, some libertarians have accepted the designation of "rugged individualist," Yet this peculiar creature is a bogey-man who is not only unattainable but undesirable as well. Confused here are two types of individualism. One is the so-called right to "do your own thing" (which is the type some libertarians have unwittingly embraced). On the contrary, libertarianism holds that you can "do your own thing" only if you do the "thing" with what is yours (either by ownership or voluntary agreement to use another's property). Consistent libertarianism embraces a second type of individualism, which is essentially a philosophy of non-coercion. Here it must be made clear that the opposite of conformism is not individualism but nonconformism. Individualists conform to many things, especially the principles they all agree on. Compulsive nonconformism is, in fact, irrational.

"Rugged individualism" implies the existence of primitive men in wide-open spaces. The individualism of libertarianism, on the other hand, is not a theory about man versus society; it is a theory of how men should act within society. It is not a theory of isolated men; it is a theory of morally autonomous men in relatively voluntary, noncoercive association. Yet what has happened is that people equate the two types of individualism. Individualism a la Nietzsche, the will to power (over others?), comes to be seen as the individualism libertarians hold. Thus, laissez faire is associated by its opponents (and sometimes its friends) with the Nietzschean type of individualism. The concept again loses by default, this time for being associated with something it is not really associated with.[21]

VI. DICTIONARY ABUSE

Semantics also pervades the dictionaries. In WEBSTER'S NEW TWENTIETH CENTURY DICTIONARY (2nd ed. 1969), we find the following definition of laissez faire: "noninterference in matters of economics and business; letting the owners of industry and business fix the rules of competition, the conditions of labor, etc. as they please, without governmental regulation or control." Now the people at Webster's have every right to define a term or phrase in any way they see fit. They may define Raquel Welch as being "of the male gender." But it is quite clear that this is not a definition—it is editorializing, something I thought dictionaries rigorously avoided. Owners, under laissez faire, may attempt to "fix the rules of competition" or fix "the conditions of labor." But they might also not attempt to do so. Further, a businessman cannot simply snap his fingers and get what he wishes—he has to take his own profits into consideration if he attempts to do those things the people at Webster's say he will do. We must conclude that this is an attempt on the part of a "value-free" lexicographer to influence his audience by distorting the meaning of laissez faire.

As I was writing this, however, a contrary thought came to my mind. Perhaps the lexicographer really is writing free of all prejudice. Perhaps he is only duly recording what is today the common meaning of laissez faire. In that case, the definition is even more of a proof of the semantic distortion of laissez faire. At least it's food for thought.

VII. NIXON'S ECONOMIC POLICIES

Before President Nixon instituted his wage and price control scheme, some interesting remarks were made concerning the nation's economic woes. One in particular struck my fancy—it came from A.W. Clausen, the president of the Bank of America, no less.[22] "The President should speak out more forcefully and specifically on inflationary settlements and price increases," stated Clausen. "The Administration is failing with its laissez faire policy." Readers may be amused, but our new age of word games is really quite serious. The real meaning of Clausen's statement is this: Government may have as many controls and regulations on the economy as it pleases, but if there are no wage and price controls, we still have laissez faire. Laissez faire, then, is the cause of our problems and we must abandon it to get anything done (i.e., begin wage and price controls).[23] In other words, we are now supposed to discard the standard liberal mythology concerning the death of laissez faire (circa 1933?). Now all our economic problems are to be blamed on laissez faire, albeit one with a brand new definition. Thus, the phrase "laissez faire" is reinforced in the public's mind, once again, as the cause of our age's afflictions. There have been, so they say, no depressions since "laissez faire" was abandoned (because depressions are now called recessions or "downward trends?"). However, readers are forewarned that when the country does have what will be admitted to be a genuine depression (or any other pratfalls, for that matter), its cause will be placed at the door of a nonexistent laissez faire.

VIII. UNORGANIZED CHAOS

One final example will be employed to show the misuse of laissez faire. In a discussion of that smog-ridden California city, I encountered a statement concerning "Los Angeles and its laissez faire ways."[24] This implies, of course, that laissez faire means unorganized chaos. Not stated is the role of the city's government (and the state of California) in creating a situation not possible under laissez faire. Laissez faire, for example, did not build government highways. Again, chaos produced by anything or anybody is blamed on laissez faire. We often hear charges of "waste" in the private sector (i.e., people spending their own money as they see fit). When the United States Post Office, for example, loses millions of dollars a year, that is chalked up as "inevitable" or backed by the claim that "We only owe it to ourselves!" Thus, government waste and chaos is either "necessary" or blamed on "laissez faire" (are not government waste and laissez faire mutually exclusive?).

