Q. 1. What do you understand by the term ‘Equality’ ?
Ans. Like liberty, equality also has its importance for the individual. Equality does not mean that all persons may be treated equal in all respects. The popular meaning of equality is that all men are equal, that all should get equal incomes and equal treatment. But this is a misconception of the principle of equality. All men are never equal. Nature has endowed different men with different capacities. In simple words, the term equality means that all should be entitled to equal opportunity and treatment. All that is necessary to ensure the principle of equality is that special privileges of all kinds should be abolished. The State should grant equal civil and political rights to all people, making no discrimination on the grounds of race, colour or income. All persons should be regarded as equal before the eyes of law.
Like liberty, equality has a positive connotation also. Not only all special privileges should be abolished, but all men should be given adequate opportunities to develop their abilities. The State should pass such laws that everyone in the State should be given full chances of development. The State should actively promote the welfare of all citizens.
On the basis of the above mentioned facts, we come to know about the following features of equality:
1. Absence of Special Privileges. An important feature of equality is that no individual or section of people is given special privileges in the society. Nobody is given special privileges on the basis of caste, colour, creed, religion and blood. All the members of the State and society should get equal opportunities on equal basis. The principle of equality cannot enjoy special privileges.
2. Provision for Adequate Opportunities of Development. Equality means that every man in the State should get adequate opportunities for realising his/her best self. The state should pass such laws that no one in the State should be denied the opportunity of developing his own genius. No one can be deprived of the opportunity to make progress on the basis of caste, colour, creed and religion. The right to vote and the right to be elected should be given to all equally so that everybody gets the chance to participate in the administration. Merit should be the main criterion to enter government service.
3. Provision for Minimum Standard of Living for Every Individual. Another important feature of equality is that all the basic needs of every individual should be satisfied in the society. The things without which life is meaningless must be accessible to all. “The urgent claims of all must be met before we can meet the particular claims of some.” There should not exist gross inequalities of wealth among the members of society.
Q. 2. Discuss the kinds of Equality.
Ans. Equality can be classified under the following heads:
1. Natural Equality. Natural equality has been explained differently by different writers. Some thinkers hold the opinion that Nature has created all the people equal and all persons should be given identical treatment irrespective of their capacity and temperament. But the fact is that Nature has not created all people equal. People differ in colour, health, temperament and ability. Natural equality may mean that all the individuals are basically equal and they should be treated equally. No individual can be sacrificed at the cost of the development of personality of another individual.
2. Social Equality. Social equality implies that all the members of the society are equal and no man is recognised as socially superior or inferior to any other member of the community. It also means that all persons should be treated as equal regardless of wealth, colour, caste and creed. If the society is divided into different castes or classes, that shows absence of social equality – that an untouchable should hold the same status in society as a Brahmin, and a lord should not be considered superior to an ordinary citizen.
3. Civil Equality. Civil equality means that everyone in the State enjoys the same status in the sphere of private law. It also sometimes implies the rule of law. It means that no person in the State should enjoy any special privileges. Fair justice is not possible in the absence of civil equality. This means that civil rights and liberties are enjoyed equally by all citizens irrespective of creed, colour and caste.
4. Economic Equality. The aim of economic equality is to make all individuals equal in respect of wealth and income. This is the socialist idea. Laski defines economic equality in a limited sense as consisting in equal opportunities for everyone to develop his natural faculties and power. It should be the aim of democracy to reduce great inequalities in wealth. Economic equality can exist when all people have reasonable economic opportunities to develop themselves.
5. Political Equality. Political equality means that all the citizens should be treated equally in political sphere. According to Laski, by political equality it is meant that equal access of everyone to the avenue of authority. All the citizens should get equal political rights. Every citizen should get the right to vote, right to contest elections, right to get a Government job, right to criticise the Government and right to address petitions, and nobody should be discriminated against on the basis of caste, colour, creed, religion and blood. Certain qualifications can be laid down for getting the right to vote but these conditions should not be laid down on the basis of caste, colour, creed and religion.
6. National Equality. National equality means that all nations of the world are equal while dealing with the other nations of the world. Relationship between Liberty and Equality
Q. 3. ‘Liberty and Equality are closely related to each other.’ Comment.
‘Liberty is meaningless without Equality.’ Do you agree with this view ? Give reasons for your answer.
