GOVT 302 Essay
This essay explores the role of “equality” within the liberty narrative, and the role of “liberty” within the equality narrative. It pays special attention to how those operating in the liberty narrative define “equality,” and to how those operating in the equality narrative define “liberty”, what descriptions of human nature underlie their respective definitions, and evaluate their descriptions of human nature in light of Christian teachings. Finally, since both liberty and equality are Christian values, it evaluates each narrative tradition with regard to how well it addresses the challenge of securing both liberty and equality, Which does the better job of securing both values, and why.
Exploration of the Role of “equality” within the Liberty Narrative, and the role of “liberty” within the Equality Narrative
Liberty and equality are two of the most important rights and privileges that human beings have always fought to attain. These subjects have always been at the center of political movements in various regions for a long time. Although the two terms are closely related, they also have stark differences that best describe each state. Those who advocate for liberty have always found the need to describe equality in a manner that is consistent with libertarian values. Proponents of equality, on the other hand, have also always found a place for liberty within their movement. In some cases, however, the manner in which libertarians define equality does not fit with the definition of equality as espoused by those who advocate for equality only. This latter group also does define liberty in the manner that libertarians do. As such, it is important to understand the differences between the two camps and to understand how each camp describes the other. This step makes it possible to understand the relevance of liberty within equality and vice versa. Liberty and equality are often seen as conflicting ideals. As such, the pursuit of both has led to the failure in achieving neither of them. Human beings can now be described as slaves to the pursuit of the two ideals. Many studies indicate that the best approach would be to pursue one of them and not both. It is also clear that there is a need to judge each situation independently, in order to understand where liberty comes into play, and where equality should be given a priority. Understanding how each ideal fits into the other’s narrative is important in deciding which ideal should be given priority, and how the advocates of equality and liberty should be addressed.
The Role of Equality within the Liberty Narrative
The central theme within the libertarian school of thought is that individual liberty should be a priority. This liberty can best be achieved through limited government and ownership of private property. Equality fits into this narrative by emphasizing on equality of individual rights. As such, it is apparent that individual liberty can be exercised when there is equality in enjoying individual rights such as in ownership of property and enjoying protection from a limited form of government. This place of equality in the libertarian narrative owes its origins from Epicureanism and Stoicism. Stoics held that each person has the same ability to lead a virtuous life. This reasoning is founded on the notion that all human beings have a high ability to reason. The philosophy of Epicureanism, on the other hand, holds that human beings have the self-interested motivations to uphold and respect other peoples’ equal and individual rights (Holley, 2018). This view means that people are likely to respect other peoples’ equal rights because it impacts on how their rights are respected as well. As such, failure to uphold other people’s equal rights puts one’s own rights at risk of being violated too. This self-centered interest to respect the individual and equal rights is a significant buffer in the protection of equal and individual rights for everyone in society. This view of equality within the libertarian narrative has always been at the center of libertarian values. Libertarians consider that the failure to achieve equality of rights for everyone makes it impossible to achieve the desired level of liberty for everyone. The definition of liberty as the creation of a conducive environment for each individual to pursue what they wish for themselves without external influence makes the place of equality in the liberty narrative ever clear.
Throughout history, those fighting for liberty have always ensured that the concept of equal rights is given adequate prominence. This can be seen in the defense of religious freedoms by such libertarians as Richard Overton, John Libburne, and William Walwyn in the 1640s in England. This view clearly illustrated the democratic consequences of a philosophy of equality and equal rights within the liberty movement. These defenders of liberty defended religious freedoms even for non-religious groups such as atheists, advocated for free trade, government by consent, and the right for each individual to own property. In addition to their defense for equal rights in property ownership, they also fought against the special treatment of those who owned vast wealth, especially in the form of land. At the time, many landowners enjoy immense privileges from the political landscape. This view of equality is also reinforced in Locke’s Second Treatise of Government. In this document, John Locke holds that “all men are equal by nature” (Locke, 2016). As such, everyone should live in a state of equal and perfect freedom. Locke envisions that liberty should be complemented by a situation where jurisdiction and power are reciprocal. By this, he meant that everyone should enjoy a state of equal treatment under the law and from the government, with no one having more than another fellow citizen. John Locke also insisted that every individual should have a right to equal rights (Locke, 2016). In this sense, that everyone should have equal rights to “his own person”, and that no one should have power over another person unless the person disposes of their right.
The idea of political reductionism best describes the role of equality in the liberty narrative. The theory of political reductionism is central in the libertarian movement. According to this theory, equal rights can be delegated, alienated, or transferred through the consent of the individual. The powers and rights claimed by the government should be reducible to legitimate powers and the equal rights of each citizen. According to Locke, this reduction should be as far as it would be in nature. As such, the government cannot claim a person’s privilege of sovereignty. The government can also not lay claim to any individual rights that no individual is capable of possessing. The idea of equality gained prominence also in the French and American revolutions, where it was seen as integral in ensuring the ultimate liberty for all individuals. The security of liberty was seen as highly dependent on the equality of restraint. As such, it would be impossible for anyone to trespass on the liberty of others under any circumstance. This view guarantees that everyone is independent of the constraints of other people’s will. This definition of equality within the liberty movement also ensures that everyone’s liberty should be bounded by similar liberty for all. This definition ensures that everyone has equal freedoms that can enable them to do as they wish. The accountability required of each citizen is also equal and is exercised in a manner that is acceptable by all in society.
