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Individual Liberty versus Social Equality

Everybody wants to be free. The truth is that everyone else wants to feel that they are able to do what they are supposed to do as individuals living to contribute to the developments of the society that they are living in. Each individual wants to live the purpose in life that they believe they have as individuals living in a populated community. They want to be known as particular beings that are able to stand tall against all the challenges in life that they ought to face.

More than this though, the issue of gaining full control of one’s being and one’s individual decisions is a strong reason behind the implementation of individual liberty in a much diverse society. However, aside from simply being able to give each person the capability of doing things that they ought to complete as individual beings in the community, liberty has also paved way to a wider and more diverse society that is populated by individually aspired population who wants to make a name of their own within the society that they are living in.

This is the primary reason why the issue of social equality has been much related by social critics to the aim posed by the threats of too much individual liberty applied in the human society. To know better about the issues concerned within the discussion of the clashing thoughts that both individual liberty and social equality is included in, a brief overview on the different aspects of understanding of both the issues involved shall be discussed within the paragraphs that follow. The Introduction of Liberty to the Society

THE United States Bill of Rights has generated so much interest that in 50 years, some 700 books have been written about it—over 40 of them this year alone. Since 1991 is the 200th anniversary of the adoption of the Bill of Rights, people were even more interested in this subject. Yet, a poll revealed that 59 percent of the American public do not know what the Bill of Rights is. When the Constitution of the United States was ratified in 1788, it allowed for amendments that would clarify positions not clearly defined in the Constitution.

In 1791 the first ten amendments were added to the Constitution. These ten amendments had to do with liberty and became known as the Bill of Rights, for they guarantee to the people of the United States certain individual liberties. Why Liberty is Needed Why did the United States need a Bill of Rights? It already had a strong Constitution that was expressly designed to “secure the Blessings of Liberty” for its citizens. Amendments were needed because the Constitution itself contained a glaring omission: There were no explicitly stated guarantees of individual rights.

The danger that most Americans feared was the tyranny of an intrusive national government that would usurp individual liberties, especially religious liberty. Historian Charles Warren sheds some light on the reason for this fear. He states: “Men on all sides contended that, while the first object of a Constitution was to establish a government, its second object, equally important, must be to protect the people against the government. That was something which all history and all human experience had taught. . . .

“They had lived through bitter years, when they had seen governments, both royal and state, trample on the human rights which they and their ancestors in the colonies and in England had fought so hard to secure. . . . They knew that what government had done in the past, government might attempt in the future, whether its ruling power should be royal, state, or national . . . And they determined that, in America, such ruling power should be definitely curbed at the outset. ” It is true that various state constitutions had a limited bill of rights.

But in reality a gruesome record reveals that deprivation of liberties was common in some of the states. The colonists had transplanted many Old World practices to their New World. They persecuted minority groups and favored one religious group over another. So as soon as the news spread that a constitution was in the making, freedom-loving people began a movement for a national bill of rights that would guarantee their liberties and would separate Church from State. If the people were in such fear of a centralized national government, why would they create it?

After the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, a new governmental system was needed. British rule in each colony came to an end. The states then adopted the Articles of Confederation, which joined them together into one nation—but in name only. As one historian put it: ‘Each desired to function as a separate unit, and jealousy and rivalry dominated the states’ dealings with one another. ’ Hence, a national government was designed, made up of a supreme legislative, executive, and judiciary. These three branches functioned within a system of checks and balances to protect against dictatorial rule.

The judicial branch in particular would be the protector and interpreter of constitutional rights. The Supreme Court would be the highest court of the land, and it became the interpreter of the law. The first Congress, which convened in 1789, worked diligently on the promised Bill of Rights. The end result: ten amendments, or modifications, to the Constitution. These amendments became part of the Constitution 200 years ago, on December 15, 1791—a little more than three years after the Constitution itself was adopted.

The word freedom in its broad sense as used in the Bible and in the field of government means merely “acting at will”. “Freedom is the state of being free; liberty; self-determination. The power of acting, in the character of a moral personality, according to the dictates of the will, without other check, hindrance, or prohibition than such as may be imposed by just and necessary laws and the duties of social life. ” The word “liberty”, as generally used, is practically synonymous with the word “freedom”.

“Liberty is freedom; exemption from extraneous control. The power of the will to follow the dictates of its unrestricted choice, and to direct the external acts of the individual without restraint, coercion, or control from other persons is the main idea supported by the thoughts of applying liberty in the human society. The capability of human individuals to act upon what they want and to react upon what they see the way that they want to is a clear depiction of the actual application of liberty today.

According to some social psychologists, the want of being free and being able to do what they want is innate in humans. It is a major part of the human behavior that sets people apart from the being that animals follow. Everybody in the society wants to appear better than what is usually seen from others. The initial want for fame is an undeniable cause for such thinking. This is primarily the reason why the dream of having an equal society is most likely believed to have been hindered by the forces implied through the application of individual liberty.

Conclusion True, it has been mentioned herein that the human society today is a much diverse community compared to that of the other generations passed the human history. It is undeniable that with the developments of human philosophy and the betterment of the understanding posted through the study of human behavior, the birth of human individual liberty came into a bigger picture. It is indeed a variable of success to know that liberty is given to everyone in the society through the application of the laws with regards human rights.

However, as critics may have claimed it, liberty may as well cause commotion to the aimed possibility of social equality. Even though this is the issue, it is necessary that one is able to identify the limits of his own liberty so as to become an agent of equality within the society that he is primarily living in. Doing so shall help not only the individual himself but the entire society that he is living with to realize the importance of living with ample liberty and providing the values that the entire human society needs.


John Stuart Mill, On Liberty and Utilitarianism, (New York: Bantam Books, 1993), 12-16. Arthur Henry Robertson, John Graham Merrills (1996). Human Rights in the World: An Introduction to the Study of the International Protection of Human Rights. Manchester University Press. ISBN 0719049237. Amartya Sen (1997). Human Rights and Asian Values. ISBN 0-87641-151-0. Terrell, Timothy D. Property Rights and Externality: The Ethics of the Austrian School. Journal of Markets & Morality, Volume 2, Number 2 • Fall 1999 Rothbard, Murray Newton. The Ethics of Liberty. NYU Press. 2003. pp. 45 – 45

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