The Chronology of Laissez-faire
THE chronology of the so-called period of laissez-faire presents issues which are essentially subsidiary to and derivative from the main arguments about policy. Cunningham began his volume on laissez-faire with the publication of The Wealth of Nations in 1776, and ended it at 1850 when ‘the reaction against laissez-faire had begun to make itself clearly felt, so far as the regulation of industry and of internal transport are concerned’.77 Dicey, Cunningham’s contemporary, identified the years between 1825 and 1870 as the ‘period of Benthamism or Individualism’ — the age of laissez-faire. Miss Deane, writing half a century later than either Cunningham or Dicey, saw laissez-faire as already in retreat by the 1830s.
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