Laissez-faire (to leave alone) is the policy of government nonintervention in the marketplace. It is based on the enlightenment idea of a spontaneous and naturally arising harmony of interests in nature and society, resulting in the belief that the best possible welfare outcomes for all groups will emerge from doing nothing beyond securing private property rights and the security of trade, thus allowing the flourishing of commerce. It became an important influence on British government policy in the 19th century, and was later influential elsewhere, including in the United States.

The doctrine was undermined in theory and became unpopular in the 1930s, when it seemed to promise no realistic measures for combating poverty caused by the global Great Depression. The theory was, however, kept alive in ...

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