The End of Laissez-Faire, the End of History, and the Structure of Scientific Revolutions
The subject of this essay is formed from three classic pieces of writing: The End of Laissez-Faire by John Maynard Keynes, The End of History? by Francis Fukuyama, and The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn. All three essays were concerned with the evolution of ideas, with Keynes and Fukuyama additionally arguing for the centrality of ideas and consciousness in determining material outcomes and government policy. I wish to argue that neither Kuhn’s nor Fukuyama’s “revolutionary” account fits the bill for the path of change in the ideas of political economy. Rather, despite the title of his essay, the gradual and multilayered process described in Keynes’s account of the emergence and then questioning of laissez-faire is a better guide to the likely path of the evolution of this key doctrine of political economy in the coming decades.
WP 2015-04 March 2015
Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University