Thursday, June 5, 2008

Freedom Vs. Equality

Last night as my wife and I began packing boxes, we caught a little of Stephen Colbert's interview with conservative George Will. In a more serious moment, George Will succinctly described what he sees as the difference between political conservatives and liberals.

The competing values are freedom and equality at all times. Conservatives tend to favor freedom and are willing to accept inequalities of outcome from a free market. Liberals tend to favor equality of outcome and are willing to sacrifice and circumscribe freedom in order to get it.

i think this accurately describes the nature of the debate in our country, but the problem is it assumes that freedom and inequality can coexist or that vice versa, freedom and equality cannot coexist.

All of this ultimately depends on how we define freedom. American independence (freedom) is at its roots freedom from british rule, also perhaps freedom from being ruled by any other nation-state. However, when we occupy Iraq at least in part to "spread freedom" it doesn't occur to us that people living in Iraq may not want to feel as though they are being ruled by us. Nor, in our commitment to free-market economy, do we consider that we are bound to and limited by our need to endlessly grow the economy. And perhaps most troublesome is in our freedom, how often is inequality the result of not being free from sin, the cruelest master of all. Regardless of policy, sin is often what stands in the way. Trickle down economics may make sense academically, but it will never work if the people at the top believe their freedom is to keep as much as they want, making the trickle a very slow drip. Likewise many social programs are in good heart, but may be abused by some who believe their freedom entitles them to work the system rather than use it to get their life together.

For me the question is not a balance between freedom and equality, but one about the source and nature of freedom.


Pastor Blue Jeans said...

Amen Eric. One of my professors in seminary suggested he believes that the attributes of God are simply three (many characteristics though. The attributes are life, love, and freedom. So within those three we must be able to identify all the characteristics of God. So when we God as judging we ultimately must see him as a God of love.

It goes to your point because I think we as a western minded society see individual freedom as some type of God given right. Yet we think that freedom only applies to us and that people in other places aren't smart enough or capable enough to figure it out...they need us.

the source of the freedom for me is of course God. the nature of the freedom? this is a little tougher for me but it is the freedom to live out my life as God intended it to be lived out and to help others be able to do the same. No matter where they live or how they worship or what they think. Simply to live out their life as a testament to the love ,life, and freedom that is God.

Eric Helms said...


Thanks for the comment. It seems it can go both ways. If we overemphasize love, we might forget that a loving who loves all people equally will also be a judging God; but then at other times we forget that God judges without losing love for all parties involved including the judged.

Thanks for taking to heart the question about the nature of freedom. I don't know that I have given this enough thought==perhaps another post is pending.