A Threat to Our Freedom and Development

Blog_ScalesWhat is the relationship between freedom, social equality and development? Latin-American countries share social inequality as a trait which they have carried since their births as independent nations.  Latin America has been described by some as the region with the greatest inequality in the world. The problem does not stop here. Social inequality creates spaces that compromise freedom and thus poses a great challenge to freedom. This also prevents development. Without freedom, men and women are not capable of developing integrally. States are obliged to guarantee freedom, and fighting social inequality becomes their responsibility.

Aristotle defined freedom as the possibility of choosing. This includes the ability to make a judgment in the decision-making process. Development also requires a definition. Amartya Sen stated that development is the process of expanding the real freedom that individuals enjoy. The growth of individual liberty is essential to his definition of development. Sen considers freedom an end in and of itself, but I also think that freedom is a means to achieving development.

There are some problems that arise with the expansion of freedom. One example is the creation of employment opportunities that enhance decision-making, because these opportunities are blocked by the effects of social inequality, and become exclusive to some. Social inequality, not poverty alone, is an issue that restricts a person’s freedoms. It may be less mortal than poverty, but it is not less important. “Luxury goods” are a perfect example of this social inequality. Despite the fact that service in luxury hospitals is better than in public healthcare systems, only a narrow market has access to luxury service.

Exclusive spaces prevent people in a society from showing solidarity, compassion and even respect. The problem worsens when people constrained by social inequality take by force this freedom to access luxuries. As insecurity issues arise, rich people increase their security and other places become less secure. Many families are not able to decide if they live in a safe place or not.

Social inequality is not a static problem, because it is related to freedom. Two polar societies result: one society has enough elements to fully enjoy itself and one is deprived. While health, knowledge, and security continue to be crippled by social inequality, development is impossible. The fragmentation of this society further incapacitates development. Joint efforts, cooperation, and peace are necessary to achieve a developed society. Finally, it is important to recognize that social inequality compromises freedom and thus compromises development.

By Jean Paul Madrigal Rodriguez, a WYA member from Costa Rica