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However, Giuliani would possibly have made the cut. His tax plan would be the biggest reform we've seen since Reagan and according to some experts it would be more significant. It has been introduced in congress as the FAST (fair and simple tax act).

How about Harding, the most underrated, who despite his failures and pecadilloes, got us out of a downturn without a depression and a world war, and concluded the Treaty of Lausanne, with Turkey, which succeeded where that of Versailles failed?

One can detect in this post a deep-seated concern for the future of "laissez-faire" based on historical trends. In fact, this short post claims to have discovered an historical law that posits the gradual abolition of liberty in the United States! This historicist-minded thinking is dangerous because it suggests that the choice of individuals and the institutional structures to which they give rise are insignificant in the course of societal development.

Let me quote Karl Popper on this: "[i]s it within the power of any social science to make such sweeping historical prophecies? ... The future depends on ourselves, and we do not depend on any historical necessity."

First of all, your powers of reason are limited, and for that reason this list of presedential champions of "laissez-faire" is suspect. Secondly, any claim to accuracy this list may contain still reveals no truth about how the future will unfold. And finally, if your concern is with the preservation of liberty, then you would do well to distance yourself as much as possible from historicist thinking. Karl Popper correctly recognized this mode of thought as the most powerful threat to liberty. It throws civilization back into a closed society in which the critical powers of man are prohibited because universal laws have been discovered by the "initiated".

The contradictions contained in this post are fascinating.

"this short post claims to have discovered an historical law that posits the gradual abolition of liberty in the United States!"

Where is this coming from? I don't know if you are being facetious or what, but there is no such thing in my post. The word tendency is in brackets for good reasons: I was joking! I do not subscribe to historical determinism and I do not think my post is making that claim at all (and if it does, it is purely by mistake).

In the post, I noted that there were more laissez-fairist Presidents in the 19th century (in the list that Liggio gave me) and less in the 20th. Considering the small interest for the idea of laissez-faire in current political circles, it is unlikely that any US President will be a laissez-fairist any time soon. This said, you are entirely right, it could happen again and I would be very pleased if it did.

What nonsense! I hope you are joking Matthew, there was absolutely nothing in that post that suggested a historical law! Let me quote some more of that critique of historicism that you may have missed by Popper, and you're lucky I have my notes on it at hand.

"Now we have seen that there are no laws that determine the succession of such a "dynamic" series of events. On the other hand, there may be trends which are of this "dynamic" character' for example, population increase. "

"A statement asserting the existence of a trend at a certain time and place would be a singular historical satement, not a universal law"


"It is important to point out that laws and trends are radically different things."

All above quoted in the 27th part of his Critique, Economica.

Sautet's assertion was a historical statement, not a law! He stated a trend that presidents are tending to be less and less laissez-faire, which I agree with. He did make a prediction of the future, which is certainly not a historical law! A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing, matthew, be careful.

I find it really disgusting that someone would call Andrew Jackson a laissez-faire president. Does anyone remember the Trail of Tears? Outright confiscation of property under Andrew Jackson's watch.

Ask a Cherokee exactly how laissez-faire they believe Jackson was? This is a racist statement without any regard for the rights of Native Americans in deciding laissez-faire status and should be condemned by the economics community as an outright absurd falsehood.

May I add that I have great respect for Mr. Liggio's work. This is one of the reasons that I find the statement shocking coming from such a distinguished, knowledgeable, and celebrated individual.


"This is a racist statement without any regard for the rights of Native Americans in deciding laissez-faire status"

No statement of Leos can possibly be understood as "racism" by a cool mind. It is completely obvious that the version of 'laisez-faire' used by Leo is using refers to restriction of government interference in business, taxation, and tariffs. The entire conversation is about taxes, gold standard, size of the federal government, ect. In this narrow economic definition of laissez-faire which is commonly used, Jackson fits well in.

A Racist statement! wow. Maybe misinformed in your point of view, but that designation is way out of left field.


Would you consider confiscation of your property a "government interference in business"? Also, isn't taxation taking away of property?

I agree that Jackson did lots of good things but to say that he was overall a good laissez-faire president ignores the whole picture.

You're really taking the same racist attitude. He was good on taxation and tariffs. Oh he stole some Indian land. Oh don't worry about that. It doesn't does it not count?

Give me a break. You either tally up everything he did or you don't. Taking land is interference in business affairs and his 100% taxation of your land property.

but hey Jacob,

Don't take my word on it. Go ask a Cherokee Indian if this was interference in their ancestors' business affairs. I'm sure they think Jackson was a swell laissez-faire guy and would not at all feel insulted by your position on him.


