Liberty: Adam Smith and Alexis de Tocqueville Essay

2532 Words May 18th, 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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By process of elimination, Smith settles on the capitalists as the most fit to rule, but stipulates, "the proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and out never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention" (227). Due to the lack of a class which would be able to lead with society's interests in mind and because the unfettered free market in which everyone is selfishly motivated produces the most, Smith relegates to government only the three tasks of the defense of the nation, the administration of justice, and the maintenance of certain public works
(289). This plan will prevent too many unnecessary restrictions on
"perfect" liberty, or complete freedom from restraints, and will allow a system of natural liberty to establish itself in which every man, as long as he does not violate the laws of justice, is left perfectly free to pursue his own interest his own way. This role of government also solves the impassable lack of information problem that, according to Smith, is faced by any government which takes the responsibility for superintending the