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Are Freedom and Equality Compatible?


Freedom is usually thought to be opposed to equality, because, when everyone has freedom of selection, some are selected, while others excluded, thus society becomes unequal. So, those who prefer equality tend to hate free competition.

Image by skeeze from Pixabay

1. Freedom is compatible with equality

But freedom is not necessarily opposed to equality. The purpose of free competition is to select the excellent. If the condition of competition is not equal, you cannot judge who is the most excellent. When each runner doesn’t run an equal distance, how can we judge which runner is the fastest? Therefore, free competition is premised on equal opportunity. What is opposed to free competition is not equality of opportunity, but that of result. Let’s name those who insist on the latter socialistic egalitarians.

The socialistic egalitarians point out that the excellent and good does not always survive competition, namely some win by foul play. But the system that does not adopt the fair competition cannot survive for a long time. This indicates the way of competition itself must evolve through competition.

The socialistic egalitarians assert that, even if competition can select the excellent, free competition necessarily produces losers and the society where some must always be unhappy cannot be ideal. Somebody must lose competition, to be sure, but the issue of the competition is always decided by a certain criterion. So many criteria, so many winners. Suppose there are three members in a community, and that one is the best mathematician, another is the best musician and the third is the best runner. All of three can be a winner of his favorite field.

Of course, the society where all are winners is just theoretically possible. There are many losers-in-all-respects in the actual society. The socialistic egalitarians condemn the society as barbarous and inhuman where these losers-in-all-respects cannot survive. In many cases, however, the excellent are called excellent because they can make the society where those who are not excellent can survive. Khmer Rouge, which liquidated intellectuals, collapsed, with the result of miserable famine, though the entire nation became farmers. When the non-elite bring down the elite from jealousy, it is the non-elite that must suffer its harmful influence.

2. Are efforts are powerless?

The losers-in-all-respects can also be winners, if they make efforts to be winners. The socialistic egalitarians say, “We are born unequal and personal efforts cannot overcome this inequality. There are many disadvantageous factors to the weak which are not their own responsibilities, for example genetic inheritance, family circumstances, social background and so on. It is even inherently decided whether someone is lazy or not. It is against social justice that those weak are possessed by inferiority complex when they lose in a competition."

It is true we are born unequal. Thanks to this natural diversity, our species can hedge the risk of extinction by a special cause. The necessary efforts to make in order to win the free competition is not to make this rich diversity uniform with a prevailing criteria but to make the best use of the diversity as such.

There are three levels of efforts to succeed:

  1. mere efforts to use physical energy
  2. efforts to devise methods for making efforts
  3. efforts to find a new criterion that evaluates my individuality

What are usually meant by efforts are those on the first level. This kind of ability may be innately decided. If, however, even the third ability were also decided by nature, then we could have no freedom. The fact of the matter is that we are free, because we are conscious beings.

It is quite foolish to deplore that you are not in accord with established values. It would be better to find new values and environment that evaluate your demerits as merits than to adapt your characters to the established values and environment. Anyone can make such an effort, if he or she will.

3. Toward post-industrial society

The opposition, freedom versus equality, was the ideological difference between capitalism and communism. Communism pursued uniform equality, while capitalism pursued uniform competition. Communism and capitalism were both sides of one coin, the uniformity, which characterized all the industrial society. Now that we live in post-industrial societies, we must overcome the old paradigm of uniformity.