The Alexis de Tocqueville Award
Born to aristocratic parents in 1805 shortly after the French Revolution, Alexis-Charles-Henri de Tocqueville was to become the greatest classical liberal thinker of the 19th century. At an early age, he distanced himself from the prejudices of his social standing, and joined the struggle to establish a free society in France. His alarm at the dangers of political centralization, and his perception that tyranny could be rooted in the despotism of either an elite or a majority, led him to travel through America to observe a society that was both equalitarian and decentralized. In 1831, at the age of 29, Tocqueville spent nine months traveling the breadth of Jacksonian America to inquire into the future of French society, as revolutionary upheaval gave way to a radically decentralized civil society in America. The result was set forth in his masterly book, Democracy in America.
Long recognized as a brilliant observer, Tocqueville was also a profoundly original thinker. Out of his American experience emerged a book that has had a profound impact on the thinking of the world. So uncanny, in fact, are Tocquevilles insights into economic, social and political affairs, so accurate are his predictions, that he was not merely describing the American identity, but actually helping to create it. In his further books, travels, and cultural and political affairs, he continued his devotion to advancing a society of individual liberty, where all human endeavors and institutions were voluntary and indigenous, and hence directly accountable to those affected. In short, to Tocqueville, the health of a civil society rested upon on its being based on a natural order of individual freedom to choose and act in all economic and social matters.
To honor the tradition of Tocquevilles pioneering work, the Independent Institute awards The Alexis de Tocqueville Award to outstanding individuals in recognition of their dedication and contributions which advance our knowledge and practice of the principles of individual liberty as the foundation of free, prosperous and humane societies.
Lech Wałęsa; Awarded November 15, 2011
Mario Vargas Llosa; Awarded November 15, 2011
Robert Higgs; Awarded November 15, 2011
Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu; Awarded September 16, 2008
Andy Garcia; Awarded September 16, 2008
William K. Bowes, Jr.; Awarded September 16, 2008
Robert W. Galvin; Awarded April 21, 2004
Sir John Marks Templeton; Awarded October 1, 1998
David Packard; Awarded June 8, 1995
G. Robert A. Conquest; Awarded July 7, 1992
James M. Buchanan, Jr.; Awarded October 29, 1987
Lord Peter T. Bauer; Awarded October 8, 1986