It is due to the influence of the laisser faire doctrine that we regard law and regulation as a restraint on liberty.
It becomes equivalent to economic laisser-faire and "Manchesterism," and as such it must fight its own corner with those who now take into consideration many national factors which had no place in the early utilitarian individualistic regime of Cobden's own day.
His settlement of the railway dispute in 1906 was universally applauded; and the bills he introduced and passed for reorganizing the port of London, dealing with Merchant Shipping, and enforcing the working in England of patents granted there, and so increasing the employment of British labour, were greeted with satisfaction by the tariff-reformers, who congratulated themselves that a Radical free-trader should thus throw over the policy of laisser faire.
The laisser-faire doctrine, coming down to us from the system of natural liberty, was long the great watchword of economic orthodoxy.
As a maxim for guidance in public affairs, laisser faire was genuinely relevant at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century, when the Statute Book was cumbered with vexatious and obsolete laws.