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‘Laissez-faire, laissez-passer’ was the term originally taken up by the physiocrats. They believed that only agriculture yielded wealth. Consequently they condemned any interference with industry by government agencies as being inappropriate and harmful, except in so far as it was necessary to break up private monopoly. The principle of the non-intervention of government in economic affairs was given full support by the classical economists, who took up the theme from Adam Smith: ‘The Statesman, who should attempt to direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capitals, would not only load himself with a most unnecessary attention, but assume an authority which could safely be trusted, not only to no single person, but to no council or senate whatever, and which would nowhere be so dangerous as in the hands of a man who had folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it’ – Wealth of Nations, Book IV, Chapter 2.

Reference: The Penguin Business Dictionary, 3rd edt.