Educate Thyself: Liberty and Equality

“There is all the difference in the world between treating people equally and attempting to make them equal.” — F.A. Hayek

We’ve seen much news recently surrounding the voices of equality.  I’ve even reacted to the Supreme Court decisions with a statement here in Mississippi on the DOMA and Prop8: “These decisions allow for equal treatment under the law.”  I would go on to highlight the ideals of freedom and liberty, implying the removal of government in marriage decisions.  But notice the choice of words, “will allow for” — not “will guarantee.”

A great resource for liberty-minded individuals to “educate thyself” is Learn Liberty.  The organization recently put out a brief video (above) by Professor James R. Otteson at Yeshiva University on understanding the balance between liberty and equality.

A brief overview:  There are two types of equality: 

  1. Treating people equally with regard to the law or laws
  2. Substantive equality, or measuring equality by some material means
The latter proves dangerous, as there is no proper metric to measure the diversity of humans, says Otteson. The former is in line with the classical liberalism philosophy, preserving the ideals of freedom and liberty.  

So, let’s be careful in referring to equality. Understanding the importance it plays in our society only amplifies the delicate balance that exists when we allow others to use force to justify their good intentions.  

Agree or not, I believe humans are flawed, but are perfectly capable and free to choose to do good. Libertarian critiques of my argument on equality state there can never be perfect treatment of law, and this is true — but that shouldn’t stop us from pursuing a better ideal.

The best way to do this is less government, not more.  We must allow individuals the freedom to choose their ideals that shape the way they live — using voluntary, charitable, and religious institutions as a basis or support mechanism for our beliefs. 

How do you define liberty and equality?

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