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Equality over freedom

Referendums recognising marital and abortion rights are welcome but it’s not clear if they’re driven by the Equality that must underpin radical social, economic and educational change

Politics is a continuum from equality to freedom. If freedom is the vertical axis of a graph and equality the horizontal axis, every society – and every citizen – decides where the balance should be.

A libertarian society tending towards survival of the fittest will not foster equality; an egalitarian society may need to be enforced by a strong state to the detriment of individual licence, and so on. Philosophers from Tocqueville to Hayek to mainstream liberals accept there is a trade-off.

Village tends to the egalitarian end of the scale: truly free equality, after education and reflection – precise processes for which have been touted by many modern philosophers – is a mature and more stable goal than equal freedom.

Workaday politics can be charted and defined on the graph. However, the same political action can be justified by different points on the graph. Issues like divorce, gay marriage, and abortion can be deemed imperatives of either freedom or equality. In this respect the language used is not a definitive indicator of the politics. A campaign can claim to be about equality but in fact on analysis be defined by positions only of freedom. Any campaign fronted by Simon Harris or Leo Varadkar – agents above all of the propertied, of the status quo for the wealthy – is unlikely to be rooted in any real substantive equality.

It is perfectly legitimate to campaign for gay marriage or abortion because you want yourself or others to exercise rights to freedom to get married or have an abortion. Telltale signs if you do so you may include that you are less likely to make common cause with campaigns for others suffering discrimination of all sorts. You may ignore issues like racial equality, Travellers rights; you may express no concern about economic, social and educational inequalities. It is legitimate but it is not Village’s political motivation of preference.

For Village recent referendums reached the right solutions but were disappointingly rooted in the politics of freedom rather than that of equality.

The egregious wrongs in Irish society are best resolved by solutions driven by equality.
This society above all facilitates those who are economically adroit. It provides opportunity for people who are strong; worse still it provides opportunity for them to make mistakes (trashing the environment is the one posterity will most register). It provides very little vision as to how they should exercise their freedoms. – this is in part the problem of 100 channels but nothing on the television. But on a societal scale.

It is now time to move on to new agendas that are really radical. These include: agendas of radical redistribution of wealth in society, of radical changes to the opportunities available to those who have suffered traditional discrimination, including (still) to women and to those of minority sexual orientations, to racial minorities including Travellers; of educational opportunities facilitated by positive discrimination so even (or especially) the poorest in society can be whoever they want to be; of redistribution of power so it is exercised at the lowest, most local, most democratic levels; of attenuation of property rights so they are exercised in the common good.

The goods in society should be distributed by that society so those least well off are most compensated.

Everyone in society is morally equal, they should be treated by society in a way so they can participate in the fruits of the earth equally. It is a myth that the fruits of the earth are distributed in accordance with merit – they have been accumulated largely by force and luck.

The idea that in 2018 a child’s future is determined by the time it reaches two years old is an abomination.

Ireland is growing up politically. Ireland has waved good-bye to the invidious influence of an unrealistic Church and voted the right way on divorce, gay rights and abortion. However, these are really liberal causes focused on issues of identity. It is time we addressed the issues of endemic inequality enshrined down the generations.

As regards the Constitution we do need to abolish Article 41 which recognises the woman’s life within the home, so devaluing women who choose not to work within the home; and to eliminate the part of the preamble which invokes the Constitution “in the name of the Holy Spirit”. Indeed the Constitution’s premises relate to another era and the whole document should be reconceived.

More generally, materialism, capitalism and competition have had their day, it is time to welcome in a new agenda – of equality of outcome/condition: equality of wealth and power, of quality of life, of environment, of education, of fulfilment and happiness, of respect and opportunity.

This should be achieved through politics and laws. The constitution should be amended to reflect it too. The most radical change would be to enshrine equality of outcome/condition as a constitutional imperative across the range.