The laissez-faire, or "let it alone," approach to economics is the belief, popularized by Adam Smith, that the economy performs best when the market is free to select winners and losers. President Herbert Hoover, Franklin Delano Roosevelt's predecessor, preferred this approach to economics and, as a result, some are inclined to blame him for not responding swiftly or appropriately to the impending Great Depression.
Though Hoover believed that aggressive government programs, such as Roosevelt's First and Second New Deal, were at the root of fascism, Hoover faced a great deal of criticism from other Republicans for his favorable attitude toward public works projects and his requests to businesses not to lay off workers after the stock market crash in 1929. A laissez-faire devotee would argue that no employer has an obligation to maintain any employees, particularly those whom they now deem obsolete. In the United States, one might state the 1905 Lochner v. New York case, in which the Supreme Court deigned that workers could negotiate their own contracts with their employers—a system that allowed for employers to keep wages stagnant and to require workers to labor for long hours.
Roosevelt's policies ended a system in which employees were at the mercy of their bosses and without a safety net in the event of unemployment, due to depression, illness, or age.