Liberty and equality are the two fundamental rights which is granted to the citizens in democracy. These both terms are very closely related to each other. There is no value of liberty if there is no equality. We can say that they both means the same if viewed from different angles like the two sides of the same coin. If we go with the research of political thinkers, the two great champions of liberty, Tocqueville and Lord Acton, once declared that equality and liberty are two contradictory things.
They were of the opinion that where there is liberty, there is no equality and vice versa. But many thinkers opposed this view. Liberty and equality have been discussed over and over by countless political thinkers, writers and those discussions have been generally inconclusive. We will go on that in detail later let’s first go by their individual definitions ;
Liberty – It is the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views and opinions.
Equality – Equality means the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities.
The principal of equality admits the natural inequality of men in respect of their wants, need, character and ability. It knows that a scientist and a rickshaw puller cannot receive the same treatment. Thus, it means that the state should secure and guarantee to all citizens equal conditions in the form of civil, political and economic rights, so that each enjoy equal and adequate opportunities for the development of his personality. The notion of equality thus means the abolition of all forms of artificial inequalities created by man itself.
The principal of liberty means that the state treats each and every person as free, “capable of developing his own capacities in his own way and therefore capable of enjoying and exercising the rights which are the conditions of such development. Each person can be really free when equal conditions are guaranteed to each for making the best of himself.
Kinds of liberty
1. Personal or civil liberty
Personal or civil liberty means the liberty of a man in the capacity of an individual person. A man should have the right to life, freedom of speech and expression, freedom of movement, and so on.
2. Political liberty
The liberty of an individual in the capacity of a citizen, as a member of the state, is his political liberty. It’s refers to the right of the people to constitute and control government. The people constitute it by exercising their right to vote, and control it through meetings, processions, and discussions. Under this liberty the people gets the power to be active in affairs of the state.
3. Economic liberty
This liberty gives security and opportunity to earn one’s daily bread and thus realize the significance of life. Therefore, a man must possess the right to work and the right to share in the determination of wages and the conditions of his work. These three rights constitute the basic elements of economic liberty.
Kinds of equality
1. Social equality
Under social equality society treats all men as equal irrespective of caste, race or religion. It is state where all people are treated equally without any discrimination based on their backgrounds.
2. Legal equality
Under legal equality all men are equal under the eyes of law irrespective of what they do and from where they belong. Each and every citizen under democracy will be considered equal under the eyes of law. The law of the country shall not discriminate between one class of persons and another.
3. Political equality
This equality means that all persons irrespective of sex, caste, creed, colour, race, religion, rich or poor have the right to participate in the affairs of the state. Political equality gives the right to adult citizen to elect and be elected and also the right to public employment.
4. Cultural equality
A political thinker barker said that, equality of culture means “equal distribution of educational opportunities”. If equal opportunities to receive education do not exist, there will be a considerable amount of educational inequality which in turn will tend to create a gulf of culture between the few and the many which can be a big hindrance in the attainment of a good and stable society.
Is liberty superior to equality ?
Though liberty and equality are closely connected, it is sometimes argued that liberty matters more than equality. Liberty is needed for the development of personality and entails equality. If men are free, then they are evidently equal because they are free. As barker says the cause of liberty unites men together in something which each and all can possess but equality when exclusively pressed, creates division rather than unity. Laski says without equality there does not exist any common basis. There are all mixed opinions by different political analysts on this topic that who is superior to whom. As a matter of fact, both liberty and equality are equally essential in democracy.