And then we must encounter, at one time or another, the bogey of either the "planless economy" or the "invisible hand"—both of which are supposed to indicate the "inevitable chaos" of laissez faire and the free market. First, the question is not between planning or no planning; the question is where the planning will occur—at the level of supposedly "omniscient" bureaucrats or at the level of the real economic actors who have more reliable economic data with which to act? Second, the "invisible hand" is a grossly simple way of naming the aggregation and adjustment of individual exchanges on the market. There is no "invisible hand" when I trade my money for another's product; there are some who still believe that something is invisible if not performed by government. In Rothbard's pertinent words,

Is it, then, surprising that the early economists, all religious men, marveled at their epochal discovery of the harmony pervading the free market and tended to describe this beneficence to a "hidden hand" or devine harmony? It is easier for us to scoff at their enthusiasm than to realize that it does not detract from the validity of their analysis.

Conventional writers charge, for example, that the French "optimistic" school of the nineteenth century were engaging in a naive Harmonielehre—a mystical idea of a divinely ordained harmony. But his charge ignores the fact that the French optimists were building on the very sound "welfare-economic" insight that voluntary exchanges on the free market conduce harmoniously to the benefit of all.[25]

IX. CONCLUSION

I could, of course, give many other examples of the use and abuse of the laissez faire concept. The point is that the concept is constantly abused, often with the tacit compliance of "friends" of the free market. I am convinced that much of the problem the libertarian faces in persuading others to join him in a broad front for voluntarism is semantic and definitional in nature and origin. Libertarians should be constantly on guard against this problem, especially as it pertains to such important terms and phrases as laissez faire, individualism, and the like. We must remember Voltaire's dictum that, "If you would converse with me, define your terms." Perhaps by so doing, half the libertarian's battle will already be won.

Howard Samson received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Colorado State University.

NOTES AND REFERENCES

[1] Stokely Carmichael and Charles V. Hamilton, BLACK POWER: THE POLITICS OF LIBERATION IN AMERICA (New York: Random House, 1967), p. 36.
[2] See F.A. Hayek, INDIVIDUALISM AND ECONOMIC ORDER (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948), p. 17.
[3] Readers may object, along with Karl Mannheim, that "We shall begin with the fact that the same word, or the same concept in most cases, means very different things when used by differently situated persons" (Ideology and Utopia (London, 1960), 245). There is no argument here however. It is one thing to say that a concept with different meanings (such as "individualism") will be used differently. "Laissez faire," on the other hand, is a concept generally acknowledged to have one particular meaning. Deviations from that meaning often amount to little more than linguisitic perjury.
[4] John M. Blum et al., THE NATIONAL EXPERIENCE: A HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES (2nd ed.; New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1968).
[5] For this same error, but from a different angle, see Louis Hartz, ECONOMIC POLICY AND DEMOCRATIC THOUGHT: PENNSYLVANIA, 1776-1860 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1948), pp. 181-186. In an attempt to establish the "myth of laissez faire," Hartz maintains that since Pennsylvania instituted social reform in moving "to abolish rights in slave property" (my emphasis), this was an example of government involvement and therefore anti-laissez faire in nature. At this point, we might add that recent historical research (e.g., that by Hartz and the Handlins [COMMONWEALTH: MASSACHUSETTS, 1774-1861]) designed to show the breadth of state regulatory activity in the last century and therefore the "myth" of laissez faire, may prove a boomerang. For if their research is true, then economic problems could logically be attributed to state interference. "…much of what was done and most of what was not done, some of what was good and practically all of what was evil in nineteenth-century England and America have been accounted for by a facile reference to laissez faire." Lloyd R. Sorenson, "Some Classical Economists, Laissez Faire, and the Factory Acts," J. OF ECONOMIC HISTORY (Summer, 1952), p. 247. Further, the nonexistence of laissez faire (or any other economic system) says nothing about whether it is valid or not.

[6] THE GOOD SOCIETY (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1947), pp. 184-192.
[7] IBID., pp. 187-88.
[8] We might here mention another error by Lippmann. He maintains (p. 185) that laissez faire was the "necessary destructive doctrine of a revolutionary movement" but was useless once the liberal revolutions were over. First, it hardly seems logical that an economic policy be used for "destructive" purposes (i.e., removing mercantilist restrictions) and then dropped. Why not just a smooth transition from mercantilism to Lippmann's pet economic system? Second, Lippmann makes the erroneous (and common) assumption that laissez faire was instituted immediately on publication of THE WEALTH OF NATIONS. On the contrary, policies promoting economic freedom lagged behind (often by decades) policies promoting political freedom. Lippman's approach would logically lead him to the following ironical statement: A person who believed in laissez faire would deplore a governmental reform favoring laissez faire because that reform would involve government (!).
[9] Abnegation of nexus analysis is, of course, still rife in inquiries into modern problems. For example, union privileges and minimum wage laws cause unemployment but most propose as a solution to the latter not the removal of the former but policies such as public jobs, etc.
[10] I draw my presentation from Sidney Verba, SMALL GROUPS AND POLITICAL BEHAVIOR: A STUDY OF LEADERSHIP (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1961), pp. 206-25. On the actual experiment, see Lewin, Lippitt, and White, "Patterns of Aggressive Behavior in Experimentally Created Social Climates," 10, J. SOC. PSYCH. pp. 271-99 (1939).

