To What Extent Did the Government Adhere to the Principles of Laissez Faire from 1865 to 1900
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Laissez faire, meaning "let them do," is a governmental policy i which there is little government intervention. A french philosopher and the finance minister under King Louis XIV's reign, Jean Baptiste Colbert is said to be the first person to disseminate the principles of laissez faire.
From 1865 to 1900, the federal government of the United States moderately adopted the laissez faire system. At first, the government did practice laissez faire for it did little except its necessary duties. However, by the 1870's it was violating laissez faire little by little with the small restrictions on railroads and companies. As time progressed, the federal government abandoned laissez faire, for it passed the Interstate Commerce Act and the Sherman Antitrust Act.
Many Industrialists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries endorsed the laissez faire system, for the lack of government control that it stood for allowed industrialists to manipulate industry and gain power without any opposition. Amasa Walker summarized their thoughts, regarding government, with the sentence, "Economically, it will ever remain true, that the government is best which governs least." In addition, Daniel Knowlton stated, "It is better always to leave individual enterprise to do most that is to be done in the country." For one, big business owners organized trusts by joining with other companies to form monopolies. Without competition or governmental interference, monopolists could ultimately control the production, transportation, and distribution of a consolidation. In 1892, James B. Weaver described the trust system in A Call to Action: An Interpretation of the Great Uprising. Its Source and Causes. He stated:
It is clear that trusts are contrary to public ...
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...erfere with anything other than "unlawful combinations." He also explained, "It is the right of every man to work, labor, and produce in any lawful vocation and to transport his production on equal terms and conditions and under like circumstances. This is industrial liberty and lies at the foundation of the equality of all rights and privileges. . . ." In other words, it is right for government to intervene with the affairs of businesses to stop corruption and better the United States rather than allow wealthy industrialists to take away people's freedom.
Much controversy came with the various acts. Some believed government was wholly violating laissez faire, while others believed that government maintained a good balance. However, although government did enact laissez faire at the beginning of the time frame (1865-1900), it ultimately abandoned it by the 1900's.