Known as the Adam Smith of the North, Anders Chydenius laid out his economic prescription for mercantilist [Sweden-Finland] in The National Gain in 1765, suggesting a concept of spontaneous order eleven years before Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations: “Every individual spontaneously tries to find the place and the trade in which he can best increase National gain, if laws do not prevent him from doing so.”
For Chydenius, freedom and diligence were the foundations of an economically prosperous nation; direction from the government only gummed up the gears of a natural system of human interaction.
Thus the wealth of a Nation consists in the multitude of products or, rather, in their value; but the multitude of products depends on two chief causes, namely, the number of workmen and their diligence. Nature will produce both, when she is left untrammeled … If either is lacking, the fault should be sought in the laws of the Nation, hardly, however, in any want of laws, but in the impediments that are put in the way of Nature.
Pastor, politician, writer, doctor, scholar, scientist, experimenter in plant and animal husbandry, economist, musician, proponent of freedom and enterprise—Chydenius was a renaissance man in the Age of Enlightenment, careful to root his ideas on human dignity in divine providence. Chydenius asked:
Would the Great Master, who adorns the valley with flowers and covers the cliff itself with grass and mosses, exhibit such a great mistake in man, his masterpiece, that man should not be able to enrich the globe with as many inhabitants as it can support? That would be a mean thought even in a Pagan, but blasphemy in a Christian, when reading the Almighty's precept: 'Be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth.'
The National Gain, written originally for the Stockholm Diet in 1765—66, caused Chydenius's own party to exclude him from future representation. Chydenius retreated into his parish work until 1778 where once again he challenged the Diet with his advocacy for workers' rights, later set down in a letter to the Royal Economic Society:
The Creator only put people to work, but did not stipulate the type of work each of them should do. Stealing was the only thing that the Almighty prohibited, but no target was set for diligence, how far it was allowed to go or what sort of things such diligence produced. He did not tie anyone to the plough nor did He tie anyone to trade guilds but merely when and where each one perceived how best to make a living where he could better himself.
Hero of Liberty image attribution: [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons