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laissez-faire economics


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The view that a market economy will perform most efficiently if it is free from government intervention, and is subject only to market forces. This view takes no account of environmental degradation (see Dean and Lovely (2008) Economist's View on China) or social justice (see Antle (1993) Amer. J. Agric. Econ. 75, 3). ‘The free-market is not…a natural state of affairs which comes about when political interference with market exchange has been removed. In any long and broad historical perspective the free market is a rare, short-lived aberration. Regulated markets are the norm, arising spontaneously in the life of every society. The free market is a construction of state power’ (J. Gray, 1998). Gray shows convincingly that laissez-faire capitalism has a very ambivalent relationship to democracy as it demands serious social control (see Wills (2000) PHG24, 4). In the UK, L. Elliot and D. Atkinson (1998) argue that this control has been achieved partly through the extension of insecurity into the nooks and crannies of everyday life for the majority of the population. Vojnovic (2003) Geograf. Annal. B 85, 1, in a study of Houston, Texas—‘the archetype laissez-faire city’—finds that, despite the local laissez-faire rhetoric, government intervention in Houston's growth has been vital. Additionally ‘there is a strong contradiction between neoliberal laissez-faire in the East and growing regulative intervention in the West’ (M. Redclift and G. Woodgate, eds 1997).

Subjects: Earth Sciences and Geography — Social Sciences.


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