The Corner

Conservatism and Laissez-faire

Here’s a characteristically smart post on this topic by the (London) Spectator’s Fraser Nelson. The whole thing is well worth reading, but note, in particular, this:

In fact, you can argue that modern conservatism is based on an explicit rejection of laissez-faire. Even Hayek was clear that the state has a duty to set and police rules. He defined liberalism as ‘using a legal framework enforced by the state in order to make competition as effective and beneficial as possible”.

So while it’s a statement of the obvious, the obvious can’t be stated enough at a time when we’re fighting (or should be) for the future of capitalism and the open society. The last ten years were not laissez-faire, as even Gordon Brown suggests. The crash was the result of bad regulation, not insufficient regulation. Brown told the Guardian last month that “laissez-faire had its day” and it did – in the 1880s. The problem this time was a blind, almost fundamentalist, faith in rules-based economics – the idea that, if inflation was low, everything else would be fine. And this stems from a blind faith in the power of governments.

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