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The balance between freedom and equality?

Submitted by sharp_dressed_left in Politics

Hello I'd be really interested in your personal views on:

  • what value you assign to freedom and equality. Whether you think one is more important than the other, whether they are fundamentally incompatible, whether you can't achieve the desired results of one without also actualising the other.

  • the best policies or practices that you think would achieve your ideal in reality

Thank you very much for your time, I hope to hear your thoughts.

Comments

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OniLinkPlus wrote

First, I'm going to be sure to define my terms since these are fairly... abstract things.

Freedom to me is the idea that an authority cannot tell you that you must or must not do something.

Equality is the idea that all people are given a fair chance (equality of opportunity), and not treated differently for inherent characteristics such as race, gender, or sexual orientation. As an addendum, I tend more to believe in equitable treatment of people, such that those who need a leg up are provided what they need, e.g. people with disabilities, with the idea being that equity is the method by which we reach equality.

In an idealized society, we would have both freedom and equality. Right now we have neither - government removes freedoms in the interest of "stability and order", and people are discriminated against worldwide for being LGBTQ/women/PoC/etc.

It's tempting to believe that if we eliminate authority in order to restore freedom, equality will naturally follow. I do not believe this to be the case. The fact is, a lot of the time it is private individuals who are promoting inequality and discrimination (that's not to say the government isn't promoting inequality - it definitely is) (see cases like Kim Davis who admittedly used a position of authority to promote her private beliefs, or many of the incidents with bakeries refusing gay customers).

Even if we do eliminate authority to restore full freedoms, there will still be people who discriminate. Equality won't naturally follow (though the situation will likely improve drastically). If we want people to be treated equally, which I think is a necessary goal, then we need some form of community policing to protect the marginalized which then constitutes some form of authority. The question then becomes - is community self-policing an authority that we are willing to accept? I'm fairly new to leftist politics, but it looks like people agree with and are fine with community self-policing?

It's also possible that I'm naively pessimistic about humanity and authority really is the source of inequality so :/ But I do find equality to be of more importance than freedom, personally, as you cannot have freedom for all without equality (if people are not equal, then somebody must have less or more freedom than others, which is undesirable and seems to imply the existence of authority).

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tnstaec wrote

I don't really know what equality could mean outside of some kind of legal enforcement regime. So "equality" isn't something I click with.

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sharp_dressed_left wrote

Do you think equality is a kind of 'all or nothing' concept?

Or do you mean to and ensure everyone's rights are fulfilled (according to the society's conception of rights) can only ever be meaningfully done through law and enforcement, and not through social welfare policies, education, the economy, and the arts?

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tnstaec wrote

Equality, as I understand it, is based on the concept of rights. If rights are something granted by the state, they're outside of the purview of the kind of society I'd find bearable to live in. The inventory of concepts that come out of the Enlightenment, including equality, rights, republicanism, etc. may have been an improvement upon what preceded them, but I see them as decreasingly relevant to the project of liberation.

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Tequila_Wolf wrote

False dichotomy, basically. I'm about to go to sleep. Maybe more later. Welcome!

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vacuousaptitude wrote

Freedom is only possible in an equal society, they are not competing interests.

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sharp_dressed_left wrote

Can you define your terms? Do you mean: meaningful freedom is where every member of society, through access to a basic level of resources, is physically able to ahieve their will?

Because many more mainstream conceptions of freedom - such as republican and classical liberal - define freedom as the absence of obstacles imposed by agents. Therefore the indirect social and physical obstacles that prevent some agents from achieving their purposes, while others steam ahead, are not seen as a concern for politics. And that, I assume you'd think, is unequal.

So do you thind we should change our definition of freedom for basic political discourse?

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vacuousaptitude wrote

If we have an unequal society, where some people are given access to superiour choices and opportunities and others are denied those things - or at the very least made to work substantially harder to achieve them, you cannot say that society is free. If only some people have the practical access to something that is not a freedom but a privilege.

Here's an example, Republicans in the United States are all on about school choice. They believe that the ability to take the tax dollars which fund public education and have them refunded as a check which they can take to a private school is a matter of freedom, of free choice. But that is either a misunderstanding of the word freedom, or an outright lie. Not everyone has access to private schools. Poor families who don't pay a lot of school tax nominal value would not have the "freedom" to send their children to a private school based on this voucher. They simply could never afford the tuition even with the voucher. And the schools are selective, these schools can simply choose not to admit certain individuals based on whatever reasoning they come up with.

In addition to that taking money out of the local school systems and sending it to private schools only further serves to disadvantage poor children. Only more well off families can take advantage of these programs. These are families that pay a larger amount in taxes. When their tax dollars are taken out of the school system the per-capita funding in that school system decreases. This means that the overall school district has less money to use educating each individual child, each child unable to access this private schooling is disadvantaged by receiving a lower quality education than they previously were. On top of which the wealthy kids access a superiour education getting an advantage, so it's a bit of a double whammy.

