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Summarize the Key Themes of Freedom and Equality

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Summarise the key themes of freedom and equality.

Freedom, this is a mirror. It reflects whatever is in it. It can reflect an atrocity. It can reflect nobility. A woman is free to make a choice with how she acts with her own body, to another this freedom of choice is an atrocity.

President George W Bush and Osama bin Laden definitions of what freedom is can be difficult as what counts as important ideology of freedom to one person can have a much lesser concern to another person. As different views of freedom will priorities different freedoms based on different values that are held, hence freedom when questioned and fought for can be a very disastrous conflicting concept.

Freedom House believe that freedom is only possible in democratic political environments. The organisation measures freedom levels by assessing counties effectiveness with education & information, rights to think, speak, travel and associate freely, however there classification of freedom is only free under a liberal political sense as the countries that are identified as free are judged to have effective political freedoms that protect the rights of the citizens.

In Sir Isaiah Berlin "Two Concepts of Liberty" essay he details an outline of an idealised liberty with two distinct branches: positive and negative.

Looking at negative freedom which is based on a minimum nightwatchman state, negative freedom is said to be a matter of the doors being open, not whether you happen to choose to go through them or not. Berlin considers negative freedom “the area within which a man can act unobstructed by others”. Standing alone, this seems as if it is a simple concept, however as restrictions from negative freedom only generally occur if someone forces you to do/not do something so therefor they are restricting your choices in life and preventing you from taking up opportunities that would otherwise be available this therefor rules out non human events or human body illness as being restrictive to negative freedom because no one else has caused this restriction so you are still free in the negative sense. Imagining a driver, the driver is agreeing to the laws of government but it cannot be said that friction/disastrous weather are imposing themselves upon the freedom of the driver, rather the coordinated effort of speed limits and driving habits of others impose upon the freedom of the individual driving the car. However, there is a give and take of freedom within a civilised society, most will agree that the safety of others produces more of a benefit than the loss of freedom. This links to the harm principle derived from the theorist John Stuart Mill who states that the only purpose for the power of the state to be rightfully exercised over any member of the civilised community ,against his will ,is to prevent harm to others.

The concept of positive freedom is meaningful and direct. Positive freedom is more so regarded as a form of freedom that requires individuals to work together in order to provide mutual benefits, Berlin means the freedom to choose the ideal life; ideal, that is, according to informed reason. Berlin draws the distinction between two inner selves – a ‘higher’ rational self and a ‘lower’ empirical self. If we behave according to our higher self we would act in the ideal way to fulfil our potential as human beings. Our baser instincts and desires corrupt this ideal mode of behaviour. Rousseau, for instance, saw being a slave to one’s desires or passions as the very opposite of being free. Our desires are nurture not nature, they come to us because of the environment and up bringing we experience. To give in to our desires, is for Rousseau, structurally similar to giving in to another’s wishes. We have to consciously choose to fulfil our desires, that is, those wants that we see as really our own, and as reflective of our self. In his own words in ‘The Social Contract’, “the impulse of mere appetite is slavery, while obedience to a self-prescribed law is liberty.”. The freedom of speech is one such example of positive freedom and in many liberal democracies; the right to private property is another example found in most countries.

In a democratic state with strong human rights protections people have a balance of both positive and negative liberty. The human rights protections attempt to balance negative liberties against positive liberties, although the 'correct' balance between negative and positive liberty is fundamentally unresolvable. As Isaiah Berlin said:

‘In broad terms, negative liberty means freedom from- from interference, coercion, or restraint-while positive liberty means freedom to, or self-determination-freedom to act or to be as one wills.’

Similar to freedom, there are various dimensions of equality. Looking at Equality any past and existing human societies have listed equality either as a fundamental aspiration or as an achievement. However, no such claim is free of detractors



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