Opinion | And Now a Word for Laissez-Faire

Laissez-faire has become a dirty word. Today it serves as shorthand for a soulless, anything-goes approach to life in which government makes no contribution to a thriving economy and the market is the solution to every problem.

The term’s origin, however, suggests more a disposition than an ideology. In 17th-century France, when Louis XIV’s eager finance minister asked a group of French businessmen what he could do to help them, a certain Monsieur Legendre is said to have responded “Laissez-nous faire.” Very loosely translated,…

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