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Solved Exercise for Precis writing with Title “Equality of Socia” Precis for Class 9, 10, 11, 12 and Higher classes.

Passages with Solved Precis

A comparison between the American and the French Declarations on the subject of Equality will help to make clear the meaning of the word. The slave-holding authors of the American Constitution (Alexander Hamilton and his fellows) cheerfully declare that ‘all men are created equal.’ Taken literally that statement is nonsense. There is far greater difference in the intellectual abilities of men than there is in their physiques. One man is a fool, another a genius; one man has administrative, another imaginative, capacity; it is unnecessary to labour the point the idea behind this claim for Equality is more accurately expressed in the French Declaration: ‘All men are born free in respect of their rights’. That means that all men are to be treated as equal. The assumption is that there is something sacred about the individuality of each person, however humble. Be the rich or poor, he is to be regarded as possessing certain inviolable rights. And, as the Americans pointed out, one of these rights is the pursuit of happiness i.e. equality of opportunity. The development of modern opinion has been away from the negative ‘Let us alone’ attitude of the last century towards a ‘Give us a chance’ attitude. The idea goes back to the teaching of St. Paul that all men are equal ‘in the sight of God’. This outlook was largely responsible for the success of the early Church among the lower classes of the Roman Empire. A great step in the advance of humanity was taken when it was realized that the Son of God was himself a carpenter’s son, and that His disciples included poor fisher folk as well as rich lawyers like Paul. The attitude that every individual soul was equally sacred never faded from Christian theology; but the social conditions of the Middle Ages made it unrealizable in actual fact. In the feudal hierarchy every man was born to a particular station in life and any attempt to pass from one station to another was impossible. In that stage of society the rights of Blood and Inheritance were supreme; they are at last losing their pre-eminence in consequence of modern taxation principles.

From the time of the Renaissance the rigidity of feudal class distinctions began to break down the process was very gradual. And we are becoming aware of an equally unpleasant fact, that the pre-eminence of blood has been supplanted by the pre-eminence of Wealth. Undiluted capitalism produces plutocracy just as surely as feudalism produced Aristocracy.

Before this unwelcome discovery was made, Roussaeu had preached the Equality of man. The idea took strong root in France. According to de Tocqueville, the real cause of the revolution was the demand for Equality, not for Liberty; hatred of privilege, not desire for self-government. But it is noticeable that among the particular rights enumerated in the Declaration there is no mention of Equality – ‘the natural rights of man are liberty, property, security and resistance of oppression’. The authors of the Revolution were by no means communists; they were shopkeepers and peasants who aimed at nothing but security of ownership. They achieved their aim, with the result that there is a far greater measure of economic equality in France than there is in Britain. La carrier overate aux talents (lit. the career open to the talents) was the part of the equalitarian creed achieved by the abolition of privilege. The careers of Napoleon and his marshals prove how real the existence of Equality in this sense was. Furthermore, the code of Napoleon enforced Equality by insisting that inherited wealth had to be split up among all the children in a family and not passed on intact to the eldest child alone. Even so, Equality exists in a very limited degree.

The result of the application of the laissez faire creed of freedom from restraints in economic affairs has been an increase rather than a decrease of inequality. in practice the creed amounts to nothing more than ‘devil take the hindmost’. The exponents of laissez faire urged the abolition of privilege and of all State interference. Every man must be left free to make as much money as he can. What they could not foresee was that as wealth increased and was inherited, the equality of opportunity to make it steadily decreased.

As the century ran its course the more intelligent radicals saw that something was wrong about their favourite theories of Freedom of Contract and Harmony of Interests. Cobden, for example, admitted that State interference was justified to protect working women and children; he realized that such people were not able to look after their own interests. But he strongly objected to Trade Unions. John Stuart Mill began as an ardent believer in laissez faire and ended on the verge of socialism. In his autobiography he said, ‘The social problem of the future we considered to be how to unite the greatest liberty of action with a common ownership in the raw materials of the globe and an equal participation in the benefits of combined labour.”

Let us now examine the relation between political Liberty and Equality. Should all the people have equal voting powers? Yes, says Rousseau. No, says Locke, only the propertied members. Burke, the founder of modern conservatism, agreed with Locke. In the interests of the whole society, he said, wise men should govern fools. Government should be carried on by gentlemen elected by property-owners, because those who have a stake in the country have a greater responsibility than those who have none.

Radical as were the Whigs of the Reform era, they were no more willing to enfranchise the whole population than was Burke. When they talked about the Sovereign People they meant what Locke and Burke meant-‘the middle classes, the wealth and intelligence of the country, the glory of the British name’ (Brougham). No wonder the Chartists (1848) were enraged and demanded real political equality and universal manhood suffrage.

Thus we see that in the economic sphere Liberty and Equality are irreconcilable. In the political sphere the one was achieved by the logic of the arguments advanced on behalf of the other. Professor Laski has rightly observed: ‘there cannot be democratic government without equality; and without democratic government there cannot be freedom’. Clarifying the issue Sir William Beverage has pointed out that ‘all liberties are not equally important. The error of the individualists is to treat them as if they were. The essence of Liberalism is to distinguish between essential liberties to be preserved at all costs and lesser liberties which should be preserved only so far as they after consistent with social justice and progress.’


Equality of Social Justice

The Declaration in the American Constitution that all men are created equal taken literally is absurd, because there are vast inborn differences of intellect and imagination between one man and the other. The French Declaration stressing equality of opportunity for all is acceptable today because of the belief that there is something sacred about the individuality of each person.

The preaching of human equality largely accounted for the success of the early Church among the poorer sections in the Roman Empire. Every soul was regarded as sacred. But in the Middle Ages the social condition hindered the realization of this equality. The feudal system stressed the rigidity of the rights of Blood and inheritance and the movement from one station in society to another was impossible.

Rousseau in France preached the equality of man. French Revolution was caused by the demand for equality and hatred of privilege rather than desire for self-government. The career of Napoleon and his code enforcing, among other things, equality by distributing inherited property equally among all children are examples of this equality. That accounts for the greater economic equality in France than in Britain.

The advocates of laissez-faire urged the abolition of privilege and of all state interference. But this non-interference by the state produced free competition and the weak suffered in consequence producing greater inequality and defeating the objective of laissez-faire.

It was gradually realized that the theories :if Freedom of Contract and Harmony of interests were defective. State Interference and State Ownership of means of production and raw materials were regarded as necessary as liberty of action.

Opinions were, however, divided about equality of voting-power. Many believed that Government should be run by people elected by property owners thus increasing the importance of the middle class. However, the chartists protested and demanded Universal Suffrage.

Liberty and Equality are irreconcilable in the economic sphere. All liberties are not equally important. Some are essential while others should be preserved if they are consistent with social justice and progress.


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