Does Equality Equal Freedom?

How Equality and Freedom Make a Bad Cocktail for most?

There is a topic that has been in my mind for years and just keeps egging me on.

It’s not an easy topic to write or even think about and perhaps in the few minutes I have today, I’ll expose more of the idea.

Since running into the inborn talents and limits that are naturally present, one realizes that we are not all equal, in anything.

I often hear people talk about us being equal under the law, having equal rights, but even that is a stretch because money always wins.  Thus, in our society the  more you have, the better off you are in relation to what most call equal rights.  Sure we can vote, but even then, if you don’t have someone to watch the children or pay your transport, or have a hard time getting off work like the poor, then of course, your equality under the law is not really equal.

But that’s not what I am referring to.

What I’m referring to is that we have this idea about equality and fairness, where sameness = fairness. This particular algorithm when running side by side to freedom causes some serious issues for those who are not as capable, not as well-heeled or with access to resources.

We defend this in our consciousness by saying, we don’t want to put limits on what people can do, be, have, become or contribute, given agreed cultural constraints (laws and mores), so we leave people alone to be free.

YET, my freedom, or go at it, is not the same as yours and hence, using the idea of equality and sameness = fairness, under the guise of freedom, causes most people to suffer much more than they would if they were not free.

Now, I understand Hayak’s remarks about keeping freedom available for those who would use that to make life better for all, and to me, that is a valid argument.  Yet, I wonder in the age of technology and information whether an either/or around equality and freedom is actually a good idea.

I realize we are wars and probably light years away from people accepting the idea that because we are different, sameness is NOT fairness at all.  In fact, the guise under which the 1-5% operate around this idea is probably harming many more people than need be.

But for me, how do we get people to accept less freedom as a given, when indirectly they have to accept it anyway, but without scaffolding or support, because they like you and me, are “free” to live their own life?

What I’m finding after living in the emerging markets toe to toe with people that are really and desperately poor is that poverty wins a lot more than it loses because of the way society punishes a person for lack of capability.  As society gets more complex, the punishment can often be very severe for generations, a lot of it is just plain luck, both good, and bad which drives our futures.

Of course @BS, we attribute good luck to our moxy and bad luck to other people’s stupidity, creating interesting causal loop reasoning around credit and blame.  Yet if you have ever watched the really poor for sometime, you realize that the reason they are poor is the algorithms they use are not going to produce anything but additional poverty, and those who by chance — either nature or nurture’s lottery — can move — do, and that actually aggravates the issues.

What if…

we were less free?

What if we decided that in large part people will not be able to navigate a meaningful life of freedom without a lot of scaffolding and support. What if freedom had to be earned, demonstrated, or approved, rather than as a right or entitlement?

Would there be MORE abuses now under the direct constraints of less freedom than there are with more freedom?

And here’s the kicker in all of this — the one that I can’t solve.

What is our feeling about people being equal and free?

Even though it’s obvious that those with capability and resources — nature and nurture’s lottery winners — are clearly outdistancing those with less equal capability and resources, do we still believe that equality and freedom should be the rule?

As I move forward in trying to understand, create, and maintain ideas about how to help people live better lives, the age old question seems to be, what are we entitled to in a good society?

Is it equality and freedom?

Or is it food to eat, medicine when we are sick, education for our children (which we may not be free to have?), basic shelter (not home ownership, omg, I think we see the issues with that by now), and some income with which to discretionarily spend?

Is this basic existence an entitlement in a good society?

If so, how do we manage that?

With equality and freedom as the lead horses?

While we are not yet capable in many forms of answering this question because we don’t have good moral alternatives yet, the longer we go in the direction we are going, the harder it will be to shift things in the future without disruption of our social rhythms.

In the meantime, we are preparing a project to test whether or not by scaffolding people who are poor and stuck in poverty without scaffolding… who are scaffolded as part of a demonstration project can lift themselves up with help and escape the gravitational field of destitution and despair.

I have mixed emotions about it, but to create a mini-society to demonstrate that scaffolding in the proper density and frequency works, I will ask each one of you to participate and encourage others to participate to allow this to occur.

Join us in helping create this demonstration project in the Philippines and give life to the ideas of scaffolding poverty in a win-win-win scenario.  Learn more at