Freedom and Equality vs Rules and Power

Updated 2019 05 09

Freedom and equality vs rules and power — all are essential for symbiotic coexistence in a successful, thriving society.

Many clamor for “freedom and equality” and forget that the price for that is “duties and obligations.” Fairness is a bit more difficult to achieve.

There is little fairness in equality of outcomes. The latter is the enemy of and defeats the former. The concepts of fairness and equality of outcomes are incompatible. Still, a successful, thriving society uses the right tools to establish a good balance in the apparent conflict between freedom and equality vs rules and power, by allowing and promoting them to exist in a constructive symbiosis.

“The young men who are not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth” – African proverb,

(h/t JT Coriolis)

That proverb appeals to many.  Most appear to feel that a village that fails to embrace its young men must suffer the consequences.  Fewer (if any) feel that children must be raised to be likeable, so that a village will embrace them when they become young men and women, as readily as when they were helpless children. 

Duties, Obligations and Civility, to Balance Freedom and Prevent Chaos

Fewer yet feel that young men and women need to curb their wants somewhat, so that they fulfill their duties and obligations to serve their village sufficiently. 

It appears that no one or hardly anyone considers that, even when the village tried to raise its children right, to the best of its ability, there were still some young men and women who did not wish to be embraced but rather go out of their way to burn the village down.

Civility is the tool chest holding the tools with which to construct successful civilizations.  Those are societies in which everyone can enjoy the freedom of choice to reach the heights he can achieve.  Such societies have rules designed to protect that freedom, without enforcing it.

Balancing Freedom and Force

No society can function well without rules. A society in which rules rank supreme, no one is free.  It is a totalitarian regime. On the other hand, a society in which everyone is free but lives without or in spite of any rules will be utterly chaotic.

Freedom and Equality

Freedom and Equality

A successful solution to that dilemma will have the best possible combination of freedom and equality vs rules and power. There will never be a clear dividing line between the two. There will always be gaps in some as well as some overlap in other areas of the boundaries between freedom and equality vs rules and power. Moreover, those gaps and overlaps will change and shift with time and changing circumstances, as will – if left alone – the balance between freedom and power.  Any system, if left alone, will sooner or later collapse; catastrophically or gradually run down to its demise.

“A society that puts equality—in the sense of equality of outcome—ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom. The use of force to achieve equality will destroy freedom, and the force, introduced for good purposes, will end up in the hands of people who use it to promote their own interests.”

—Milton and Rose Friedman,
in Free to Choose: A Personal Statement

A successful society adapts to maintain the best possible balance between freedom and equality vs rules and power.  It does so with the least possible amount of conflict but also the greatest possible extent of satisfaction.  Still, one thing is certain.

Inevitable Exceptions to Balance of Freedom and Force

There can never be a society that makes everyone equally happy or equally miserable. There will always be some people who, for whatever reasons, are eager to burn down the village to feel its warmth. Let’s hope that enough rules and the power to enforce them will always be in place to keep the ‘arsonists’ in check.

Freedom and Equality! one hears proclaimed,
The peaceful citizen is driven to arms,
The streets are filling, the halls,
The vigilante-bands are moving,
Then women change into hyenas
And make a plaything out of terror,
Though it twitches still, with panthers teeth,
They tear apart the enemy’s heart.
Nothing is holy any longer, loosened
Are all ties of righteousness,
The good gives room to bad,
And all vices freely rule.
Dangerous it is to wake the lion,
Ruinous is the tiger’s tooth,
But the most terrible of all the terrors,
That is the mensch 1 when crazed.
Woe to those, who lend to the eternally-blind
Enlightenment’s heavenly torch!
It does not shine for him, it only can ignite
And puts to ashes towns and lands.

— Quoted and translated from Song of the Bell
By Friedrich von Schiller
(The excerpt is part of his description of the impressions  the French Revolution left on him.)

Note 1: The definition of mensch given in Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th edition:
“[Yiddish, mentsh human being, fr. MHG mensch, fr. OHG menisco; akin to OE man human being, man] (1953) : a person of integrity and honor.”

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