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Free and Equal: A Philosophical Examination of Political Values [Paperback]

Richard Norman


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Book Description

2 April 1987 0198275269 978-0198275268
The concepts of freedom and equality lie at the heart of much contemporary political debate. But how, exactly, are these concepts to be understood? And do they really represent desirable political values? Norman begins from the premise that freedom and equality are rooted in human experience, and thus have a real and objective content. He then argues that the attempt to clarify these concepts is therefore not just a matter of idle philosophical speculation, but also a matter of practical politics, for the philosophical conclusions we reach also have important implications for the day-to-day world of political action. Touching on the work of such influential thinkers as John Stuart Mill, Berlin, Hayek, Nozick, Rawls, and Williams, this book serves as a valuable introduction to the central issues in political philosophy.

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Amazon.com: 3.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
3.0 out of 5 stars Not so Free when Equal ! 6 Jan 2013
By Philip Dinanzio - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book tries to synthesize the concepts of freedom and equality, in opposition to those philosophers who posit a contradiction between freedom and equality. He asserts that equality does not restrict freedom, but enhances it and makes it possible.

He does this by defining freedom, not just as the absence of coercion, but as the exercise of capabilities. For example, an illiterate person who cannot read or write, would find freedom of speech and press meaningless. How can one freely speak his mind and criticize or present his views when he/she can't read or write? Therefore, the author than posits that for this person to be "free" he/she must have an education guaranteed by the State. From there, he concludes that everyone must share equally in material goods via the public ownership of the means of production. That way, no one will feel that they are "compelled" to labor for anyone else because of their material needs.

And how is the control of productive enterprises to be managed? Through the excercise of democracy! However, to always be in the minority of a voting public,(like a Republican in Chicago?) one might feel less free and unable to control his/her future. Professor Norman's answer to this is to only pass laws by consensus, so no one feels as if they have lost. This condition he calls "Equality of Power" and trumps any freedom that conflicts with it. For example, private education, especially religious education), might make one feel superior to another. So in this wonderful utopia of equality of his, private education would be banned. All in the name of Freedom! Private property should not be considered a right, because all production is social, and no one individual can claim anything as the fruit of their labor. (You didn't build that!) This is his answer to Friedman, Hayek and Nozick.

However, this book does try to justify equality, unlike other authors who just assert it as desirable. I don't think the author succeeds, but he at least gives it a try.
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