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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 Tocqueville’s 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 Tocqueville’s 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.


A Gala for the Future of Liberty: 30th Anniversary Gala Reception and Dinner

Timothy C. Draper; Awarded September 22, 2017
Founding Partner, Draper Associates and Draper Fisher Jurvetson
Founder and Chairman, BizWorld Foundation
Founder, Draper University of Heroes

Yeonmi Park; Awarded September 22, 2017
Human-Rights Activist and North Korean Refugee and Defector
Author, In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom

Vernon L. Smith; Awarded September 22, 2017
Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences
Professor of Economics and Law, George L. Argyros Endowed Chair in Finance and Economics, and Founding Director, Economic Science Institute, Chapman University
Distinguished Fellow, American Economic Association
Member, National Academy of Sciences
Fellow, Econometric Society, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and American Academy of Arts and Sciences

A Gala for Liberty: 25th Anniversary Gala Reception and Dinner

Lech Wałęsa; Awarded November 15, 2011
Nobel Laureate in Peace, Former President of Poland

Mario Vargas Llosa; Awarded November 15, 2011
Nobel Laureate in Literature

Robert Higgs; Awarded November 15, 2011
Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute
Founding Editor, The Independent Review

A Gala for Liberty

Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu; Awarded September 16, 2008
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

Andy Garcia; Awarded September 16, 2008
Academy Award-nominated, Havana-born actor, director, and producer

William K. Bowes, Jr.; Awarded September 16, 2008
Founding Partner, U.S. Venture Partners

Innovation, Entrepreneurship and the Global Marketplace

Robert W. Galvin; Awarded April 21, 2004
Chairman Emeritus, Motorola, Inc.
Chairman, President’s Advisory Council on Private Sector Initiatives
Chairman, U.S. Trade Negotiations Advisory Committee
Member, President’s Council of Economic Advisors
Author, America’s Founding Secret: What the Scottish Enlightenment Taught Our Founding Fathers

Sir John Marks Templeton; Awarded October 1, 1998
Pioneer of global investment and founder of over thirty investment funds
Founder and former President, Templeton Funds
Founder, Templeton College of Management, Oxford University
Founder, Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion

David Packard; Awarded June 8, 1995
Co-Founder, Chairman Emeritus and former Chief Executive Officer, Hewlett-Packard Company
Deputy Secretary of Defense; Chairman, Blue Ribbon Commission on Defense Management
Co-Founder and Chairman, American Electronics Association; Fellow, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
Co-Founder, Chairman and President, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

G. Robert A. Conquest; Awarded July 7, 1992
Author, Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine, The Great Terror: A Reassessment, Stalin: Breaker of Nations, Reflections on a Ravaged Century and other books
Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University

Thomas J. Peters, III; Awarded April 12, 1990
Co-Author, In Search of Excellence; author, A Passion for Excellence, Thriving on Chaos and other books
Founder and Chairman, The Tom Peters Group

James M. Buchanan, Jr.; Awarded October 29, 1987
General Director, Center for the Study of Public Choice, George Mason University
Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences
Co-Author, The Calculus of Consent: Logical Foundations of Constitutional Democracy, Cost and Choice: An Inquiry in Economic Theory, The Logical Foundations of Constitutional Liberty, Democracy in Deficit and other books

Lord Peter T. Bauer; Awarded October 8, 1986
Distinguished Emeritus Professor of Economics, London School of Economics and Political Science
Baron Bauer of Market Ward in the City of Cambridge; Fellow, British Academy
Author, Dissent on Development; West African Trade; Equality, the Third World and Economic Delusion and other books

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