Saturday, October 27, 2012

Freedom and Equality: Understanding, Reconciling the Way Forward for Democratic Advancement

Logo of the Republic of France and motto of the French Revolution: freedom, equality, and brotherhood.
In the article below, Roberto Mendoza González focuses on the fundamental tenets of western democracies with respect to freedom and equality. Mr. González navigates the reader through the history of political thought, and then focuses on western democracies, in particular Mexico. Interestingly, the democratic issues of Mexicans are very similar to Americans as the citizenry of both countries try to reach closer to ideal democracy captured in governance of, by, and for the people, rather than special and minority interest democracy.

Liberal Democracy and Inequality

Foundationally, liberal democracies underpin two indispensable elements: freedom and equality. Unequivocally, which enshrines freedom, liberal democracy is a societal model in which there is no coercion by the state and allows free choice of individuals with regard to their life, work and family without affecting others. However, the question is what kind of equality advocates liberal democracy?

The defining precepts of liberal democracy emphasize legal equality. This means that the legal framework guarantees that permeate are granted equally to individuals of any kind regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, religion etc. But there are other types of equality also slated to be considered fundamental and foundational to every state that calls itself a genuine liberal democracy. Not only do we talk about equal opportunities of access to education and health, but we refer to those "bad" third-generational rights, namely socio-economic equality.

The precepts of equality come from various classical theorists. For example, Hobbes argues for equality: you will kill each other and so we entered a pact of civility to preserve our "natural rights". Locke argues and adheres to equality in terms of ownership, emphasizing the duty of the state to protect private property, despite the inequalities and asymmetrical capacity to acquire wealth. As Madison pointed out, one of the founding fathers of the United States, the first object of the state is to protect the unequal ability to acquire properties (The Federalist October 1787). Conceptions stressing political rights think so. However, there are other veins of analysis. Friederich Hayek is another example, but nevertheless, not proscribed relief actions or health insurance, however, condemned the redistributive state intervention because, he argues, it violates the equality of individuals before the law. It then perceives that civil and political liberties with socioeconomic inequalities are inherent to contemporary liberal democracies. Note that the third wave of democratization (Huntington) emerged against authoritarian regimes that only ensured electoral democracies and protection of political rights. Similarly, it is imperative to mention that many of democratization projects have stalled or died due to high degrees of inequality, marginalization and deep polarization.

It is therefore essential that we turn 180 ° view and adopt more progressive positions. There are positions that associate an inherent relationship between democracy and socio-economic equality. In this category we find liberals like Rawls and Amartya Sen. The first provides a standardized treatment for the less fortunate in society, without necessarily the disclosure mechanisms of action, it is assumes redistribution. Sen, goes further and says that each individual has different objectives and that society ought not to allow each to choose their course of life in the most free way possible. His basic argument is constructed from asserting that a genuine democratic and free society is only possible preconditions from materials that allow the free exercise of freedom, which presupposes redistributive measures and the provision of basic services like education and health, but moreover, a favorable result of the stroke end of life.

Inequality is a phenomenon that has been increasing in recent days due to the deepening of the sovereign debt crisis in the different states of the world. However, it has been fairly tolerated as countries like Europe center systems have strong redistributive and social security schemes, in contrast to those less redistributive as the U.S.A., exists in the collective imagination the possibility that future generations will be in a better situation. By contrast, we could build a strong case with countries like Pakistan, the Philippines, Mexico and even Brazil that could be threatened politically-long term, if not face the problem of inequality. The answer is NO. Added to this, we have no legal equality as we know the administration of justice in Mexico is poor and biased. In addition, our freedom to choose the course of our life is highly restricted by the lack of opportunities, lack of employment, low social mobility, stratification of elites, poor competitiveness, monopolies and handling regressive tax burdens. That is, Mexico has democratic features to have free elections (organized crime is undermining this element), periodic, inclusive and plural, however, the rule of law is small and one of the selling points of democracy-substantive fairness and better living conditions-not glimpsed among the majority of the population. Our democracy-in the words of Schumpeter, is a mechanism for acceptance or rejection of candidates gives us the political offer. Mexican democracy has not been consolidated for various reasons, some of them are inequality: inequality and polarization that permeate our society. A paradox is perceived, the great treatises have argued that political equality without economic equality cannot have political equality. Poverty and marginalization are obstacles to the free exercise of citizens' rights. If it comes to catalog, Mexico has won a great victory, pyrrhic-we have become Madisonian electoral democracy, where we vote and which protects and preserves the unequal abilities to acquire property and wealth. The scenario is not promising and possible scenarios could arise such as democratic regressions (Venezuela) where in the name of social equality [and reaction to foreign interference] democratic institutions have been undermined or, in the worst organizations like Hamas, with little commitment to democracy genuine liberal, which have close friends of many adherents through the provision of social services and benefits. The question is, our politicians have thought for his own good Where we are and where we want to be? And for us citizens what we want from our Mexico and we can and should do? We should get active and carry out the sentences that stated Luis Donaldo Colosio "It's time to reform the power, it's time to empower the citizen (with the direction of the nation)... the great demand for Mexico's democracy.

By Roberto Mendoza González
Master in Public Policy and Governance (University of Sheffield) and Foundation for Democratic Advancement Research Associate.

Question for Readers:

As asked in previous posts, what will be the catalyst to advance Mexican, American and other troubled democracies closer to democracy based on governance of, by, and for the people?

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