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Independence Day: Balancing Liberty and Equality

Independence Day: Balancing Liberty and Equality

Happy Fourth of July! I hope you’re all doing something fun to celebrate. As for me, I feel it’s important on this Independence Day to reflect upon how we balance liberty and equality in this country.

The principles that the United States were founded upon include the concept that all people are created equal, and should therefore be equally free to pursue what makes them happy. But I feel we sometimes emphasize the freedom part and forget about the equality part.

Many on the right feel that government involvement in our lives necessarily infringes upon our freedom and liberty. That is why conservatives were outraged last week by the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act, including the individual mandate. It is why they often do not support social programs. They view all of these programs as government intrusion and they believe such programs compromise our freedom. They also argue that, since we supposedly have equal opportunity in this country, it is unfair for some Americans to have to spend money on the well-being of others, who could just pull themselves up by the bootstraps.

However, the government must be involved in our lives to the extent that it helps us to enjoy true equality of opportunity. I am not talking about equal circumstances (although that wouldn’t be a bad thing). What I am suggesting is that Americans are not truly equal when it comes to their ability to pursue happiness. Those born in underserved neighborhoods who must attend failing schools and who have no healthcare do not have the same opportunities as those born in wealthy suburbs. Social programs can help to level the playing field somewhat. It is important to remember, therefore, that this country was not founded upon the principle of liberty alone. It was liberty working together with equality that the founders understood to be a powerful philosophical foundation.


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Sarah Cooke

Sarah Cooke is a writer living in California. She is interested in organic food and green living. Sarah holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Naropa University, an M.A. in Humanities from NYU, and a B.A. in Political Science from Loyola Marymount University. She has written for a number of publications, and she studied Pastry Arts at the Institute for Culinary Education. Her interests include running, yoga, baking, and poetry. Read more on her blog.


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4:56AM PDT on Apr 13, 2013

Thanks for sharing.

4:50PM PDT on Jul 5, 2012

"They also argue that, since we supposedly have equal opportunity in this country, it is unfair for some Americans to have to spend money on the well-being of others, who could just pull themselves up by the bootstraps."

I get it. So they want us to do just like our "brave" forefathers did, work hard to enslave others, make THEM work, get rich off THEIR hard work and then WHEN THEY HAVE NOTHING, tell them to PULL THEMSELVES UP BY THEIR BOOTSTRAPS? Well that
works JUST FINE, if you happen to be the RICH 1% but what about the SLAVES, the WORKERS? The black people who worked for nothing in the cotton and tobacco fields WERE NOT LAZY, they WORKED HARD and got NOTHING FOR IT. So tell me, how can
the POOR, the OLD and the SICK who HAVE NOTHING just PULL THEMSELVES UP BY THEIR BOOTSTRAPS? The only people in this country who have LIBERTY are the 1%, they can do ANYTHING THEY WANT because THEY HAVE ALL OUR MONEY!

11:57AM PDT on Jul 5, 2012

Like this article. Thanks!

4:14AM PDT on Jul 5, 2012


3:43PM PDT on Jul 4, 2012

"When the government fears the people, there is liberty.
When the people fear the government, there is tyranny"
[Thomas Jefferson]

8:19AM PDT on Jul 4, 2012

Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves. ~ Abraham Lincoln

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