Economics and Business


What does laissez-faire mean?

From the French, laissez-faire literally means “to let (people) do (as they choose).” As an economic doctrine, laissez-faire opposes government interference in economic and business matters, or at least desires to keep government’s role to an absolute minimum. Laissez-faire favors a free market (a market characterized by open competition). The theory was popularized during the late eighteenth century as a reaction to mercantilism. Noted Scottish economist Adam Smith (1723–1790) was among the advocates of a laissez-faire market.


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