Journal of Economic Literature Classification Codes
B11, B12, B31
Laissez-faire, Adam Smith, Francois Quesnay, Anne Robert Jacques Turgot, Jean Jacques Rousseau, French Enlightenment, Public Sector, Public Receipts, Public Expenditures
This paper traces laissez-faire back to its French roots, and in particular, to its origins as a political philosophy evoking an economic approach. Related to his visit to France in the 1760s and his personal contacts, we suggest that Adam Smith serves as the link between selected French thinkers and what after Smith’s Inquiry would be widely accepted as a quintessentially Anglo-Saxon tradition in economics. Exploring doctrine, we offer linkages between F. Quesnay, A. Turgot, J.J. Rousseau, and Smith’s ideas. Similarities in Smith’s understanding and the French exponents regarding economic activity vis-a- vis a public sector are presented, along with what we characterize as their minor departures related to relative size and tasks of the public sector, agriculture policy, role of competition, taxation and expenditure, as well as consumption by the wealthy.
© Thomas Breaden
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Breaden, Thomas, "On the Origins of Laissez-Faire, Working Paper No. 30", Portland State University Economics Working Papers. 30. (15 December 2005) i + 12 pages.