True Liberals

by Don Boudreaux on January 21, 2010

in History

On page 372 of his posthumously published History of Economic Analysis, Joseph Schumpeter described the 18th- and 19th-century proponents of free markets as putting forth their program

in a spirit of laissez-faire, that is to say, on the theory that the best way to promote economic development and general welfare is to remove fetters from the private-enterprise economy and to leave it alone.  This is what will be meant in this book by Economic Liberalism.  The reader is requested to keep this definition in mind because the term has acquired a different– in fact almost the opposite– meaning since about 1900 and especially since 1930: as a supreme, if unintended, compliment, the enemies of the system of private enterprise have thought it wise to appropriate its label. [emphasis added]

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