Saturday, May 10, 2014


Hoover's The Challenge to Liberty was published in 1934, 12 years after American Individualism and about 4 years into the Great Depression.  He is still opposed to the libertarian creed of laisser-faire as you will observe in this passage (pp. 50-52):
Before I proceed to discuss these alternate
philosophies of society and government I shall,
in order to clear some underbrush, take a moment
to discuss one of the older economic systems,
the ghost of which seems to walk the
minds of some of our contemporary essayists.

That is laisser-faire.

This old economic theory of the French
Physiocrats of the eighteenth century and of
its exponent in modified form, Adam Smith,
has been lately revived as a vivid slogan, mostly
for political defamation. It is the theory of economic
*'let do," "go as you please," or "let nature
rule," and is defined in academic terms as,
"The doctrine that the business man should be
allowed to go his own way while the government's
only duty is to give him protection and
perform a few general services, preserve peace,
and punish crime." This was originally thought
to be the essential component of all forms of
individualism. It may thrive as an economic
or social philosophy in some country today, but
it has been dead in America for generations 

except in books of economic history.


The American economic system is hardly one
of "let do" or "go as you please." Ever since
the Industrial Age began we have devised and

enforced thousands of regulations in prevention
of economic domination or abuse of our liberties
through the growing instruments of business.

Furthermore, the sense of public responsibility
for the general welfare has successively produced
public education, public health, public works, 

public stimulation of scientific research,
and in 1929 for the first time embraced the responsibility
for public action in the battle against depression.
This is hardly laisser-faire.
Hoover ended this section with this simple observation:
There may be some reactionary souls who still
yearn for laisser-faire. But the lack of objection
to the above statement might indicate that
it has no passionate party in its support.

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