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Liberalism has a dual commitment both to individual freedom and equality. How does liberalism try to reconcile these two commitments? Does it succeed? Can freedom and equality really co-exist?

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Introduction

Liberalism has a dual commitment both to individual freedom and equality. How does liberalism try to reconcile these two commitments? Does it succeed? Can freedom and equality really co-exist? The ideas of liberalism have been around for more than three hundred years and inevitably these ideas have changed over time. These changes led to the development of two strands of liberalism, which are referred to as 'classical liberalism' and 'modern liberalism'. These two liberal traditions clashed over their views on certain aspects of society, particularly on the role of the state. Many key political ideas were derived from liberalism, both classical and modern. The work of the classical liberalist Adam Smith on protections in international and national trade could be clearly seen in Margaret Thatcher's economic policies and ideas on the free market. Her ideas on the role that the state should play in society also followed a classical liberalist approach. Due to the emergence of the two strands the ideology of liberalism was now subject to inherent contradictory beliefs. ...read more.

Middle

This would cause a severe inequality. Under this example the two cannot co-exist, one must give way to the other. For example, if one man wants to kill another man, it is impossible for both men to have absolute freedom of choice. It is this which led modern liberals to the conclusion that, the very existence of freedoms leads to a necessity for restrictions. If equal restrictions are placed on each and every individual then perhaps it becomes possible for freedom and equality to co-exist. Individual freedom itself provides a commitment to equality. The belief that all individuals are born equal is embedded in a set of basic and irrefutable human rights. All liberals unite in the belief that individuals should not be disadvantaged in society on the grounds of gender, class or ethnicity and that every individual should be granted equal legal and political equality. It is clear that liberals believe that every individual must have an equal opportunity to achieve success. ...read more.

Conclusion

A huge obstacle on the narrow path to deciding whether individual freedom and equality can really co-exist is the presence of both conservative and socialist ideas which both help lay the foundation of liberalism. This mixture of ideologies within liberalism has led commentators to argue that it is best described as a "general attitude and not a distinct set of political beliefs2". Perhaps the most accepted answer in modern society is that individual freedom and equality do co-exist to an extent. However, many would argue that it is impossible to achieve individual freedom and equality unless all wealth including property was redistributed first. Others would disagree claiming that the cream would always rise to the top and even after wealth had been redistributed and freedom and equality co-existed successfully an elite would once again come to be in a better position due to the theory of meritocracy. Perhaps it is best to see individual freedom and equality co-existing as much as they can and at certain times maybe one has more influence over the other, interchangeably. Thank you 1 Heywood 2 Freeden pg 141 ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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