Freedom vs. Equality

The worst arguments are when both people are right.

As a pastor, I see these kinds of arguments all the time in marriage counseling, board meetings and conflict resolution.  Should we save money or trust in God’s provision?  Should we focus on evangelism or discipleship?  Should we be generous to those in need or should we “teach the man to fish”?  Should we help our kids out or should we let them learn their lesson?

It’s these types of arguments that seem to have no solution because both sides are convinced of their being right and won’t give an inch.  This is the type of argument that we see over and over again in our politics as well.  Two of the values that Americans value highly are freedom and equality; and yet, if you think about them you know that they are inherently opposites.  These two characteristics are oppositional in nature: Should we force desegregation on our country’s neighborhoods or should we allow people the freedom to choose where they want to live?  Should we utilize affirmative action type of legislation into our society or should we be a meritocracy?

It is so easy to castigate the Republicans for being against equality or to condemn the Democrats for being against freedom.  We wonder, as a nation, why we are so divided.  Here is the reason: we are too busy blaming the other side for being against freedom or equality instead of valuing the opposition’s view as being valid also.

Our country believes that “all men are created equal”, and yet we are the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Here is the biggest crux: should a parent be allowed to improve their child’s life?  I know that the answer seems obvious at first blush – but with the obvious answer of “yes”, we have created an inequality.  The next generation will have unequal opportunities based upon their parents’ accomplishments; and after 200 years of this – the gap will be quite wide.

Everyone knows that if you give the exact same scenarios to two different individuals, that their exercise of their own free will (among a whole host of other variables) will create different outcomes…which will then be inherited by their children.

I would love to see a dialogue begin in our country in a wholistic way that asks this question: “Where are the appropriate boundaries for freedom and equality?”  Ultimately, righteousness should be our highest goal.  As Teddy Roosevelt stated in response to those who didn’t want to get involved in World War I in order to have peace:

“The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living, and the get-rich-quick theory of life.”

“if given the choice between Righteousness and Peace, I choose Righteousness.” – Teddy Roosevelt

Children should learn from their mistakes…and their parents should help them through them.  We should store up our provisions as the ant does and put our confidence in God’s provision as sufficient.  We should be generous to those in need and teach him to improve his situation.  Both/and, not either/or.

Freedom or Equality part 2

Red = 70%+ Republican Blue = 70%+ Democrat Purple = Balanced

Red = 70%+ Republican
Blue = 70%+ Democrat
Purple = Balanced

Inherent within the idea of a country are the concepts of the individual and the communal.  These are currently seen as combative elements which are held in tension by the rule of law to protect the weak from the strong, the few from the many and the individual from the collective, while allowing for ease of commerce of goods, services and thoughts between the individuals.  The larger the collective community, the greater the necessity for legal protection of the individual (and subsequent enforcement) and the greater the necessity of the individual to sacrifice their freedoms for the good of the whole.  Think of a gear-head working on his small-block chevy engine in the middle of the night – no problem in the middle of an Iowa cornfield, big problem in a cul-de-sac in the suburbs of Anytown, USA.

You can see this clearly reflected in the voting patterns of our country.  There are not blue states and red states, there are blue cities and red rural areas.  If you were to overlay a map of population densities, you would see a direct corollary with very few exceptions.  It is a different world when you have 1 family per square mile as opposed to 250,000 families per square mile, and the need for legal restrictions floats on the same continuum.  The divide, according to David Troy at http://www.persquaremile.com, seems to be 88 people per square mile.  If an area had more than 88ppl/sq. mi. there was a 66% chance they voted for Obama in 2012, and if the area had less than 88ppl/sq. mi. there was a 66% chance they voted for Romney.

In the Old West where guns were a tool you carried on your person, you had to check your gun at the town limits. There was a reason for this, and there still is.  Cities concentrate wealth, opportunity, poverty, disease, charity, culture, crime, waste, arts, museums, ghettos and slums – humanity concentrated, the good and the bad.  Laws should reflect this same tendency.

Both Freedom and Equality require the rule of Law in order to thrive.  Law therefore cannot afford to be either capricious or homogenous.  The Rule of Law tied to a population density continuum.  This would have its own set of complexities, but holds some potential.  An example could be the previously discussed gun laws: If you live in an area of greater than 88 ppl./sq. mi. you have stricter gun laws and fewer purchasing options, but if you live in an area of less than 88 ppl./sq. mi. you have more relaxed gun laws and greater purchasing options.

What are your thoughts?

Freedom or Equality

USA Flag Map

USA Flag Map (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is a political post.  I say that in fair warning.  Not that I am running for an office, or trying to convert my readers to a different party; but simply that it will be about politics.  So if you love politics, read on.  If you truly hate politics, read on 🙂

Instead of trying to bash one side of the American political spectrum while praising the other, I am going to try to share what I see as the best aspects of each, and begin a conversation about a possible better way forward.

The Republican party seems to primarily be about individual freedom and its corollary of individual responsibility within a community governed by law.

The Democratic party seems to primarily be about equality of all persons and its corollary of social responsibility within a community governed by law.

We could, if we wanted to pick straw men of each party and bash them in general, but I have found many people whom I respect on either side of the proverbial aisle.

These two perspectives are both noble, both grounded in our earliest documents and are both attempting to create the best possible world as they see it.

Freedom taken to its logical conclusion leads to anarchy, self-centeredness and ultimately tyranny of the strong over the weak.

Equality taken to its logical conclusion leads to mediocrity, loss of self and ultimately tyranny of the government over the individual.

Neither option is bad in its motivation.  Neither option is good in its destination.

The greater the personal freedom, the greater the inequality.  The greater the equality, the greater the loss of freedom.  Freedom priveleges the strong, the hard working, the intelligent, the “best and brightest” among us.  Equality priveleges the weak, the disabled, the dull, the “least of these”.

The question is how do we in “the land of the free and the home of the brave” honor the belief that “all men are created equal”?

Tomorrow’s post will posit a way forward, but first I would like to hear your thoughts.  Do you see a via media?