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noun | less-ay-FAIR
What It Means
Laissez-faire refers to an economic policy or doctrine that allows businesses to operate with very little interference from the government. Laissez-faire is also used as an adjective, as in “laissez-faire capitalism,” and often figuratively used to mean “hands-off,” as in “she took a laissez-faire approach to managing her employees.”
// The newly-announced candidate is a strong advocate of laissez-faire.
Examples of LAISSEZ-FAIRE
“There is no doubt that our collective viewing during the Christmas period has always been enhanced by the various versions of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol…. Dickens’s most popular work was penned at a time when the government policy of laissez-faire was common practice and led directly to social, economic and political inequality, widespread poverty and inequity.” — Owen Kelly [letter to the editor], The National (Glasgow, Scotland), 29 Dec. 2021
Did You Know?
The French phrase laissez faire literally means “allow to do,” with the idea being “let people do as they choose.” The origins of laissez-faire are associated with the Physiocrats, a group of 18th-century French economists who believed that government policy should not interfere with the operation of natural economic laws. (The actual coiner of the phrase may have been French economist Vincent de Gournay, or it may have been François Quesnay, who is considered the group’s founder and leader.) The original phrase was “laissez faire, laissez passer,” with the second part meaning “let (things) pass.”
Laissez-faire, which first showed up in an English context in the first half of the 19th century, can still mean “a doctrine opposing governmental interference in economic affairs,” but it is also used in broader contexts in which a “hands-off” or “anything-goes” policy or attitude is adopted. It is frequently used as an adjective meaning “favouring a ‘hands-off’ policy,” as in “laissez-faire economics.”
Merriam Webster Dictionary