Which is more important: Freedom or Equality?

@katran (590)
United States
January 28, 2009 4:13pm CST
I don't think a lot of people think about this one, because we assume that they go hand in hand, but really they don't. Especially where economics is concerned. If given complete freedom, people will 99.9% of the time act more in their self-interest and the common good will never be achieved (this is the opinion held by almost all political philosophers and sociologist - think about the Prisoner's Dilemma). It is the job of the government to basically coerce people into concentrating on the common good through taxes, laws, incentives, punishments, etc. For example, eminent domain. The government can legally take your land away from you in order to build a highway or natural preserve or whatever else as long as they pay you market price for it. Because, let's face it, you are not going to WILLINGLY give up your land for the good of the whole. My point is, freedom and equality work against one another. If you are free to do what you want, you will do what is best for you and your loved ones. If there is true equality, it comes at the expense of self-sacrifice. So which one is more important, do you think?
2 people like this
6 responses
@Taskr36 (13923)
• United States
29 Jan 09
"If given complete freedom, people will 99.9% of the time act more in their self-interest and the common good will never be achieved (this is the opinion held by almost all political philosophers and sociologist - think about the Prisoner's Dilemma)." Are you aware that 90% of all statistics are made up on the spot? Seriously, your claim is completely bogus. Clearly you've never heard of John Locke. Frankly, you're using bizarre and unclear definitions of freedom and equality. You're speaking of freedom as anarchy as though the two are interchangeable. They are related, but not the same. Equality is a different beast entirely. People are not all equal. Some are stronger, some faster, some smarter, some more talented, etc. Laws can't change that. Unless you are using another odd definition of equality, your issue is just... bleh.
2 people like this
• United States
29 Jan 09
I agree with you, it seems that the original poster is trying to twist Freedom into something negative, when it is a necessity, and a right. We all have personal freedoms, and I would never want to see those taken away. I also agree with you that people aren't all equal--we are all different, and that is a GOOD thing, believe it or not. It would be a boring world if we were all carbon copies of each other. As for the original poster's comments, equality is not just something that is handed to you on a silver platter, we all have to work to get ahead, some of us are luckier than others, and I'm personally fine with that. And of course most people worry about their families and selves first and foremost--that is the way it should be. I'm not in any way saying that you shouldn't help others if you can, but if you don't take care of yourself and your family, you really won't be in a position mentally, physically or economically to help others. Life is just too short to not take that freedom you have to live your life any way you want, as long as it isn't infringing on other people's life. I am so tired of this mindset that if you spend money on yourself and want to enjoy your life that you are somehow heartless and selfish. I wish everyone could afford to live a comfortable lifestyle, but the truth is, nobody is going to just hand you a good life. We all have our own circumstances, and struggles, I'm from a lower middle class family--by no means rich, but my dad has a business that was successful for many years, and started slowing down a few years ago, which means our family income is falling, like most people's are in this economy--it's not fair that we struggle to pay bills some months, and that my dad has to buy all new hand tools and power tools(that he needs to do his job) because our shed burnt down a few weeks ago... but it's reality, it's not pretty, it's real life. And freedom, is a beautiful thing, it allows me to work towards pursuing my dreams, to become more successful in life than my parents are, because all parents want that for their kids. And when I succeed I will be happy to give money to help people who are in need, starting at home, and to my friends who can barely afford to pay their rent, and then, to organizations that help a number of causes. In this life, nobody is gonna help you if you won't help yourself first. A little selfishness is necessary, it's what keeps you sane, caregivers who don't take care of themselves are generally less healthy, overstressed and live shorter lives. Sorry this is a bit of a rant, it might be confusing and sound off topic, but it really does relate, I kinda just took the scenic route in how I feel about this question. In the end, Freedom, is always important, but I do think that everyone should have equal freedom--as long as they aren't a criminal who took away the freedom of other people. So in that aspect, I think that equality and freedom go hand in hand.
1 person likes this
@katran (590)
• United States
29 Jan 09
Whoa, whoa, whoa now. Lol. Hold on. Cool down. Take a breath. First of all, you completely misinterpret me if you think I am trying to make freedom sound evil. I purposefully didn't answer the question because I didn't want it to be about people arguing with me, I wanted to hear people's opinions about it. But if I DID answer the question, I would say that freedom is much more important. I don't think it is evil at all. I don't think acting based on self-interest is evil. You jumped to a very quick conclusion, and I kinda resent that, but we'll let it slide for now. Second of all, I have indeed heard of John Locke. I would say it seems more like YOU have not heard of him, because the first thing you learn about John Locke's view of humanity is that we all act in self-interest. The reason governments are formed is because man is a state of nature is at constant war with other men in a struggle to come out on top. That is why we form social contracts for the government to protect our freedom - i.e. our right to pursue our self-interest. Freedom to Lock is our right to "life, liberty, and property", our OWN life, liberty, and property. Our self-interest. Once again, let me reiterate, I do NOT think this is a bad thing. I was merely pointing out that this is the opposite of equality. If you want to really oversimplify it, freedom corresponds to ideal democracy and equality corresponds to ideal communism. It is merely a matter of opinion whether you think it is more important for everyone to be able to pursue their own good or whether it is more important for everyone to be forced to work towards the common good. I mean it to be a thought-provoking question, not a matter of contention. I'm sorry if you misinterpreted me in some way, but (if I might be so bold for a moment) I suggest next time you not IMMEDIATELY jump down someone's throat as you did. Especially since I have seen you around on many discussions and we usually agree with one another. ;P
@xParanoiax (6997)
• United States
29 Jan 09
Augh, mylot ate my response. The question isn't which one has more important or has more value, it's a question of how you go about things and in what order. Usually, you can't have any semblance of equality without freedom in the first place...or else, it becomes less worth it. But then, freedom without any semblance of equality tends to erase the people's ability to pursue their on happiness, which ends up actually making you less free. The truth is, they have to both be sought after and tempered with compassion and wisdom. You need to strive for both. Since not everyone will work toward the same sort of things, it requires self-sacrifice and often guidance (or at times, hinderance) as things naturally progress in a free society. This is how it should be. Neither has more value, or is more important, because they're pretty symbiotic by nature. Equality, at its best, is supposed to be a progression toward everyone having the same amount of liberties. It's not CONSTANTLY purely a tenet of socialistic values, especially when it has freedom as its partner in a society. I'm not saying its perfect... ...the best things never are.
