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Democracy and Oligarchy: the Meaning of Equality Essay


Aristotle’s meaning of equality

Aristotle asserts that there are several forms of democracies. One such form of democracy is that of equality. In this essay, the writer seeks to analyze the concept of equality as a form of democracy as fronted by Aristotle. Further, the writer will offer an analysis of what equality entails in present day governments and whether democracy can exist without equality.

Aristotle’s meaning of equality is a form of government that is democratically rooted and not aligned to the issue of state and class. To him, one’s ability to hold an influential government position or title should not be based on who they are in the society or what they have (Aristotle 9). This is to imply that anyone willing and desiring to hold office should be able to vie for a political seat, with their probable election being dependent on the votes of the masses. Thus, the ability of one to ascend to a government post or not should be totally dependent on the votes of the majority.

Meaning of equality in the government today

The term equality in government today denotes the consideration of the opposite gender, equal distribution of resources, granting everyone the ability to cast a vote by creating a conducive political climate, and ensuring that all races can interact freely without fear of victimization, among other denotations. It is a key concern for the modern day governments to ensure that they create equal political opportunities for men and women counterparts of all races (Folsom par. 3).

Contemporary society believes in the concept of women emancipation and empowerment, which have permeated the political landscape. Given the need to ensure equality among genders, the government is tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that it is the first to implement notable changes in these areas. This is possible is through allocating crucial positions to women, among other ways, which imply that women can take part in key decision-making and policy implementations in the government.

Capaldi’s inference to the term equality in modern-day governments is the creation of an economic climate that standardizes income between the poor and the rich (29). The modern governments recognize the need to ensure that they can streamline the taxation process among their citizens to ensure that the gap between the rich and the poor is minimized. One way of closing the gap is through progressive taxation, which seeks to impose a higher tax burden on the rich and lower taxes on the poor. Most governments promise to reduce such gaps by imposing taxes that are commensurate with their citizens’ level of income.

Creating a fair ground for all voters so that they can exercise their civic duty is another way of closing the gap. Equality to modern day governments implies civic education and voter registration even among the minority in the society (Verba 4). Through such actions, governments ensure that minorities can call for change or get certain resources that are not available to them. In the modern day governments, democracy and equality voters can advance their cause regarding the terms of association chosen.

For example, every person carries equal weight in advancing their concerns by their voter’s card. Thus, everyone exercises equal capacity as the other to decide how an election will turn out. Therefore, when some members are not able to vote, one can decree that there has been foul play.

Nonetheless, the democracy that is existent in most governments today allows that even though equality is granted to each member to cast their vote, the alternative opinion that gets the most number of votes gets implemented courtesy of the majority rule. Thus, the concerns of people are assumed to be treated equally (Verba 10). Further, this implies that everyone has an equal ability to run for office to the government and to contribute to matters of public debate.

Most governments agree that equality implies fair treatment of all persons under their jurisdiction without the favor of race, status, or class. Citizens, as well as political figures, are of the opinion that fair treatment to all persons regarding access to education, access to better employment opportunities, and better pay, among others, despite one’s racial affiliation, is a true picture of equality (Daniels 76). In fact, this issue is highly contentious, with the majority of Hispanics and African American people asserting the need to be treated fairly.

Is it possible to have a democracy without equality?

Yes. It is possible to have democracy without equality. The tenets of democracy are to accord every citizen an opportunity and right to advance their political interests, as well as play a role in spearheading change. However, there are various forms of inequalities, as different people have different needs and interests. Thus, democracy is not able to eradicate all of the issues as it is impossible to satisfy everyone’s political interests at a go. For instance, democracy may ensure equality by allowing women equal opportunities to vote just like their male counterparts. However, this does not mean that will be equally represented in government positions and elected to governments.

Why would equality be such an important issue in any form of government?

Equality is an important issue in any form of government. Fick argues that the present day government is founded on the principles of equality, which is aligned with the attainment of human rights, promotion of freedoms, non-sexism, and non-racism (29). For any government to exist freely and operate effectively, it is necessary that these values permeate every level of the government, whether provincial, local, or national. In essence, the principle of equality should operate in a substantive manner other than through formalities.

