Liberty: Adam Smith and Alexis de Tocqueville Essay

2516 Words May 3rd, 2000 11 Pages
Both Adam Smith and Alexis de Tocqueville agree that an individual is the most qualified to make decisions affecting the sphere of the individual as long as those decisions do not violate the law of justice.
>From this starting point, each theorist proposes a role of government and comments on human nature and civil society. Smith focuses on economic liberty and the ways in which government can repress this liberty, to the detriment of society. De Tocqueville emphasizes political liberty and the way that government can be organized to promote political liberty, protect individual liberty, and promote civil liberty. Adam Smith's theory makes a strong argument for the assertion that a free market will provide overall good for
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Furthermore, it is important to recognize that in Smith's theory, the government is actually defending the rich against the poor. The poor, according to Smith, are often driven by envy and need to invade the possessions of the rich. "It is only under the shelter of the civil magistrate that the owner of that valuable property, which is acquired by the labour of many years or perhaps of many successive generations, can sleep a single night in security" (294). Note the assumption that the rich are entitled to their wealth because it is acquired by hard work either of the person or his family. Because of this, Smith considers civil government a necessary institution. One objection to this view of government and to the economic reading in general is that one of the duties of government is to protect the poor from the tyranny of the rich. In fact, in Smith's economic perspective, money demonstrates preferences. Therefore, people with more money are able to influence the market much more than people with less, and would therefore be less needing of government protection. It is the people with less money who can least afford change and bad times. Thus, these people are in the least position to combat unfair practices or to change their position. Alexis de Tocqueville recognizes this fault in Smith's system. First, laborer becomes more and more involved in

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