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  • 12/18/2011

Contradiction between Liberty and Equality

contradiction between liberty and equality

One of the most important contradictions in the Western political philosophy and in the democratic systems is the conflict between the two principles of liberty and equality, which are two of the three main pillars of democracy.

There is a very simple explanation for this conflict; if all the people are to be considered equal, their freedom would be threatened; because equality requires government intervention in the lives of the individuals with the aim of taking away the (negative) freedoms from them. And if all the people are free, their equality is inevitably threatened, because after a short time, people will try to compete with each other due to their differences in wealth and power.

Anyway, most scholars agree that these two extremely important principles of democracy are not completely reachable at the same time and that they contradict each other to some extent.

In the twentieth century, most right-wing liberals such as Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman maintain that equality is in conflict with and incompatible with freedom. They maintain that speaking of social justice in a society where individuals are free, any attempt to establish social justice or equality will deprive the people of their freedom because such an attempt requires government intervention. Here, the contradiction between freedom and equality, two pillars of democracy, become quite clear.

Some scholars of democracy, in order to evade the conflict between freedom and equality, argue that coexistence of these two elements are only components of old and theoretical types of democracy.

Translated by: Sadroddin Musawi

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