This tension between liberty and equality is often perceived to be a recurrent theme in the tradition of American political thought. It is commonly stated that while the Declaration of Independence assigns great weight to equality, the Constitution is in favour of individual liberty, with the preamble explicitly stating that one of the aims of the Constitution is to ‘secure the blessings of liberty’.
The author would like to re-examine this debate and investigate whether equality and liberty are indeed incompatible. Does achieving equality always imply impinging on individual liberties? The answer to that question depends on how we define ‘equality’. There are two broad conceptions of equality-formal equality or equality of opportunity, such as equality before law, and material equality, or equality of condition. The former equality is related to institutional forms and is compatible with liberty, whereas the latter holds that all material differences between citizens (be it in terms of wealth, resources, etc) should be eliminated in order to establish a ‘materially equal’ society.
There are two is...
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...s clear that while he believed in providing equal opportunities to men, he rejected the notion of an absolute, arithmetical equality between men.
Jackson and his followers did not consider that men were equal in their abilities or capacities. However, they were strong believers in the principles of the Declaration, especially of the part regarding equal right to pursue happiness.
It is amply clear that during this time, equality was connected to opportunity and thus closely associated with the basic principle of the American Revolu¬tion, that is, freedom. During this time, every American desired to be free to strive for a better life, and demanded an equal chance to climb on the ladder of prosperity.
John Rawls argued that equality is the moral benchmark for social and political institutions and any deviation from this equality had to be specially justified.
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