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This study explores freedom and equality as necessary constituents of a liberal democratic state. At the same time, equality and freedom conflict in various respects. It is examined how such conflicts may optimally be resolved while taking seriously the interests involved. These inquiries have far-reaching consequences for the justification of the liberal democratic state.
Equal rights are generally considered to be an integral part of a liberal democratic state, but on what foundation are such rights based? Various attempts have been made to provide such a foundation from a moral framework. Some important and influential positions are examined critically and an alternative perspective is offered. ‘Equality’ is approached straightforwardly, without appealing to obscure notions while seeking an outcome that may universally be accepted. Rationality is an important feature in this respect.
The question to what extent freedom should be allowed to citizens is another important issue. Granting citizens freedom is beneficial for the liberal democratic state as a whole and for citizens themselves. The limits of freedom must, however, be defined carefully. The search for a simple solution is balanced against the need to do the complexities of individual cases justice. In addition, it is not the task of a liberal democratic state to influence people’s convictions concerning equality; only equal treatment should be guaranteed