Describe the relationship between Liberty and Equality.
Ans. Relation between Liberty and Equality. Liberty and Equality are the two basic principles of democracy. Political thinkers differ among themselves on the exact relationship between liberty and equality. Some thinkers are of the opinion that the concept of equality is only a utopia and not a reality. They say that both liberty and equality are opposed to each other and they are not complementary terms. Both liberty and equality cannot go together. But there are thinkers also who say that liberty and equality are closely related to each other and one cannot exist without the other. Liberty in the absence of equality is meaningless.
Liberty and Equality are opposed to each other. There is a viewpoint that both liberty and equality are opposed to each other and they cannot go side by side. The main advocates of this viewpoint are De Tocquevile and Lord Acton. According to Lord Acton, “The passion for equality has made vain the hope for liberty.” Equality curtails individual liberty. If everybody is considered equal in the eyes of law and equality is established in economic sphere, then everybody’s liberty will be curtailed. These thinkers say that liberty and equality are opposed to each other on the following grounds:
1. Natural inequality. They are of the opinion that Nature has not created all the people equal. Nature has created all the people unequal and all of them do not possess the same qualities. From their very birth, some people are intelligent, some are fools, some are weak, some are strong, some are active and others are lazy. Therefore, all these people cannot be considered equal. If all these people are treated equally, it will be unjust and irrational.
2. One destroys the other. On the basis of the principles of individualism, some people consider that both these concepts are opposed to each other. The individualists say that the individual should be left alone in the economic sphere and there should be free trade and competition. This will greatly help in the development of individual personality and the individual will live in a free atmosphere. If the State establishes economic equality, then intelligent and hard working people will not be able to make the best use of ability and capacity. If the individuals are left to themselves, every individual will earn money according to his ability and capacity. It will result in gross inequalities of wealth and hence the end of equality. If the Government controls production and fixes the wages of the labourers, it will also result in the curtailment of liberty and the difference between the capable and incapable will come to an end.
3. Checks the Progress. It is a great injustice to treat the capable and incapable, the intelligent and the fool equally. This neither enhances the liberty of the people, nor does it help in the promotion of public welfare. The labourers, doctors, engineers, scholars, scientists, traders and artists, all cannot be treated on equal footing. This way equality is such a concept which is far away from reality.
Liberty and Equality are not opposed to each other. Most of the thinkers do not accept the viewpoint that liberty and equality are opposed to each other. It is said that liberty in the absence of equality is meaningless. Prof. Laski, Prof. Tawny, Pollard and Maclver are the thinkers who support this view point. According to Prof. Tawny, “A large measure of equality, so far from being inimical to liberty, is essential to it.” According to Pollard, “There is only one solution of problem of liberty. It lies in equality.” Those who think that liberty and equality are opposed to each other misunderstand the meaning of these words. The imposition of reasonable and moral restrictions instead of unjust and immoral restrictions on the actions of man is called liberty. The aim of liberty is to create a comfortable atmosphere which can be conducive to the development of individual personality.
The people also misunderstand the meaning of equality. Equality does not mean that all the people are born equal and all are entitled to get equal wages and equal work. Rather equality means that nobody should enjoy special privileges in the State and everybody should be entitled to get equal opportunities in life. Equality means reasonable distribution of wealth and not equal distribution of wealth among the members of the society.
Thus, equality, instead of being opposed to liberty, is an essential condition of it. It is only when equal opportunities are provided to all that a man can be really free to develop his personality and powers according to his choice. Thus, properly understood, the two terms are not opposed to each other but rather complementary to each other. Laski rightly says, “De Tocqueville and Lord Acton misunderstood the meaning of the term equality when they said liberty and equality cannot exist together. They wrongly thought that equality means the identity of treatment of all or identity of reward for all and, therefore, it is incompatible with liberty, which means freedom for everybody to develop his or her personality according to his or her nature.”
According to Prof. Ashirvatham, “The French Revolutionists were neither mad nor stupid when they made their war cry — Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.”
It is quite clear from the above discussion that both liberty and equality go together. They are not opposed to each other. One cannot be achieved without the other. Both are consistent and the progress of man is impossible till he can enjoy political liberty and economic equality. Both of them are compatible and complimentary. They must be enjoyed together to bring about maximum individual and social welfare. Both must exist side by side and in the absence of one, we cannot have the other.