Freedom, Equality and Safety

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Freedom, equality and safety are core values for most people and for democracy itself.

Freedom means that we can and must choose. The choices can be in many different aspects of life: What would I like to have for dinner tonight? What kind of education do I want? Who would I like to marry? Where would I like to live? Our freedoms depend very much on what kind of society and culture we live in, what legislation applies to us, and even what our finances look like. Democracy is the form of government and the model of society that yields the maximum degree of personal freedom. It is the society model that empowers its individuals with the greatest number of options throughout life.

Equality in a democratic society does not mean that all people are alike. It means that all people have equal value and that everyone should have equal options in life. Irrespective of one's family, regardless and of whether one is rich or poor, regardless of one's skin color, gender, religion or sexual orientation, one should have the same rights and responsibilities in society as everybody else. If a society ignores the idea of equality, it destroys democracy itself, because if some people can decide that others are not worth as much as they are, then it is no longer all of the people who support the regime.

Safety is a prerequisite for people to exercise freedom of choice. Safety in a democratic society means that individuals can speak, meet, and move around freely, that one's home is inviolable and that one's privacy, life and properties are protected by law.

The challenge of democracy is to blend and balance freedom, equality, and safety proportionally. Unlimited freedom provides too little safety, because society then turns into a fight of everyone against everyone else, and that soon ends with the strong oppressing the weak. Total safety does not exist either. If it did, it would mean that there simply was no freedom left. Freedom and safety are in many ways in conflict, but they can also be made to complement one another. Democratic society is the society that best ensures its inhabitants both safety and freedom, because the boundaries of freedom and safety must constantly be negotiated one with the other.

The fact that a society can have such negotiations is based on equality. Everyone is equally valuable, and therefore everyone has an equal right to demand both freedom and safety. In the democratic process the various needs for freedom and safety are weighed against each other and blended proportionally.

Next chapter: Humanism and the Individual