The Role of Liberty within the Equality Narrative
Liberty is broadly defined as the freedom to express oneself without coercion or intimidation of any kind. This is normally in regards to the government or any authority that may impose itself on individuals. In a state of liberty, a person is free to be affiliated with any political views, religious organization, or a certain way of life. As such, liberty encompasses a situation where individuals have the free will to do as they please. Liberty also encompasses a situation where there are no unnecessary restraints while acting on one’s will. Necessary restraints are required in the sense that no one should enjoy liberty without considering other people’s freedom to act as their please as well. According to strict libertarians, liberty is understood as a situation where there is no government coercion in individual’s lives, except where the government needs to prevent other people from the coercion of others (Subramanian, 2019). Writers such as John Locke described liberty as derived from the rules of nature. In this sense, individuals should not be under the authority of others. Individuals should only be under the power that they have created willfully. Liberty is considered by many to be the ultimate freedom that an individual can experience. Liberty enables a person to hold personal dreams and visions and to pursue them in a manner that the person deems fit. In a political society, liberty of individuals guarantees that everyone has a right to choose a government and to formulate laws that should protect the liberties of everyone. These laws are only meant to serve as a deterrent against those that infringe on the right of others to enjoy their liberties.
In the equality narrative, proponents of equality describe liberty as the centerpiece that ensures that everyone can express their voice and opinion. Equality has no boundaries in terms of what everyone should achieve (Corlett, 2016). To date, many movements continue to spring up to fight for liberty and the equal treatment of everyone in society. For example, in the fight for marriage equality in the United States, equality activists explained that marriage is an issue of individual liberty for gays (Weeden, 2016). This interpretation meant that no one can legislate on who a person should love, or the gender that a person should love. Previously, the United States marriage laws only recognized marriages between a man and a woman. As such, many gay couples could only get into civil partnerships rather than marriages. Under President Obama, however, marriage equality proponents took the opportunity to illustrate to the country how the denial of marriage equality leads to the infringement of individual liberties for many people in the LGBT community. This interpretation played a crucial role in ensuring that many people rallied around marriage equality in order to ensure that it is passed into law, which happened in 2015. In this case, it is clear that it is impossible to attain equality without incorporating the element of liberty. Many people who opposed marriage equality had expressed the fear that granting the right would promote homosexuality in the country. However, this fear was dispelled by many equality activists who illustrated that it is ludicrous to deny gay couples of their right to marry based on other people’s fear that it could lead to an increased in sexual pervasion in the country.
Evaluation of Both Viewpoints
The ongoing discussion illustrates how the two sides fit into each other, and the different ways on which each side defines the other. Those who are for the liberty narrative define equality as the presence of a clear and enabling environment that ensures that there are equal rights for each individual under the law. Based on this definition, every individual should be guaranteed an equal right to own property and to be treated equally under the laws of the land. As such, regardless of the amount of wealth that one owns, the law should not discriminate against anyone or favor anyone. Those on the equality narrative consider liberty as an integral part of human freedoms. Liberty makes it possible for individuals to achieve the ultimate level of equality. In terms of human nature, proponents of liberty view equality as an inherent human right that should be enjoyed by everyone. This is in accordance with the Christian teaching that also holds that all humans are created equal. Proponents of equality also view liberty as a right that should be enjoyed by everyone provided that it not used to harm others. As Christian values, the pursuit of liberty is a better approach as it also advocates for equality in a better way. Although proponents of equality hold liberty to be at the center of equality, the pursuit of liberty in itself helps to address the issue of equality in a more straightforward manner. This is because the pursuit of liberty emphasizes more on the need to achieve individual freedoms. As such, an individual is empowered with an enabling atmosphere that encourages a person to pursue their personal interests to the fullness of their vision and abilities. In the process, it is possible for the individual to also achieve the highest level of equality. This shows that it is better to pursue liberty if both liberty and equality are to be achieved.
In conclusion, liberty and equality are two of the biggest ideals that human beings have always sought to achieve. However, the two values have inherent differences that make it difficult for an individual to achieve them. In fact, it is apparent that the unflinching pursuit of both ideals leads to the achievement of neither. Proponents of each side have always found a place for the other due to the central functions of each right to all citizens. Among the activists for liberty, equality is seen as an essential element in ensuring that each individual can enjoy equal rights and individual freedoms. This is especially relevant in regard to such things as ownership of property and freedom of expression. In this case, the emphasis is put on the fairness of the law that is applied equally to all individuals. Proponents of equality also insist that it is impossible to achieve the ultimate equality if individuals do not have personal liberties to do as they wish. This understanding points out the main contradictions that stand in the way of achieving both values for an individual. However, the manner in which proponents of the liberty narrative define equality shows that it is better to focus on liberty because it guarantees a significant level of equality for all citizens.