Inequality Is the Threat to Liberty


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November 26, 2007

Claiming that inequality is the greatest threat to liberty could easily be misunderstood, yet I proudly and sincerely make that claim. I do not mean it in the as common as ignorant state socialist kind of way: that everybody should have exactly the same amount of assets. In essence, such a statement calls for violent and forceful redistribution from the industrious to the lazy, and how such a state of things could ever be called equality is not within my intellectual capacity to understand. No matter how hard I try, all I see arising from this state socialist utopia is inequality, hierarchy, and power.

What I mean when claiming inequality is the greatest threat to liberty is that we will not see liberty or freedom for as long as people accept the notion that some people are superior to others and also have superior rights. The threat to liberty is first and foremost a malign state of mind, not a state of society.

In a society where people accept that some "special" people have the right to treat others in a way that nobody else can--and nobody ever, from a moral point of view, should--freedom doesn't stand a chance. Only in a society where nobody accepts that some take the right to elevate themselves at the expense of others, where self-proclaimed masters and their designated slaves are denounced and condemned, can the tree of liberty strike root and grow tall. Equality in the minds of the people is a necessary condition for liberty and freedom; without equality, there can never be justice, and without justice, there will never be freedom.

The recent wave of unwarranted taserings of innocent people is a great example of why we do not have liberty. It is not only true that police officers are given the power to use tasers and never have to take responsibility for their use of violent measures on their fellow men and women (often without reason!); they are also automatically acquitted in the minds of most people. The fact that they have a shiny (but not golden) badge on their uniform is by most people accepted as a guarantee for "justice"--and it is a trump card to be used and abused without consequence.

If someone kills another person, he is a murderer. If someone with a badge kills another person, he is a man of the "law" and has the "right" to do so. He might even be called a "hero."

The examples of this kind of thinking are plentiful. People tend to accept a great number of infractions and violations by the police (public or secret) or military (public or secret) simply because they are "officers" and have a state "license" to hunt down, abuse, oppress, and--yes--slaughter. Nobody else could do anything like the horrible things these people sometimes do without being prosecuted and publicly condemned by each and every one of us, but as long as you wear a state uniform, everything is just fine.

This kind of inequality exists only in the minds of people. One might accept that someone licensed by the state can carry a gun, but to abuse and assault innocent people? To tase someone for speeding or parking tickets? If such behavior is accepted by people in general, there is no reason to expect we are anywhere close to freedom or liberty. As long as this kind of behavior is accepted, even defended, or simply does not arouse anger among a sufficiently large part of the general public, there is no chance for liberty.

This is why equality is a necessary condition for freedom: If some people, be they licensed by the government or not, are allowed to act in whatever oppressive and inhumane ways--if such behavior is accepted or tolerated--we do not as a people deserve liberty. And we will not see it. Liberty has to be defended every day and every minute to survive.

The existence of power means there is inequality, and with inequality there cannot be justice. As long as there is someone who can pretend to be the master and take the right to call someone else his slave, there is no room for liberty. Equality is necessary for liberty and consequently, inequality is a threat. Even if only in the minds of people.

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Per Bylund's picture
Columns on STR: 63

Has a passion for justice.