What did Voltaire think of the role of government?

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Like John Locke, whom he openly admired, Voltaire believed that the purpose of government was to protect the liberties of the people. Religious liberty, freedom of the press, and the abolition of feudal privileges were all cornerstones of Voltaire's political thought. Like many other Enlightenment philosophes, Voltaire also argued that government should facilitate economic activity with as few constraints as possible. In his series of essays entitled Philosophical Letters, he pointed to the mixed model of government in England as the ideal form of government to protect the liberties of the people and promote commerce and economic exchange. But it should be noted that Voltaire was not a believer in republics, and he deeply distrusted the will of the people. England's government was ideal inasmuch as it was a constitutional monarchy, one which balanced out the voice of the people with more learned political opinions. In fact, while Voltaire was not highly regarded in the French court, he corresponded with would-be absolutist monarchs (most famously Catherine the Great) throughout Europe. The role of government was to protect liberty, not to promote democracy.

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Voltaire, or Francois-Marie Arouet which was his real name, had definite views about government and its role.  Voltaire believed government must protect people's basic rights.  This included freedom of speech and religion.  He believed that no religion or religious groups should be favored by the government.  He was especially upset how there was an unbalanced division of the tax burden among the First Estate (church), Second Estate (nobles), and Third Estate (masses, who had the highest tax burden) in France.  Voltaire also had a distrust of democracy.  He believed the average people were not capable of making proper decisions.  He believed that philosophers had a role to play in advising the leader.  He generally supported the concept of an enlightened monarchy.  Voltaire had many thoughts about the role of government in society.  

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