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Freedom to HarmThe Lasting Legacy of the Laissez Faire Revival$
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Thomas O. McGarity

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780300141245

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300141245.001.0001

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The Laissez Faire Benchmark

The Laissez Faire Benchmark

(p.13) 1 The Laissez Faire Benchmark
Freedom to Harm

Thomas O. McGarity

Yale University Press

This chapter explores how the emergence of the corporate form blended nicely with the laissez faire ideology of an expanding class of economic elites in the growing American industrial economy. For the laissez faire gurus of the Gilded Age, the ultimate repository of virtue was the marketplace. For Gilded Age elites who believed that economic liberty and individual liberty were inextricably linked, the logical next step was to afford corporations the status of personhood. Laissez faire minimalism yielded undeniable benefits for society. By almost every conceivable measure, the United States economy grew during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The American Mining Congress came up with its own standards for mine safety, and persuaded Congress to establish a mine safety program in the Bureau of Mines to adopt those standards and pre-empt more stringent state standards.

Keywords:   laissez faire, economic elites, Gilded Age, economic liberty, United States economy, American Mining Congress

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