The Paradox of Liberty and Equality

I noticed recently that radio political commentator Rush Limbaugh has been criticized for a comment he made the day after the elections. The comment was “it’s hard to beat Santa Claus.” In other words, democrat voters are more interested in a hand out and won the election on the promises of entitlements. This in contrast to Romney’s campaign of hard work and prosperity left Republicans feeling like the Grinch. Limbaugh’s comment might be disrespectful, but it points to a larger problem or paradox in our political thinking.

As Americans we have certain principles or values that we all accept and believe in. But, what happens when those principles come into conflict with each other? Limbaugh’s comment helps illuminate this problem in that many American’s including Limbaugh believe in equality for all. At the same time we also believe in liberty. As Americans we should be free to be as productive and industrious as we want. Moreover we should also be free to reap the benefits of our hard work. The question then becomes how free are we when we are coerced to pay for someone elses equality? Or conversely how equal are we when the rich keep getting more rich and those in the lower economic spectrum struggle to survive?

Liberty and equality are important virtues to maintain but unless we discuss their roles and to what degree they influence policy we will always be challenged by their paradox.


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