Who Said This?

[The] whole doctrine [of laissez-faire] was founded on the complete impossibility of directing, by invariant rules and by continuous inspection, a multitude of transactions which by their immensity alone could not be fully known, and which, moreover, are continually dependent on a multitude of ever-changing circumstances which cannot be managed or even foreseen ….

See the answer.

6 Responses to Who Said This?

  1. David Friedman January 14, 2018 at 1:05 pm #

    The same person who, as a French minister, wrote the king a letter arguing for the nationalization of all the French schools. That’s by memory of some reading a few years ago, but I think correct.

    • Roderick January 15, 2018 at 8:31 pm #

      Yes, Turgot was certainly a mixed bag. But then, so was Hayek.

      • Larry January 16, 2018 at 7:05 pm #

        This is an argument against hierarchical coordination. Which is pretty common argument. Although, Turgot, as with most classical liberal was myopically concentrating on (existing) economic coordination, and didn’t generalize this to general issue of social coordination.

        You can find it on the left in the work of a Malatesta or a Peter Kropotkin, the latter was fond of saying stuff like “It is impossible to legislate for the future”.

        Or on the right with Edmund Burke’s shtick about “custom”, where he basically says that custom “knows” more than any single person could ever know, therefore we must submit to me and do what it tell us.

        You can see than Hayek’s argument are a partial rip-off of this.

        Hayek’s basic argument consisted in the following:

        1) Humans are unreliable cognitive agents

        2) Markets are super information processors smarter than any and all of us put together (in classical liberalism’s story, market were static allocators).

        From 1) and 2) you conclude that markets are ultimate arbitrator of truth, so we must submit to the market and do what it tell us.

        As I said Hayek didn’t actually believe in laissez-faire, here’s a direct quote:

        “Probably nothing had done so much harm to the liberal cause as the wooden insistence of some liberals on certain rough rules of thumb, above all the principle of laissez faire” (The Road to Serfdom 1944, p.17).

        Hayek understood that a strong state was needed to impose strong markets norms.

        Hayek’s shtick about “knowledge” changed a lot throughout his lifetime. He changed his mind at least 3 times on this subject.

        He began with a story that uses 19th century connectionist psychology.

        At this stage, as one author wrote:

        “The central thrust of Hayek’s thought was to insist that in order for the economy to work properly, we must be
        faithful to our existing constitution and resist any urge to second-guess the cluster of routines and snap judgments that we use to get by in life.

        It requires a commitment to the invisible, a willful ignorance that resists the temptation to find out more about the sources of our discontent.The self could only be autonomous if it embraced its own lack of knowledge, committed itself to respecting the moment of not-knowing on which its practical reason was founded.”

        Then Hayek started borrowing metaphors from cybernetics that was getting popular at the times.

        By the end he ended on position of saying agency and human agency were irrelevant and you just do what the market says.


        • Larry January 16, 2018 at 7:31 pm #

          I refer you to the work of Philip Mirowski, Bernard E. Harcourt, William Davies, Raymond Plant and Pierre Dardot/Christian Laval.

  2. Larry January 16, 2018 at 7:26 pm #

    The alternative to hierarchical coordination is certainly not a market coordination/ coordination through generalized commodity exchange.

    As James C. Scott says in the intro to his book “Seeing like a State”:

    “As we shall see, the conclusions that can be drawn from the failures of modern projects of social engineering are as applicable to market-driven standardization as they are to bureaucratic homogeneity”

    “A market necessarily reduces quality to quantity via the price mechanism and promotes standardization; in markets, money talks, not people. Today, global capitalism is perhaps the most powerful force for homogenization, whereas the state may in some instances be the defender of local difference and variety.”

    The market is a symptom of alienation and impersonal domination.

    I must also remind you that Capitalist economies (or any other economic) has never been solely centered on either the market or the state.


    Vast sectors of the “economy” (like household, friendships, academia) through non-market means.

    You could read about this in the work of people like Alain Caillé and his group:



    This theme is also present throughout the work of the anarchist David Graeber:




  3. Sandwichman January 25, 2018 at 12:59 am #

    In a 1931 article, Stephane Bauer traced the idea of laissez faire to Balthasar Gracian’s “Oraculo Manual” and from him to Michel de Montaigne.

    Ironic in the sense that Montaigne also wrote the essay “One man’s profit is another’s loss,” which as you pointed out long ago was misinterpreted by Mises & Rothbard.

    Or maybe not so ironic after all in that William Hazlitt read the latter essay as anticipating the argument of Mandeville’s “Fable of the Bees”!

    At any rate, it’s all just watered down theodicy, striving to be “Humanist” or secular. None dare call it Plutodicy.

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