Liberty and Equality

Research paper on Liberty and Equality.

At the heart of modern liberalism are the values of liberty and equality. An important part of liberalism is the belief that these two values are compatible, and that both of them have merit. A number of political ideologies can be roughly understood by the weights they place on these values, and the extent to which they find them compatible.


Right-wing authoritarians, such as fascists and theocrats, value neither liberty nor equality. They generally have other values that are incompatible with liberty and equality, such as strong nationalism, militarism, or extreme obedience to a particular interpretation of a particular religion. 

Sometimes, right-wing authoritarians will embrace liberty to the extent they find it useful to their ends. For instance, a right-wing authoritarian in a liberal society might embrace free speech because it useful to his or her agenda, not because he or she sees it as intrinsically valuable.

The liberal society does well to tolerate right-wing authoritarians to a certain extent. For instance, a legal structure that prosecutes hate speech can too easily be turned against expression of other ideas. A good contemporary example is Rwanda, where the government has banned nearly all opposition to government policies under the pretense of suppressing racist hate speech. Rwanda's history may make this seem understandable, but it is only understandable in the sense that it makes Rwanda particularly vulnerable to this kind of despotism. Many have been slow to criticize the Rwandan Patriotic Front because of the role it played in stopping the 1994 genocide, but this does not mean that it should be given a free pass.

However, we must not let our tolerance reach the point of allowing right-wing authoritarians to achieve their objectives. The hatred most people feel toward...