This is a big part of the problem with families even just moving to better school districts. Only better off families can afford to do this, when they do they give their kid an advantage, and also disadvantage everyone in the less well off neighbourhood they used to live in by lowering the per-capita funding. This is why funding, for everything, needs to be collected at the highest possible level and distributed to locales based on a combination of population and need. But in the US we fetishize the smallest possible unit and by doing so create a situation where educational inequality, as well as inequality in all public services and infrastructure, is inevitable.

define freedom as the absence of obstacles imposed by agents

And they do that because they tend to face the fewest obstacles from other individuals, and from mere institutions. There isn't an agent which forces inequality in schools - and this is why conservatives and liberals often miss the point. There isn't an individual lawmaker loudly and willfully announcing that they're choosing to deprive poor and minority children of a quality education. For the most part that talk will only ever happen behind closed doors. Instead it is institutions that people rarely ever question which were set up for the purpose of enforcing this inequality covertly.

It isn't usually an individual hiring manager saying "your name sounds black so I didn't look at your resume" it's a complicated web of social conditioning that creates an implicit bias in the minds of everyone in our society, which ultimately results in a hiring manager, even if subconsciously, giving preferential treatment to white sounding names on applications while binning the ethnic ones.

The problem with that view of freedom is that it doesn't respond to a world where it is institutions that enforce inequality, it is really only applicable to people who are only restricted by specific laws, and who view those laws to be unfair. For example a business that believes environmental regulations or a unionized workforce are an obstacle to their will. It doesn't consider the other side that without those restrictions businesses will harm the very lives of many people impacted by their pollution, and all of their workers impacted by an abusive workplace.

It is a very individualistic conception of the term freedom, where the individual is viewed in a vacuum and the question is asked who stands in their way. Instead of a collectivist conception of the term, where the community is viewed in the context of the real world wherein they live and the question is asked how can we ensure they all have the same opportunity to succeed.

So do you thind we should change our definition of freedom for basic political discourse?

Yes, I think it is nearly always better to have a collectivist mindset than an individualistic one. An individualistic mindset protects those who already have power, while acting as a barrier to those who do not. In fact this mindset is often used to disregard people who have not had opportunities to succeed by suggesting it is their own fault for somehow not willing themselves beyond every barrier our society has to offer, while the successful person they are compared to merely had to apply themselves to any one of the copious and innumerable opportunities they were presented with to succeed.

Evaluating success as individual or personal failure is a very bad lens to use, as we all live in the context of our society rather than in a vacuum of ourselves.

Fundamentally the point is this, something can only be considered a freedom if every person has equal access to it. Otherwise it is a privilege. Mind you it may be a privilege afforded to many, even most members of society, but if it is not equally enjoyed by all it cannot be considered a freedom to any.

For example, the ability to take several months off, without working, to explore the world is not a freedom it is a privilege. It is not afforded to everyone, though some have access to it. Similarly the ability to take several days off of work to explore a specific location away from home is not a freedom, it is a privilege not afforded to everyone.

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ziq wrote

I don't think you can have freedom without equality. Equality is freedom, once you've achieved that, freedom is inevitable.

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sharp_dressed_left wrote

What kind of equality are we talking? I assume you mean the sharing of resources and opportunity etc to a reasonable extent - but although I agree this would create an environment for a valuable kind of freedom to flourish, I don't think it's inevitable. For example, if you see freedom as the ability to act or be according to your purpose, surely equality doesn't entail that different purposes are catered for, that there is a true variety of opportunities and luxury resources that allow for this kind of freedom? So can you just explain what you mean by inevitable?

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ConfettiEggnog wrote

Equality is for the losers. Thus for the politicians as well, as they need numbers to rise to power. With or without democracy.

So only freedom.

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sharp_dressed_left wrote

By losers who do you mean?

If you don't have a certain level of equality between people - i.e. access to food, shelter, water, etc. Then surely those fortunate enough to happen to naturally have resources would only have freedom in theory - in practice would their freedom not be overshadowed by their moral obligation and human compassion to share their resources with their less fortunate neighbours? Thus willingly sacrificing a significant portion of their freedom go preserve life in the absence of societal equality? And if you don't think humans are so compassionate, then it works the other way round. Where those fortunate enough to have the resources to do something with their freedom would be under constant threat of attack by the less fortunate, desperate for the basic resources. And so the fortunate few's lives, security and freedom are so precarious without equality?

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ConfettiEggnog wrote

By losers I mean people who have a general inclination to lose. From losing the attention of the liked female - which lead to monogamy and strict rules to enforce marriage - to losing a job - which lead to all sort of social concepts and insurances.

In short: if you know you are going to lose, you are going to be a staunch egalitarian. Even the slightest hope of a chance to win, than the egalitarian stance starts to slowly fade away. As only the mentally disabled can be certain of something, each of us has at least some shade of egalitarianism inside, lurking around the corner.

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ConfettiEggnog wrote

Funny thing. I used to consider christian anarchism an aberration. Reading people in here it becomes quite obvious that it's the only flavor around. Sacrifice? Fortunate?