Dworkin begins by roughly defining liberalism according to the New Deal: “It combined an emphasis on less inequality and greater economic stability with more abundant political and civil liberty for the groups campaigning for these goals.” Dworkin states that such a definition is inadequate and goes on to elaborate on liberalism in more depth. The liberal, in economic policies, demands that the inequalities of wealth be reduced through social programs such as “welfare and other redistribution financed by a progressive tax.” Liberals also take a Keynesian policy toward the governments stabilizing intervention in the economy, such as controlling inflation and unemployment. And liberals support freedom of speech, racial equality and are “suspicious of criminal law.”
Dworkin states that in a society, liberty and equality, the most important political ideals, often come into conflict with one another. “In these cases, good government consists in the best compromise between the competing ideals, but different politicians and citizens will make that compromise differently.” Liberals tend to favor equality more than liberty than conservatives do. But the former statement is a tricky one according to Dworkin because liberty, unlike equality, cannot be shown because we lack a concept of liberty that “is quantifiable in the way that a demonstration would require.” Because of this, it would be mistaken of us to state that conservatives favor liberty more than liberals, because conservatives will recede some liberties for some benefits, as our fundamental liberties are valued because of something else that they protect. The conservative “protects the commodity of liberty, valued for its own sake, more effectively” than the liberal. But unlike liberty, equality is a concept that can be shown, and because of this, it can be stated that conservatives do in fact favor equality less and liberals more.
Two concepts of equality must be distinguished according to Dworkin: the first is that the government should treat all its citizens, or all those that are in its charge as equals, and the second principle of equality requires that the government treat all of those in its charge equally in “the distribution of some resource of opportunity.” Liberals sense of equality will fall more into the latter idea of equality. The conservative feels that, treating citizens as equals, as the liberals see equality, would amount to treating the citizens in fact as unequal. The most efficient means of helping the least well off in fact is the free market, and not the government’s redistribution of wealth.
But then what does it mean for the government to treat its citizens as equals? The first “supposes that government must be...