When we talk about freedom and equality we must realize that we are faced here, to all practical purposes, by relative, not by absolute terms; by trends and tendencies rather than by unalloyed abstractions. Freedom in this study means the greatest amount of self-determination which in a given situation is feasible, reasonable and possible. As a means to safeguarding man’s happiness and protecting his personality it is an intermediary end, and thus forms part of the common good. It is obvious that under these circumstances it cannot be brutally sacrificed to the demands of absolute efficiency nor to efforts towards a maximum of material welfare. Man does not live by bread alone. Here, as in some other basic matters, most readers will probably admit that they see with us eye to eye because, although not belonging to the Church, they are nevertheless adherents (and beneficiaries) of the Hebrew-Greek-Christian tradition which has something approaching a common denominator.

When we speak about equality we do not refer to equity (which is justice). Even the so-called “Christian equality” is not something mechanical, but merely subjection under the same law—in other words isonomy. Yet to the Christian two newly-born babes are spiritually equal, but their physical and intellectual qualities (the latter of course in potency) are from the moment of conception unequal. We shall not go into the psychological reasons for the egalitarian and identitarian tendencies of our age, which we have dealt with elsewhere; it suffices to say that the artificial establishment of equality is as little compatible with liberty as the enforcement of unjust laws of discrimination. (It is obviously just to discriminate —within limits—between the innocent and the criminal, the adult and the infant, the combatant and the civilian, and so on.) Whereas greed, pride and arrogance are at the base of unjust discrimination, the driving motor of the egalitarian and identitarian trends is envy, jealousy and fear. “Nature” (i.e., the absence of human intervention) is anything but egalitarian; if we want to establish a complete plain we have to blast the mountains away and fill the valleys; equality thus presupposes the continuous intervention of force which, as a principle, is opposed to freedom. Liberty and equality are in essence contradictory.

Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Liberty or Equality: The Challenge of Our Time (1940)


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