Take the case of Andrew Chydenius (http://www.chydenius.net/eng
/index.asp). He lived in the 18th century, wrote numerous books and was heavily involved in national life in Scandinavia. His 1765 pamphlet "The National Gain" (http://www.chydenius.net/historia/teokset/e_kansalline n_johdanto.asp) explored economic theory and made a case for free trade - 11 years before Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations".
Chydenius even advocated turning Lapland into a minimal state (although this plan didn't happen), so that it could develop economically:
" — free state, private ownership and individual freedom. Inhabitants could choose whatever profession, freedom of trade would be complete, there would be no privileges, regulation or taxes. Bureaucracy would be nonexistent, and the only officer would be a judge who would oversee that no-one's rights would be suppressed."
There was also J. V. Snellman (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki
/Johan_Vilhelm_Snellman), who during the 19th century Russian rule of Finland was able to get rid of the failing Russian rouble. Instead we got the Finnish markka, in those days founded on silver. Snellman realised that precious metals were the way to stop excessive inflation, and he ha the courage to fight for it. We would do well to learn from him today.
Thanks to Andrew for instigating the Finnish theme for early 2008 on The Filter^.