Equality Essay, Research Paper
Imagine first that you have a choice between freedom, order, and equality. Imagine that you are on the other side of the veil and that you have no knowledge of what the other side will be like once you step through the veil. Which would you choose? For starters, if you choose freedom, who?s freedom. For example, Joe Blow?s freedom may mean something different from what freedom means to you. He may think that he is free to beat you up. Being free does not insure that you will be treated the same, let alone have the same chance as everyone else. If you choose order, who?s order? Why it could be Hitler?s order, then what? You could be one of those who is murder because your not blond and blue eyed or because you are Jewish. If you choose equality, at least whatever order it may be you will always be equal and you will be free at least in an equal standpoint. I will discuss the different arguments for and against equality, such as those for Rawls’s difference principle or those contending that the pursuit of equality is inimical to some other value such as freedom. My main concern is that I want to make clear that equality will benefit all people not just the elite because when your equal you have the same chance to succeed and if equality is enforced in any government then you will be treated the same regardless of race, creed or color.
What is equality? Equality has several meanings, such as: political equality means that the citizen has one and only one vote. Social equality, which has two meanings within itself: 1) it could mean providing equal opportunity, or 2) it could mean ensuring equal outcome. Equal opportunity means that each person has the same chance to succeed in life, and equal outcome means the government ensures equality. (Janda pp. 7) Why has there been so much discourse when it comes to equality in the United States? John Rawls spoke about justice, and he commented that in order for justice to prevail there has to be equal citizenship and equal opportunity. By giving people, these rights you are allowing them to have the same advantage to succeed.
In the United States when the earlier framers of constitution where creating their new government they were not ?interested in extending liberty to those classes in America, such as the Negro slaves and the indentured servants, who were most in need of it, for slavery was recognized in the Constitution and indentured servitude was no concern of the Convention.? (Hartz, pp.44)
As a result, the United States created a permanent underclass of people, which 200 years later are still struggling for equal rights. The people who were slaves and servants managed to make many contributions, and they could have made many more, if they had been acknowledged in the constitution.
The constitution was established to guarantee the natural rights of the people, however, it did not secure for everyone the most fundamental right ? equality. For example, it excluded the slave from their inalienable rights as human beings, and women had no political right. No one ever went so far as to permit universal rights to everyone. (Levy pp. 120-123) This in John Rawls view is injustice because it does not benefit everyone. Rawls viewed the equal distribution of these rights as just and quotes:
All social values-liberty and opportunity, income and wealth, and the bases of self-respect ? are to be distributed equally unless an unequal distribution of any, or all, of these values is to everyone?s advantage. (Cohen and Fermon pp. 678)
It is interesting to see that in the United States, Abigail Adams wife of the late president John Adams, and a framer of the constitution, wrote her husband a letter requesting that women be given representation and be included in the constitution of the United States. He did neither. In her letter, she warned that if they did not include women in the constitution, women were going form a rebellion against the lawmakers until their voices are heard, and why not if women are born free and remain equal in rights to a man. Her letter read:
??I desire you would remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If peculiar care and attention is not paid to the Ladies, we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bond by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.? Abigail Adams (Levy pp. 163)
Early philosophers such as John Locke gave much thought to the issue of equality, for example, John Locke wrote:
?…Power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another; there being nothing more evident, than the creatures of the same species and rank, promiscuously born to all the same advantages of nature, and the use of the same faculties, should also be equal one amongst another without subordination or subjection, unless the lord and master of them all should, by any manifest declaration of his will, set one above another, and confer on him, by an evident and clear appointment, and undoubted right to dominion and sovereignty?? (Cohen and Fermon pp. 244)
Locke?s view of natural rights is that the human race is born equal and that no man is naturally inferior, or in any respect subjected to another, but he also says that man can be subjected to another by consent. John Lock writes that the protection of life, liberty, and property was the basic objective of government. He says that the laws of nature make everyone equal and independent.
??since the law of nature makes everyone equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions stolen, for men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent, and infinitely wise maker; all the servants of one sovereign master, sent into the world by his order, and about his business; they are his property, who?s workmanship they are, made to last during his, not one another?s pleasure: and being furnished with like faculties sharing all in one community of nature, there cannot be supposed any such subordination among us, that may authorize us to destroy one another, as if we were made for one another?s uses, as the inferior ranks of creatures are ours. Everyone, as he is bond to preserve himself, and not to quit his station willfully, so by the like reason, when his own preservation comes not in competition, ought he, as much as he can, to preserve the rest of man kind, and may not, unless it be to do justice on an offender, take away or impair the life, or what tends to the preservation of the life, the liberty, health, limb, or good of another.? (Cohen and Fermon pp. 244)
The friction between supporters of freedom verses order, and between order and equality, lie beneath the most basic ideologies that people use to structure their understanding of politics. People hold a mixture of values and beliefs about freedom order and equality. These beliefs that people hold are what determines the scope of government. Political ideology can be classified according to how much control the people are willing to give up to government in dealing with social and economic problems. (Janda pp.11)
In my view of equality, I feel that it is more important than freedom or order. Equality intertwines with freedom and order. Equality is a value that figures prominently in the writings of both egalitarian socialists and egalitarian liberals. Even those who do not adhere to such views usually concede that equality is part of the story in political morality. The question naturally arises: what sort of equality should an egalitarian care about? The question is all the more pertinent since promoting equality on one dimension – say ‘opportunity’ – leads to inequality on another – say, wealth.
Hartz, Louis. The Liberal Tradition in America: An Interpretation of American Political Thought since the Revolution. Second Harvest/HBJ ed., Harcourt, July 1985.Janda, Kenneth, Berry, Jeffrey, and Goldman, Jerry. The Challenge of Democracy: Brief Edition 3rd. Houghton Mifflin Company (College Division), 1998.
Levy, Michael B. Political Thought In America, Second Edition: An Anthology.
Illinois: Waveland Press, Inc., 1992.
Cohen, Mitchell, and Fermon, Nicole (Editors). Princeton Readings in Political Thought.
New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1996.
Janda, Kenneth, Berry, Jeffrey, and Goldman, Jerry. The Challenge of Democracy: Brief Edition 3rd. Houghton Mifflin Company (College Division), 1998