Liberty vs. Equality

Liberty may be defined as freedom or release from slavery, imprisonment, captivity, or any other form of arbitrary control. While euality may be defined as having the same rights, privileges, ability, rank, etc.

Have you seen director Michael Moore's documentary film "SICKO" on socialized healthcare system which many American anti-socialism criticized heavily? For those who have not yet seen it, watch it. It's also on unscheduled showing at Star Movies cable TV maybe due to the U.S. presidential election.

Perahpas to put some context to the message conveyed by Moore's film, here is a bit of information from Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia.

Liberty vs. Equality

One of the purposes of the United States Constitution, as stated in the Preamble, is to "secure the blessings of liberty." Equality is nowhere mentioned, because the writers of the Constitution did not envision a popular democracy of the 20th-century style. They were establishing a constitutional republic in which only some citizens had full political rights.

For the generation that created the Constitution, liberty was more in the foreground than democracy. Those who had fought in the American Revolution did so in order to liberate themselves from Great Britain. They wanted to pursue the opportunities available in the New World, without the restrictions of the laws, demands, and taxes set by Parliament and the king. When they made a new constitution, they set up a government that, for the first time, did not automatically claim the right to oversee all aspects of society, including its economic pursuits.

Because there was obviously opportunity enough for all in a large and mostly unsettled country, the Constitution was designed to secure the blessings of liberty for all Americans to pursue their own livelihoods. To help them do this, the first Congress passed the Bill of Rights--the first ten amendments to the Constitution. While the government guaranteed the individual's right to the pursuit of happiness, how well the individual succeeded in attaining happiness was not the government's concern. If a person failed, government offered little assistance. Freedom only removed the barriers to advancement.

Across the Atlantic Ocean, in the kingdom of France, another revolution began in 1789. Although the revolutionist slogan of the French peasants was "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity," they were willing to jeopardize their civil liberty and their bonds of brotherhood for the primary goal of equality. From the ferment of the French Revolution emerged, for the first time, demands for equality in all respects--political, social, and economic. The French Revolution inspired the socialist and Communist movements that eventually led to the 20th-century revolutions.

The contrast between the American and French revolutions on one point is significant. The Americans exalted liberty and were willing to let equality take care of itself. The French espoused equality at all costs. A real conflict emerges between liberty and equality if either is carried to an extreme. When equality is forced, personal freedoms usually give way, and inequality is inevitable in a society granted unlimited liberties. Modern democracies have not been able to resolve this conflict.