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The Enlightenment helped lead to this challenges because it encouraged people to move away from the received wisdom of the past. Instead, it encouraged them to seek proof of the truth or falsity of these received ideas. This led to a questioning of such things as absolutism and mercantilism. John Locke, among others, challenged the idea that some people were born (by virtue of who their parents were) to rule others. Adam Smith is the most famous challenger of mercantilism. He proposed the idea that free trade and laissez faire government would bring greater economic prosperity. These Enlightenment thinkers (and others) challenged the conventional wisdom, pushing people to look for ideas that could be empirically proven.
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