What is the relationship between equality and liberty?

Different writers have given different views about the relationship between liberty and equality. According to some thinkers, liberty and equality are opposite to each other and Hogg, Hayek, Friedman, Acton, Tocqueville, Begehot, May etc are of this view. Other philosophers like Harringtion, Maitland, Hume, Godwin, Rousseau, Arnold, Tawney, Polland, Barker etc. are of the opinion that liberty and equality are not opposite, rather complementary to each other.
Some intellectuals are of the opinion that liberty and equality are opposed to each other. When we try to establish liberty, equality gets lost. We try to bring an able and disable person on the same level which results in withdrawing liberty of an able person. According to the views of Lord Acton, “The passion for equality has made vain the hope of liberty.” The writers who are in favors of this view give the following points to support their argument

  1. Nature has not created all men Equal
    Some Intellectuals think that inequalities in society are the gift of nature because nature has not created all men equal. Some people are intelligent others dull, some are beautiful others are ugly. These Inequalities are not the creation of men but are natural. Against the natural principle, we try to bring equality by means of force. In this way, we work against the law of nature.
  2. Economic Freedom and Equality are opposite
    Individuals are of opinion that there should be free competition and free trade in economic spheres. This will help every citizen to progress in all spheres. But whenever wo try to establish economic equality, it becomes hindrance in the way of economic liberty. This results in limiting economic liberty of human beings.
  3. Competent Individuals fall to show their Competency
    When we give equal rights and opportunities to all then competent individuals fail to show their competency. For example, in democracy, all persons, good or bad are given equal political rights and it is difficult to differentiate between good and bad person.
  4. Principle of equal Freedom is wrong.
    To keep all the men on the same level them equally is not only wrong but immoral also because all men are not equal. To give equal status to intelligent, dull, educated, uneducated is basically wrong. To treat a doctor, an engineer, professor, labourer and unemployed equally is injustice.
    We can conclude from above points that there is no relationship between equality and liberty but they are opposed to each other.

Some Intellectuals are of the opinion that equality and liberty are not opposite to each other rather, they are complementary and critics who think that liberty and equality are opposite, they do not know the real meaning of these terms. According to Prof. Pollard. There is only one solution of liberty. It les in equality. Similarly in the words of Prof. R.H. Tawny. A large measure of equality so far from being inimical to liberty is essential to it.”
If we take the correct meanings of these terms, then there is no opposition between liberty and equality. Prof. Laski thinks, “De Tocqueville and Lord Acton misunderstood the meanings of the term equality when they said that liberty and equality cannot exist together.” If we keep the following points in our mind, we cannot opposition between equality and liberty.

  1. Purpose of both is Same-
    The main aim of liberty and equality is to create an atmosphere in which man can develop his over all personality. When the purpose is same, then how there can be opposition ? According to Dr. Asirvatham, “The French Revolutionaries were neither mad nor stupid when they made liberty, equality and fraternity their war cry.”
  2. For the enjoyment of freedom, equality is Needed-
    In the absence of equality. liberty cannot be enjoyed. We cannot think that a poor and a rich man can enjoy liberty equally. This is next to impossible. The only way to enjoy liberty is to create equality first. Pollard has rightly said, “There is only one solution of liberty, it lies in equality.”
  3. For civil liberty, oquality before law is a Must-
    Civil liberty is one which one enjoys by being the member of the state and this liberty one can enjoy only when there are all lprovisions of equality before law. If this is not there, the civil liberty becomes meaningless.
  4. For Political Freedom, equal opportunities are needed
    Political theory means man should be given equal chances to participate in the affairs of the state. If it is not like this then political liberty becomes meaningless. Today a poor man cannot enjoy that much liberty as a rich man enjoys. Therefore, equality is necessary in every sphere.
  5. Liberty and Equality are pillars of Democracy-
    Liberty and equality, both are pillars of democracy. If there is only liberty and not equality, or vice-versa, then democracy will be meaningless. This shows that there is close relationship between equality and liberty.
  6. Both have developed Side by Side-
    After reading the history of equality and liberty, we come to know that man struggled for both, equality and liberty simultaneously. The Revolutionaries of France, demanded equality and liberty simultaneously because they were conscious that one is meaningless without the other.

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