Sadly we can't use that standard unless we want to begin our analysis in the 1860s (blacks had no property rights at all until slavery was abolished) or arguably post-1920 when women had the right to vote (government could not be called laissez-faire until all adults are citizens and have equal rights).

However, usually consideration of laissez-faire in a historical context compares rights of all those who have rights in the given historical period.

Sadly, the history in America did not include Indians, blacks or women for most of it.

Vedran, exactly as Liberty said on how laissez-faire is used.

You're definition of racism is incredibly broad; it may be indeed be true that Jackson was a racist, but you're statement "You either tally up everything he did or you don't", or else you're a racist, not follow; it is perfectly possible to have a good opinion about someone who is a racist without sharing those same views. I view Jackson for the good things he did, as well as the atrocities.

I agree with Vedran. Check out this link on Jackson:
Whether on not racism is involved, it seems wrong to say that he was a laissez fairist, full stop. He may have had a laissez faire position on monetary matters and so one could say that. But let's not lose focus on how much he violated classical liberal principles overall.

Jacob and Liberty,

I understand that things like slavery persisted, but we can still ask questions like did this person make things better for oppressed people, keep things the same, or make things lot worse for them.

I think the 2nd category of maintaining the status quo is bad enough but understandable in the context of the times as you mentioned.

However, Jackson made things worse for Native Americans than before he entered office. He didn't just follow the status quo. He worsened the situation.


One can certainly draw a line between a historical statement of a singular event and a historical law. But this line is bound to be thin. Frederic Sautet, I would argue, is making a statement that is based on a series of past historical events, from which he draws the conclusion that the state of freedom in the United States will continue to diminish. This is not a statement at a particular place at a particular time. He is making a generalization, that is, a statement that refers to a series of events, both past and future. This metod is faulty because no matter how accurate his observations of the past are, this does not mean the future will follow certain historical trends that have developed up to this point. Additionally, these "accurate" observations do not occur in the absence of inescapably fallible theories. Mr. Sautet has made his observations on the bases of fallible libertarian theories, that is, the inexorable tendency for the powers of the state to expand to the detriment of liberty.

So Jacob, I think your criticism misses the mark. A historical tendency or "trend" is not compatible with singular historical statements. An example of the latter would include a statement such as "it rained at 2:15 on Wednesday, February 13." An example of the former would consist of a series of statements that resuls in the generalization that it rains every other Wednesday, except in the summer. Mr. Sautet did not make a historical statement; in fact, he is concerned not only with the 21st century, but also with the 19th, 20th, and 22nd centuries!

A little knowledge is indeed a dangerous thing, Jacob. But the presumption that one has recognized (and thus escaped)this point is even more dangerous.


As Fred said, you have SO over-read this original post that it's now getting funny. Fred was tossing out an idea based on a conversation with Leonard. It wasn't a major statement on the history of the US economy or polity. It was the blog equivalent of a bar conversation assertion, complete with "tendency" in quotes. You're throwing your heavy artillery at a strawman.


Point taken. I would still possibly separate "he was laissez-faire in this way, for people with rights" and "on the other hand he restricted the rights of this minority" ... part of the reason is that he may have had laissez-faire ideology or economic beliefs and yet held a nationalistic or racist or other tendency against another group. The separation may allow for two separate analyses. But I think you make a good point.

Dr. Horwitz,

I am not concerned about the intentions behind Mr. Sautet's post. What troubled me is the message I took away from it, whether or not the author intended it. Mr. Sautet's attempts at prediction based on historical trends are not only false, but also dangerous, if only because everyone else (but me!) sees no harm in indulging them.

This blog is not all fun and games. I am dead serious.

Matthew, did you even read the origional post?

"This is not a statement at a particular place at a particular time"
Wasn't the observation of the "tendency" beginning in 1776 and going up to the current day? After the "tendency" was observed Fred made a tentative prediction, once again confined to the 21th century. I completely agree with your statement that " any claim to accuracy this list may contain still reveals no truth about how the future will unfold" In making this prediction Fred did not suggest that just because something happened in the past it will happen in the future; it was based on a current understanding of United States politics.

Matthew, a historical statement does not have to be a single event. It is permissible to state a trend such as "the technology in the US has increased over the past 100 years"; this is an historical statement of a trend based on theory, not a law. Nobody posesses perfect knowledge, however that does not mean they cannot (through aprioric theory) observe connectiveness of historical phenomena.


Matthew I see nothing wrong in you "test driving" your intellectual prowess from time to time on a blog's comment section. But, believe me, it probably would be better received in a university's seminar.


The trail of tears, or the removal of the cherokee (which was technically ordered in 1836), actually took place in 1838 during Van Buren's presidency. I reckon that this military removal of a whole nation of people does not qualify as "Laissez-fairist."

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