The destructive impact of economic inequality on political equality

The equality of all people is the fundamental principle of the modern democracy. At the same time, the idea of equality of all humans dates back to past epochs, when the concept of democracy was under-developed yet, but philosophers attempted to develop ideas of social contract, natural rights of humans, etc. In this respect, works of John Locke are particularly noteworthy, especially his “Second Treatise of Government”, where he explores in details the relationship of the government and people and human rights. In fact, his ideas are still relevant since the problem of human rights and the injustice of the existing social order contrast dramatically to the seeming political equality. In fact, modern democracies, such as the US, view the protection of human rights and liberties as one of the major priorities of the state, but the current socioeconomic situation proves the fact that real equality of all people is rather a kind of utopia than a part of the reality. In such a situation, the negative impact of economic inequality on political equality is obvious and ideas of Locke concerning the right of revolution (198) seem to be still very significant because the existing economic inequality will sooner or later have political effects.

First of all, it is important to underline that the current socioeconomic trends are extremely disturbing because the gap between rich and poor is constantly widening. Moreover, the middle class, which traditionally constituted the basis of the society, gets meager and its share in the general population of the country steadily decreases. However, only a few former representatives of the middle class join the upper class, while the majority joins the army of the poor. At the same time, rich get richer.

Obviously, such a situation, increases social tension between representatives of different social layers since the economic inequality evokes the dissatisfaction of large masses of people who live in poverty. In such a context, it is hardly possible to speak about any kind of social contract, which Locke viewed as an essential condition of democracy (132). In contrast, people, whose socioeconomic position is really desperate, are ready to violate the existing social norms and legal acts in order to improve their socioeconomic position and readjust the social equality.

At any rate, people have political equality, but, at the same time, they feel inefficiency of their political rights and liberties which are not backed up by socioeconomic opportunities. In this respect, it is hardly possible to underestimate the role of the state. According to John Locke, the relationship of the state and citizens should be regulated by the contract which actually defines rights, liberties and responsibilities of the parties (127). Therefore, in terms of such a contract, the state should maintain the basic democratic principles concerning equality of citizens, which should go beyond political equality only. What is meant here is the fact that the government should provide all citizens with an opportunity to improve their socioeconomic position.

However, in the current situation, the government ensures only political equality, while on the socioeconomic level needs and rights of people are practically ignored by the state because the existing system of the redistribution of wealth is inefficient and contributes to the growing inequality between rich and poor. In addition, the state tends to support rich rather than poor because the political forces make few efforts to change the socioeconomic situation consistently. Obviously, such a policy of the state accelerates the social tension and, eventually, it can lead to the revolution or, at any rate, to social protests and riots, because people, who are in a really desperate position, have nothing to lose and if they cannot afford living they are likely to take it by force from those who have more than they actually need.

This outcome of the growing economic inequality can be viewed as an exercising of the right of revolution.

At the same time, it should be said that the revolution or social opposition to the state is justified because the state apparently violates its duties and responsibilities in terms of the social contract, which Locke presumes existing between the state and people. Consequently, the violation of the contract naturally allows the offended party to use all means to protect their natural rights and liberties. In this respect, it is worth reminding Locke’s concept of the state of nature (15), which functions in accordance to the law of nature. In such a situation, the existing social system can evolve into the state of nature where socioeconomic and political equalities and inequalities will disappear and the relationships between citizens will be regulated by the law of nature.

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the current socioeconomic inequality is very dangerous for the future of western democracy because the growing economic disparity can outweigh the existing political equality of citizens. As a result, the poor are likely to rebel against the existing socioeconomic system.

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