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Equality

 

Society consists of several spheres, which all need different organizing principles. Equality is the pre-eminent guiding principle in politics and legal life. There are three sides to this.

 

Equality before the law

 

The first aspect is that everybody should be equal before the law. In other words, laws should be valid for everybody in the same way. In modern states, this principle has been realized fairly well. Whether you are a teacher, a banker, a postman or a student, we all get a fine when we run a red light. 

 

Equal decision making

 

The second aspect is that everybody should have the same say in rules and laws – in other words, democracy. In fact, in most modern states this has not been realized. Usually, a small group of elected politicians decide, and the citizens have no say. Once every four years, citizens can give a ‘mandate’ to politicians, who can then take decisions and make laws that go against the will of a majority of citizens.

 

In order to give everyone an equal say in a democracy, we need the introduction of the referendum. Polls across Western countries show that some 70 to 80 percent of the population is in favour of this. The principle of equality means that citizens should have the same rights and possibilities politicians have: that referendums are binding, that no topics are excluded, that citizens can put their own proposals to a vote (the popular initiative) and that there are no arbitrary turnout quorums. This situation has been daily practice for over a century in, among others, Switzerland and about half of the US states.

 

If citizens can co-decide, the public support for laws and rules will increase. Research shows that referendums lead to lower tax evasion, higher economic growth, lower sovereign debts and happier citizens.

 

What concerns us equally

 

The third aspect is that laws should only regulate subject matters that concern human beings equally. Or, in other words, subject matters in which everybody is equal. Examples of this are the laws ruling social benefits for people who are unemployed or ill. Anybody could become unemployed or ill, and everybody can then enjoy the same rights.

 

Unfortunately, politicians make laws in a range of other areas. One example is education. It is justified when the state democratically arranges that everybody has access to education. But the state should not interfere with the content and the pedagogy of education. Teachers and pedagogues are much better qualified to do so. They have the skills and they should be able to adapt their approach to the particular students in front of them. That’s why they should be able to do their work in freedom. Complicated regulations and guidelines forced upon education by the state, only lead to bureaucracy and ‘one size fits all’ education.

 

Another example is legislation that tries to interfere with the economy. In most cases, such legislation disturbs what economy is all about (or what it should be about): meeting the needs of consumers as efficiently as possible. Craftsmanship, specialized knowledge and experience are necessary for this. Legislation does not help here – quite the contrary.

 

A democratic state that respects the rule of law, should only ensure that man or the environment cannot be damaged by the economy. The economy can be confined in this way, so that equality (which must rule the area of law and politics) and freedom (which must reign in cultural life) aren’t threatened.

 

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