My definition of equality

I believe that equality refers to the ability of people to make a decision without duress or without feeling obligated by their circumstances to do so. This is cognizant of people’s ability to spearhead change by voting. Thus, equality is only present when everyone, despite their social position, their race, and their economic status, can cast a vote to effect change not because they have been bribed to do so, but because they feel that the vote will benefit them in one way or the other. I also believe that equality is the ability to gain access to the fair distribution of resources, position, education, and income, as well as gain employment commensurate with the level of education, among other meanings.

Is Equality possible in the modern state?

Equality is not possible in a modern state. Various states are limited by a myriad of factors that hinder democratic equality. One such issue is the problem of culture. While some states can gain gender equality, some are not able. Thus, expecting that women will be empowered or given the opportunity to cast a vote or contribute to political matters is nearly impossible. In Arab states, for example, the culture dictates that women’s voices should not be heard.

In fact, all the decision-making power is granted to men, with women considered as non-entities. In such states, therefore, it is near impossible to expect women leaders in government positions or holding top government positions. Such is the situation in states like Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

Another factor that hinders equality in the modern state is poverty. Every person is expected to have an equal right and ability to cast a fair vote. However, this is not the case in most African states where corruption and voter bribery is a norm. Wealthy politicians and businesspeople can secure political seats unfairly because voters are easily bought to cast their votes in the politicians’ favor in return for minor benefits. Thus, poorly qualified contenders lose to rich opponents as they lack the financial ability to buy their way to success compared to their opponents.

Further, it is impossible that all the people in the state think in a similar manner. Different people have different tastes and preferences, as well as priorities. Thus, to expect everyone in the society to think the same, have the same ideology, as well as express the same political interests is impossible.

To Aristotle, equality entails same electoral opportunities for both rich and poor, which means that anyone who desires to attain a political office can contest for a government position and seek the majority votes. While I agree that this is the right form of democracy, it is impossible to acquire equality in the present states because different people have different thoughts and needs. As a result, it is impossible to cater for all the needs and assume an equal state of affairs.

That aside, cultural factors hinder equality. This is illustrated by the power distance existent in most Arab countries, which in turn mean that women are hindered from undertaking any governmental positions, as well as their ability to choose their preferred candidates. In African countries, the voters’ ability to conduct fair elections is limited when they are bribed by the rich to vote in their favor. Overall, it is hard to attain equality when limiting factors still exist.

Works Cited

Aristotle. Politics. Aetema Press: London, 2015. Print.

Capaldi, Nicholas. “The Meaning of Equality.” Liberty and Equality (2002): 1-33. Print.

Daniels, Norman. “Democratic Equality: Rawls’s Complex Egalitarianism.” The Cambridge Companion to Rawls 241 (2003): 76. Print.

Fick, Glenda. “The Importance of Equality to the Sphere of Local Government.” Agenda 16.45 (2000): 27-39. Print.

Folsom, Burton. “California Policy Centre. 2014. Web.

Verba, Sidney. “Political Equality: What Is It? Why Do We Want It.” A Review Paper for the Russell Sage Foundation (2001). Print.

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IvyPanda. (2020, October 18). Democracy and Oligarchy: the Meaning of Equality. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/democracy-and-oligarchy-the-meaning-of-equality/

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"Democracy and Oligarchy: the Meaning of Equality." IvyPanda, 18 Oct. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/democracy-and-oligarchy-the-meaning-of-equality/.

1. IvyPanda. "Democracy and Oligarchy: the Meaning of Equality." October 18, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/democracy-and-oligarchy-the-meaning-of-equality/.


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IvyPanda. "Democracy and Oligarchy: the Meaning of Equality." October 18, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/democracy-and-oligarchy-the-meaning-of-equality/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Democracy and Oligarchy: the Meaning of Equality." October 18, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/democracy-and-oligarchy-the-meaning-of-equality/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Democracy and Oligarchy: the Meaning of Equality'. 18 October.

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