Liberty and Equality are closely related to each other. There is no value of liberty in the absence of equality. They are the same conditions viewed from different angles. They are the two sides of the same coin. Though there is a close relationship between liberty and equality, yet there are some political thinkers who do not find any relationship between liberty and equality. For example, Lord Acton and De Tocqueville who were the ardent advocates of liberty, found no relationship between the two conditions.
To them liberty and equality were antagonistic and antithetical to each other. Lord Acton maintains that “The passion for equality made vain the hope for liberty”. Such political thinkers maintain that where there is liberty, there is no equality and vice versa. These political thinkers are of the opinion that people were conferred inequality by nature. We find inequality in nature also.
In some parts there are rivers while in others there are mountains and in still other parts there are plains and fields. No two persons are similar in their ability and capacity. And so there cannot be equality in society.
The views of Lord Acton and De Tocqueville are not accepted by modern political thinkers. Professor H.J. Laski has very aptly remarked in this connection: “To persons so ardent for liberty as Tocqueville and Lord Acton, liberty and equality, are antithetic things. It is a drastic conclusion. But it turns, in the case of both men, upon a misunderstanding of what equality implies”.
These days, it is generally believed that liberty and equality should go together. If an individual is given unrestrained liberty to do whatever he likes, he will cause harm to others. There will be chaos in society if individuals are given unrestrained liberty.
In the nineteenth century, the Individualists wrongly interpreted the term ‘Liberty’. They did not attach any importance to economic equality and laid stress on Laissez Faire to be adopted by the government. Adam Smith was the ardent advocate of this view.
The Individualists maintained that there should be a free competition between the capitalists and labour leaders. They did not want the government to interfere in the economic matters. Formula of Demand and Supply should be adopted.
All the economic difficulties will be removed by this formula. If there will be excess of commodities and easy availability of labour, prices will come down. If there is scarcity, prices will rise higher and higher. This formula was implemented in England and in many other countries of Europe and it resulted in dangerous consequences.
The government lost its control over the capitalists. The capitalists exploited the opportunity to the full. They exploited the labour to the full. As a result of it, the rich grew richer and poor became poorer. The labour class suffered tragically.
As a result of it, an intense reaction took place against Individualism. This reaction led to the dawn of Socialism. Socialism condemned and refuted the principles of Individualism. Liberty has no significance in the absence of economic equality. Professor Laski has very aptly remarked, “Where here are rich and poor, educated and uneducated, we always find a relation of master and servant”.
C.E.M. Joad has also asserted, “The doctrine of liberty, of “which the importance cannot be over-estimated in politics, worked disastrously when applied in the field of economics”. Hobbes has also asserted, “What good is freedom to a starving man? He cannot eat freedom or drink it”.
Thus, it is quite clear that economic equality is essential for the existence of political freedom. Otherwise it will be capitalist Democracy in which the labourers will have the right to vote but they will not be able to get their purposes served. Therefore, Liberty in the real sense of word is possible only in Socialistic democracy in which equality and liberty go together.
Similarly, it is also true that in the absence of political liberty, equality cannot be established. Mr. Elton True-blood has very aptly remarked in this connection. “The paradox is that equality and freedom, which began by being ideas in conflict and tension, turn out open analysis to be necessary to each other. The truth is that it is impossible to make a reasonable statement of the meaning of equality except in terms of freedom. Men are equal only because all men are intrinsically free, as nothing else in all creation is free”.
“Equality, in all its forms, must always be,” says Barker, “subject and instrumental to the free development of capacity, but if it be pressed to the length of uniformity and if uniformity be made to thwart the free development of capacity, the subject becomes the master and the world is turned topsy-turvy”.
R.H. Tawney has rightly remarked, “A large measure of equality, so far from being inimical to liberty, is essential to it”. Pollard also writes, “There is only one solution of the problem of liberty. It lies in equality”. Thus, Liberty and Equality are complementary to each other. They are not opposed to each other. They go together.
Liberty and Equality “are to be reconciled by remembering that both (liberty and equality) are subordinate means to the end of realising the potentialities of individual personality on the widest possible scale. The development of a rich variety of potentialities requires a large measure of liberty and forbids all attempts to impose a dead level of social and economic equality”.
“There is an intimate connection between the two “because all individual liberties are related to the basic equality of all men and because historically the aspiration for liberty became in practice and destruction of privilege or inequality”.
Both are complementary to each other. “Liberty thus implies equality,” says Herbert A. Dean, “liberty and equality are not in conflict nor even separate but are different facts of the same ideal … indeed since they are identical, there can be no problem how or to what extent they are or can be related; this surely the nearest, if not the most satisfactory solution ever devised for a perennial problem in political philosophy”.