[11] See the writers cited by Verba, supra note 10.
[12] Wolpert, "Toward a Sociology of Authority," in Alvin W. Gouldner (ed.), STUDIES IN LEADERSHIP (New York: Harper, 1950), p. 699. What Wolpert means by "democracy" should not be very surprising.
[13] Interested readers may consult many sources on this subject. See Murray N. Rothbard's pamphlet, "The Transformation of the American Right," and his "Confessions of a Right-Wing Liberal," Ramparts, June 15, 1968, pp. 48-52; Ronald Hamowy, "Liberalism and Neo-Conservatism: Is a Synthesis Possible?," MODERN AGE, (Fall, 1964), pp. 350-59; Hayek, "Why I Am Not a Conservative" in THE CONSTITUTION OF LIBERTY (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960), pp. 397-411. See also the bevy of articles on this subject in the NEW INDIVIDUALIST REVIEW, e.g., Edward C. Facey, "Conservatives or Individualists: Which Are We?" (Summer, 1961), pp. 24-26; Hamowy and William F. Buckley, Jr., " 'National Review': Criticism and Reply," (November, 1961), pp. 3-11; James M. O'Connell, "The New Conservatism," (Spring, 1962), pp. 17-21; Benjamin A. Rogge, "New Conservatives and Old Liberals," (Autumn, 1962), pp. 31-34; Ralph Raico, "The Fusionists on Liberalism and Tradition," (III, 3), pp. 29-36. Frank Chodorov spoke for many libertarians when he exclaimed: "Anyone who calls me a conservative gets a punch in the nose."
[14] See Rosalie Nichols' instructive "Social Darwinism Or, How To Turn People Off To Laissez Faire," S.E.L.F. REPORT (April 1970), pp. 8-15.
[15] Even with this recognition, some writers such as Ben B. Seligman (MAIN CURRENTS IN MODERN ECONOMICS) equate Mises' "libertarianism in extremis" with conservatism. For a totally uncalled-for article, see Frank H. Knight, "Laissez Faire: Pro And Con," J. OF POLITICAL ECONOMY, (December 1967), pp. 782-95.

[16] NEW YORK TIMES, 3 September 1971.
[17] TIME, 30 August 1971, p. 18.
[18] IBID., p. 13. It should not be surprising then that more objective analysis is available from left-liberal publications. Cf. Robert Eisner's statement that "if Nixon's economics signifies essentially not laissez faire liberalism but protection of his own political constituency—most importantly big business and the rich—the new economic policy is basically consistent with the old." "Nixon's Old Economic Policy," THE PROGRESSIVE, October 1971, p. 21.
[19] Justice Douglas, Lombard v. Louisiana, 373 U.S. 267, 279 (1963).
[20] POWER AND MARKET (Menlo Park, Calif.: Institute for Humane Studies, 1970), p. 174.

[21] Another popular misconception is that individualism and laissez faire went out with the advent of corporations. This implies that economic individualism was valid only so long as each person owned his own business. On the contrary, individualism still holds since a corporation is formed by individuals in voluntary association: There is nothing mysterious about a corporation once one looks at the individuals acting in its name. A critique of the tendency to regard competition as valid only when it is "perfect" can be found in Hayek, INDIVIDUALISM AND ECONOMIC ORDER, loc. cit., pp. 92-106. On the well-worn issues of Herbert Hoover, the Great Depression, and "outmoded" laissez faire, see the following by Rothbard: "Herbert Clark Hoover: A Reconsideration," NEW INDIVIDUALIST REVIEW, (Winter 1966), pp. 3-12; "The Hoover Myth," in Weinstein and Eakins (eds.), FOR A NEW AMERICA, ESSAYS IN HISTORY AND POLITICS FROM STUDIES ON THE LEFT, 1959-1967 (New York: Random House, 1970), pp. 162-179; AMERICA'S GREAT DEPRESSION (Princeton, N.J.: D. Van Nostrand, 1963). See, also Eugene Smolensky's caustic review of the latter in the J. OF ECONOMIC HISTORY, (june 1964), pp. 283-84.
[22] TIME, 16 August 1971, p. 68.
[23] "(TIME Correspondent Lawrence) Malkin had previously reported that Federal Reserve Board Chairman Arthur Burns was becoming increasingly disenchanted with the classic economic theory (laissez faire, pray tell?) espoused by the President's chief economic advisor, George Schultz." Ibid., p. 5.
[24] TIME, 9 August 1971, p. 41.
[25] MAN, ECONOMY, AND STATE (Los Angeles: Nash, 1970), II, pp. 922-23.