What are Voltaire's main ideas on the role of the government?  

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kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Voltaire was born Francois-Marie Arouet in Paris in 1691 and rose to become one of the most prominent and important philosophers of his time. Of all the subjects he addressed, Voltaire was an outspoken critic of the French government. He disliked how the government was heavily influenced by the aristocracy and called for the prohibition of many of its practices, including slavery and colonialism. 

In Voltaire's mind, the ideal government was ruled by an enlightened monarch who was not easily swayed by the ideas of his aristocracy: in his words, he would rather "obey one lion than 200 rats." Voltaire believed that the monarch should use his influence and position to improve the power and wealth of France. He also believed that the government should completely reform its tax system and begin taxing the clergy (who were exempt at this time) as this would act as a counterbalance between the Church and the state. 

Voltaire also put forward the idea that the role of government was to guarantee the equal protection of all citizens, regardless of rank or income, before the law. Only when the government completely protected the rights of its citizens could people be completely free and able to experience the essence of being human.