How Important is the Idea of Equality to Each Theorist Essay

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John Stuart Mill and the idea of equality

Society typically views the triad nexus of politicians, bureaucracies and the financial elite suspiciously, believing they breach the common man’s rights, and, consequently, strives to ensure they behave as it desires. Mills argues, “the government, whether completely responsible to the people or not, will often attempt to control the expression of opinion, except when in doing so it makes itself the organ of the general intolerance of the public (pg. 376).”

The above societal attitude is understandable as this triad nexus has violated people’s will and freedom. As a result, democracies were created in which the common man is allowed to take part in national decision-making. However, in a democratic system the community will govern governmental decisions, giving rise to a self-governing nation. However, Mills warns and asserts that in democratic systems, public opinion (i.e., the majority’s opinion) quells the minority’s views and demands, which is the severest kind of despotism. He aims at ascertaining the maximum societal force on a person such that personal freedom is not violated. He writes, “the government is entirely at one with the people, and never thinks of exerting any power of coercion unless in agreement with what it conceives to be their voice. But I deny the right of the people to exercise such coercion, either by themselves or by their government. The power itself is illegitimate (pg. 376).”

The majority’s standpoint isn’t necessarily (or even often) ideal. Prejudice and personal drives factor into decisions made for the overall community. He writes, “If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.” Moreover, an assessment of prior battles, bigotries and occurrences reveal that the majority's decisions aren’t always grounded in sincere intentions. Taking the view of the minority into account is definitely worth it. He writes, “the majority of the eminent men of every past generation held many opinions now known to be erroneous, and did or approved numerous things which no one will now justify (pg. 376).”

Further, the utilitarian theorist, Mill, supports equality for females and shuns their subordination, claiming it greatly impedes mankind’s improvement. He writes, “he principle which regulates the existing social relations between the two sexes -- the legal subordination of one sex to the other -- is wrong in itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it ought to be replaced by a principle of perfect equality, admitting no power or privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other (pg. 388-389).”

Mill witnessed an age in which cultures and even the law supported and mandated female subordination. Marriage, child-rearing and domestic tasks were meant to be their sole focus. They were largely denied the ability to request divorce from a bad marriage, formal education, wealth/property ownership, voting rights, jury or business involvement, or solo travelling rights.

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Their husbands were considered their masters to all intents and purposes. “The adoption of this system of inequality never was the result of deliberation, or forethought, or any social ideas, or any notion whatever of what conduced to the benefit of humanity or the good order of society. It arose simply from the fact that from the very earliest twilight of human society, every woman (owing to the value attached to her by men, combined with her inferiority in muscular strength) was found in a state of bondage to some man (pg. 389).”

Female inequality hampers almost half the community’s progress and the ability to take advantage of the skills they possess. Mill questions this imprudent practice and claims our regulations and traditions stem from the rule of society’s ‘most powerful’ entities. “the inequality of rights between men and women has no other source than the law of the strongest (pg. 390).” Men’s superiority in terms of physical might cause society to assert their superiority in every other domain, without evidence. Mill likens women’s condition in this regard to the condition of a slave.

John Locke and the idea of equality

The 2nd governmental treatise considers society as “sovereign”. The theorist argues that everybody is equal and entitled to natural rights that call for their freedom from all sorts of external control. He writes, “To understand political power right, and derive it from its original, we must consider, what state all men are naturally in, and that is, a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons, as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature (pg. 243-244).” In a natural state, conduct is regulated by natural law, and individuals are entitled to violate a transgressor’s rights by executing the law against him/her. He writes, “everyone has a right to punish the transgressors of that law to such a degree, as may hinder its violation (pg. 244).”

Man usurps whatever he wishes from the earth, though he stockpiles amounts only sufficient to meet his requirements. In the end, extra produce is bartered with others or sold for cash. Cash does away with limitations on how much property may be obtained (in contrast to food, cash doesn’t go bad). Subsequently, people start amassing property for themselves and family members.

This is followed sequentially by an interchange of certain natural liberties for entering the community and entitlement to certain collectively enjoyed rules, put….....

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1. Jean-Jacques Rousseau "Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality Among Men"

2. John Stuart Mill "On Liberty"

3. John Stuart Mill "On the Subjection of Women"

4. John Locke "Second Treatise of Government".

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