Freedom and Equality Contradictory?   -   September 19, 2020

Freedom and Equality – Mutually Exclusive Ends of a Continuum

Thomas Mann observed that “freedom and equality, the two basic ideas of democracy, are to some extent contradictory.  Logically considered, freedom and equality are mutually exclusive ...”

The ideals of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” are specified in The Declaration of Independence.  Securing “the blessing of Liberty” was a purpose of the Constitution, which includes an explicit listing of rights.  “Liberty” (freedom) is articulated in both of these founding and governing documents; “Equality” appears in neither.

At our founding and during America’s rise to prominence, the ideal of liberty was withheld from some groups – black slaves, aboriginals, orientals and, as regards voting, women.  It took almost 180 years for these shortcomings to get set right through acts of Congress and some states, five Constitutional Amendments, presidential Executive Orders and Supreme Court rulings.  Progress was neither smooth nor painless; it included negative actions as well as positive, and it involved the bloodiest armed conflict in United States history.  Nevertheless, by the peak of America’s maturity, Constitutional freedoms and rights had been extended equally to all citizens.

However, the founding principle of liberty is being increasingly challenged by desire for equality.  Such is reflected in a steady stream of laws and regulations intended to impose equality as regards many, often with curtailment of freedoms of all.  After studying the American experiment, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote “Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word, equality.  But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.”

Perhaps re-commitment to America’s reason for being can usher in a new and prolonged period of national rising. But not spontaneously. Prolonging the essence and values of the United States will take thoughtful actions over many years or generations, including:

  • Resurrecting the teaching, comprehension and practice of values, liberties and rights expressed in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution
  • Restoring balance between freedom and equality by teaching Americans to value freedom more
  • Repealing laws that abridge individual freedoms
  • Nullifying federal regulations that presume to advance equality through abridgment of individual freedoms
  • Electing leaders who will consistently seek to revive liberty and enterprise

  • Simple in articulation, these requirements are not one-time fixes.  They’re not short-term projects.  And they’re certainly not easy.  But if not soon begun and carried to completion, the decline of the United States of America will become irreversible.

    (For more, preview Rise and Decline here.)

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