1 person likes this
@katran (590)
• United States
29 Jan 09
You are right that a combination of the two (which is, I think, what we strive for in America) is the ideal. Pure freedom with no equality and pure equality with no freedom are both things that I am sure no one want to experience. Heh, I guess I didn't figure I was starting such a contentious topic when I wrote this. I merely meant to present the idea that they are potentially in opposition to one another and get people's opinions on whether one should outweigh the other. I am not sure if a perfect mix is possible or not. (I think in the USA we have more freedom than equality, and I personally think that is the best way. I wanted to see what others thought about it.)
• United States
29 Jan 09
Possible or not, it's not a half bad thing to try for. Since we're all individually striving for different things, this leaves things up to the mass variables of one's own culture. Me, I believe that, in life the highest thing to strive for is balance -- so naturally I believe in working toward a balance of equality and freedom. I got that you were talkng about potential opposition of these two things, but I wasn't sure quite how you meant to present it. They CAN be in opposition, but it's usually a little more rare for it to be a STARKLY STRIKING opposition, and it tends to change easily and, well, in history's eyes -- quickly. Which, like I said, is how things should be. It's the way of the world, for things to constantly change. It's how we learn.
• United States
29 Jan 09
America is supposed to be about freedom. I feel that's what is most important. "Life's not Fair", never has been never will be. Everyone should have their freedom.
1 person likes this
@ladyluna (7004)
• United States
29 Jan 09
Hello Katran, I cannot begin to express how pleased I am that you have posed this question. Of course you're absolutely correct -- people do not contemplate this important question nearly enough, if at all. Allow me to piercingly answer your question before elaborating: Which is more important? Freedom trumps equality everytime!!! Why? Because equality is a fallacy -- pure and simple! Never in the history of mankind have any two Human Beings been genuinely 'equal', nor shall any two (or more) beings ever achieve true equality. For always: there will be differences based on the decisions made out of Free Will. As long as Man has Free Will, equality will be an illusive little carrot that we silly Humans run in circles around an illusive little track, with the greatest hopes of capturing. In the words of Max Ehrmann in "Desiderata": "For always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself..." Perhaps the 'greater' relates to more ambitious, more committed, or more dedicated. Regardless, without question there will always be inequality based on Freedom of Choice. To your point that selfishness trumps philanthropy: Your supposition fails to consider that philanthropy brings its own reward -- the benefit of feeling good by, for, or about helping others. Unfortunately, Sociologists try so diligently to consider themselves Scientists (where Philosophers are that much more fierce in attempting to prove themselves relevant), that they fail to take into account the fact that their field of 'science' attempts to measure man's reactions to biologic, environmental, or societal shifts. When in fact, they fail to recognize that there is nothing 'scientific' about the Human condition, or its set of reactions to stimuli. Release those same Sociologists into a 'philanthropic' missionary environment, where people selfishly benefit from selflessness, and their sociological findings will be vastly different! In summary, your question pre-supposes that there might possibly be true equality. Alas, two thousand years (plus) of history disputes that basic premise. Freedom is the underlying drive of the Human species. Equality never enters into the picture of our natural condition! As for your supposition that government is authorized or entitled to "coerce" people into acting in the "common good": that is little more than your perception of the role of government. Quite to the contrary, my perception of the role of goverment is that it is an inanimate body which functions of, by, and for The People, based on the limited auspices defined by those Free people. In other words, governments have zero power unless it is granted by free beings!!!!!!!!!!!! If this seems foreign, please consider for a moment: What power does any government have if We The People don't recognize that particular government? In other words, if We The People do not surrender to that government the power to control our actions, then that government is powerless. Far too many people have forgotten this basic premise: Over the course of our species' history there have been in existence a nearly identical set of underlying rules to live by, or govern with. Regardless of location or societal specifics, those underlying 'rules' tend to follow a similar pattern as The Golden Rule, the Ten Commandments or the ancient Rede of Three. In other words: The decision to allow ourselves to be coerced into 'goodness' has always had everything to do with spirit and spirituality and nothing to do with secular governance.
• Philippines
29 Jan 09
i guess you right. but now. some of the people are not doing it. coz of their greedines. they always want to be on top and never realize that they are stepping on other people. thats why equality is the most improtant!
@ladyluna (7004)
• United States
29 Jan 09
Equality is an illusion that can only survive outside of the parameters of the absolute laws of humanity, including but not limited to self-actualization, competition, and survival of the fittest! While I would never take away one's right to pursue such illusions, I similarly refuse to be saddled by those chimeras! When the one expects the many to act contrary to their natural condition, it is a behemoth waste of time, as well as a dictatorial, dogmatic effort to control others.
• United States
29 Jan 09
By your definition equality. But there needs to be balance not one over the other. I do admit most people we encounter will most likely do a self interest instead as oppose to the common good. So Equality is more important since no one wants to have the disadvantage or the short end of the stick.
• Philippines
29 Jan 09
id rather choose equality. bcoz all of us is all on the same ground. no one is on top or at the bottom. and for sure all of us will work together for the better.