Word + Quiz: laissez-faire

Word + Quiz: laissez-faire

1. the doctrine that government should not interfere in commercial affairs

2. a policy or attitude of letting things happen without intervention

The term laissez-faire has appeared in 30 articles on NYTimes.com in the past year, including on May 2 in the Opinion essay “The ‘Home of the Giants’ Is for You, Too” by Danielle Moylan:

As we continued to climb, I thought about Ibsen. He is famous for his shattering works on difficult women, helming the advent of theatrical realism and fathering a prime minister. He is less known for popularizing, possibly coining, the term “friluftsliv,” or “open air life,” in his 1859 poem “On the Heights.” The expression perfectly captures a deeply entrenched Norwegian value that prizes outdoor recreation for its benefits to health and well-being, and represents a broader philosophy celebrating freedom and simplicity.

Friluftsliv has a companion concept: “allemannsrett,” the ancient Norse right to roam uncultivated countryside, even if it is privately owned, a tradition so ingrained it was codified in 1957 in the Outdoor Recreation Act. The law — which permits anyone to walk on public or private land and to camp for the night, so long as one remains 150 meters from private houses and behaves considerately — means that Norway offers tourists a curiously unregulated experience, rare among Western countries, except elsewhere in Scandinavia.

As my husband and I pitched our tent, I thought about how rare Norway’s laissez-faire approach to the outdoors is. To hike and camp along wilderness trails in the United States, I had to apply for multiple permits and was forbidden to tread on any private land. In Australia, camping is strictly regulated and often astoundingly expensive. The rules in Canada can be forbiddingly confusing …