Libertarians and Equality essay

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Alexander Hamilton once stated that as long as liberty is in existence, inequality will always exist. This is because it is the unavoidable outcome of liberty (paraphrased). Articles that try to prove the presence or absence of a co-existence between the two principles have continually appeared in many journal articles over the years. Unfortunately, this debate, like other debates today, does not seem to have a consensual point. As various principles and theories continue to emerge while other show the liberty and equality as individual concepts, it is clear that relating the two can either destroy or build one or the other.

The following discussion entails exploring the relationship between equality and liberty. It intends to prove that “libertarians do not believe in equality”. Through exploring various principles, theories, and concepts relating to libertarianism and equality, the information provided will prove that one can only exist in the absence of another. The principles and concepts advocated by the libertarians do not aim at promoting equality. In other words, those who believe in equality do not support libertarianism in actions and those who after liberty should not call for equality. Through the exploring of the definitions and concepts underlying these two fundamental terms, the discussion will prove that a nation can only thrive if it were to pursue one instead of trying to merge the two. This is because libertarians do not support equality. 



When there is controversy leading to two fundamental principles or concepts, the best approach is to first establish the meaning of the principles/concepts in equation. The main terms here is liberty from the word libertarian and equal from the word equality. Moreover, the term equality also has its own recognized meaning. Liberty is mainly described in terms of freedom. Carter describes freedom in two main ways. In one way, “freedom [is] the absence of obstacles external to the agent”. This means that one is free if there is no one stopping the person from fulfilling his/her will. On the other hand, “freedom is the presence of control on the part of the agent”. This means that if one wants to be free; he/she must possess self-determination. This further means that one must be capable of controlling one’s destiny in his/her interests. Isaiah Berlin named the two forms of freedoms – negative and positive freedoms. The former definition indicates the negative freedom and the latter indicates the positive freedom. The former shows negativity since there has to be an absence for there to be freedom. Consequently, the other shows positivism since there has to be a presence for there to be freedom.

As it is well known, equality is derived from the term equal. Isaiah Berlin defines equality in terms of justice. According to Richard Arneson, equality can be expressed in terms of justice. He states that “the concern of distributive justice is to compensate individuals for misfortune. Some people are blessed with good luck, some are cursed with bad luck, and it is the responsibility of society-all of us regarded collectively-to alter the distribution of goods and evils that arise from the jumble of lotteries that constitutes human life as we know it”. Just as it root term suggests, equality refers to the action of bringing people down to an even level despite their origin, background, or any other internal or external factors. This constitutes the topic relating to equality of welfare and equality of resources, as discussed by Ronald Dworkin. With these two definitions, one can already identify the emerging differences between the egalitarians and the libertarians in relation to their beliefs and practices.


The current issues pertaining to liberty emerged from classical liberalism. The principles of liberalism were garnered by philosophers such as Adam Smith and John Locke, as they embarked on a journey to fight for social, economic, and political freedoms against the aristocrats, privileges and monarchical systems. As the days turned into decades and then centuries, this goal was finally realized although its results are yet to be established globally. It is relevant to note that the conservatives were not on the same side as the libertarians as it is frequently the case, especially on matters pertaining to politics and social issues. In fact, the conservatives were against the libertarians.  For example, while the conservatives supported the illegality of drugs and prostitution, the libertarians felt that this was an infringement on the rights and freedoms of an individual.

On issues pertaining to equality, most authors, professionals, experts, and other people tend to quote the statement “that all men were created equal”. This is the philosophy that America was founded upon. However, the statement created equal does not mean that they continued being equal after creation. In fact, some people see pursuing equality as a futile quest. “For no two people are really equal” It is relevant to appreciate that people are not the same. They have different talents, abilities, interests and preferences, and views, amongst others. As people are different and unequal in these establishments, they should not be treated equally as equality suggests. They should be treated as individuals who are fulfilled in their own right, thus demanding freedoms that showcase them as fulfilled human beings.

Critics of equality feel that this quest is wasteful. This is because equality beliefs tend to advocate the throwing away of indivisible resources instead of letting some people have them. In other words, if it cannot be divided, it is of no use to the people as it would only bring division and uneven distribution of resources. In relation to libertinism, libertarians believe the opposite of this perception. They believe that there should be as little control from the state as possible. The least control or coercion from the state promoted freedom in the market. People are able to deal with resources in accordance to their abilities. The country becomes more productive if there is voluntary co-operation as opposed to the imposed one. According to the libertarians, people would be more productive if the resources were distributed according to their capabilities. In real life situations, when two people are given the same amount of money with the same conditions and in the same environment, they will end up having different outcomes. Libertarians feel that it would not be logical to limit one in order to establish a sense of equality in the other. On the other hand, those believing in equality believe that presenting more resources to one party is imposing some form of punishment to the other party because of his/her misfortunes. This illustration shows that liberty does not conform to the principles of equality.

