The Declaration of Independence asserts that "all men are created equal"—but in what way are we equal? Does this mean that we all have a right to the same rewards and benefits society has to offer? Or that every time an individual achieves something beyond what has been accomplished by others, he must give it up—along with, as would naturally follow, his personal freedom and autonomy?
Liberty and Equality takes an unflinching look at the difficult, often emotional issues that arise when egalitarianism collides with individual liberties. Personal autonomy, the contributors show, is sharply at odds with the "coercive egalitarianism" championed by many today. Through well-researched arguments, they offer their insightful views on the most important aspects of this often controversial issue. They examine the history of equality versus autonomy from ancient times through the present day, showing how it has become central to modern political and social debate, and explain why we all have a general right to liberty—but not a fundamental right to equality.
Machan and his contributors clearly illustrate why the kind of egalitarianism preached by socialists and other sentimentalists is ultimately not an option in a free society, exposing its very real consequences. For example, they show how the advocacy of economic equality in any absolute sense would lead to a severe loss in economic benefits for all—and they reveal the potentially disastrous social and political changes that could occur if contemporary feminists attained the full "equality" they desire from society. Concluding on a more hopeful note, they explain how a different conception of liberty and equality might eliminate the tension between the two and allow the ideals of both to coexist in today's society.