As explained earlier, libertarians believe in two diverse freedoms. There is the freedom that is controlled by internal factors, while the other freedom exists because of the presence of external factors. In an illustration, Carter talks about a woman driving. A woman drives and takes a left turn when she reaches a crossroads. She then takes a right turn when she reaches another crossroads. When analyzing her actions, Carter tries to ask why she took those turns instead of taking other turns at the crossroads. If it was assumed that the woman was a nicotine addict, would we assume that she took the turns in order to reach the nearest tobacconist or did she take them to reach the nearest hospital in order to reach her therapist. In this illustration, one can conclude that her actions were driven by two forces. The force that drove her to fulfil her craving or the force that drove her to get help. It is significant to note that these two forces represent the negative and the positive freedoms. In the negative freedom, there are no obstructions to fulfil her need for tobacco. She is free to pursue her need. In the positive freedom, there is the presence of a control or a will to stop her addiction.

From an angle, one might state that the equality advocacy of control by the state in order to instil some form of balance aligns with the positive freedom. The positive freedom indicates that there is the need to have some form of control, interest, and will. However, this is not necessarily true. The control advocated by the liberalists is internal control while that of the egalitarians is external control. Liberalists feel that it is necessary for one to execute absolute freedom. People should only come together to perform particular tasks when there is consensual discussion. There should be no impositions or limitations as advocated by the egalitarians. Unlike equality, liberty may advocate for what seems morally improper, as long as it fulfils the greater objective of fulfilling people’s freedoms. As described, equality advocates for the compensation of those with misfortunes by those who are wealthy. It does not consider individual’s interests, but rather looks to striking a balance between the two extremes. This is another reason leading to the assertion that liberalists do not believe in equality. 

There were a number of schools in this theory of libertinism. The anarcho-capitalist school was after the state’s complete absence. This school wanted the privatization of everything, including the basic functions. Although this school sounds ridiculous or unreal at first glance, it makes sense when analyzed further. The people under this school of thought felt that it would be easier to replace municipal, provincial, or state police forces in privatized systems. This would be especially effective with the ongoing abuse of power, incompetence, and corruption. The privatized system in this sector would be security agencies. Other schools include the partial removal of state control. In most countries, if not all, public spending constitutes fifty percent of the production. This continues to call for the increase of state control through adaptation of laws that give the state more power, while reducing the sovereignty of the individuals. Liberalists continue to find ways of curbing the state’s tyranny, while the egalitarians continue to state the significance of this increase in state control.  

As there are diverse schools in liberalism, there are diverse schools in equality. However, there is no relationship or link between the schools. They advocate diverse perception of one’s sovereignty and they do not intend to substitute one for another. Liberalism stands for the interest of the individual while equality stands for the interest of the community. The main known forms of equality include the Lincoln equality and the communist equality. The Lincoln equality was meant to stir emotions among the people, as they embraced the spirit of togetherness through the state. Lincoln’s spirit meant to remind the people that, as they were born, they were born as independent or free people. With this in mind, the state would aid the people to receive these inherent advantages. On the other hand, there is the communists’ equality. This was the form of equality experienced in Russia in its era of the U.S.S.R. rule. All the citizens were reduced to a degraded level through what was known as the cultural equality. As it was evident, this form of equality was not beneficial to a state or the people.

As indicated, liberty does not support the spirit enhanced by equality. While liberty pursues the interest of individuals, equality pursues the interests of communities. According to egalitarians, something should not be imposed if it pursues the interests of a few. On the other hand, liberalists believe that something should be imposed as long as it aligns with the freedom of an individual. In other words, there is no need for doing away with drugs because they are not of benefit to the community as a whole. Drugs have particular benefits and an individual should be given the freedom to enjoy them. Similarly, prostitution should not be illegalized as there are those who benefit from it as an economic activity. Countries that tax it as an economic activity receive millions of dollars annually in income. 


Libertarians do not believe in equality. These two principles promote diverse concepts and beliefs. While those believing in equality continue to advocate for the presence of state control as it promotes the interests of a community rather than individuals, libertarians continue to find ways of limiting state control as it limits the freedom of individuals. Liberalists believe that people are not equal at all. Even though people were created equal, they do not grow to become equal. Their equality ends at birth. To begin with, there are no two people who are equal, even if being equal. Therefore, pursuing equality is futile. People are unique and they should be treated as the liberalists feel. Unlike equality, the interests of the individuals are significant even though they might not be of benefit to the larger community. While equality means to bring a balance in the state or community, liberalism brings satisfaction to an individual. Hence, the system governing a state should be privatized as opposed to being publicized. The people believing in equality feel that the system governing a state should be publicized as opposed to being privatized. With these two opposing sides, one can therefore conclude that liberalism does not promote equality.

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