What is Democracy? (17): Equality

A democracy regards and must regard all people as equally valuable (the equal worth or the equal dignity of the human being, see art. 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights). A citizen of a non-democratic society can be considered as more or less valuable than other citizens because of his or her family, class, status, sex, race etc. In a democracy, however, nobody is a lesser human being because he or she is poor, black, stupid, non-Muslim, female or whatever. Nobody is inferior or superior; nobody’s life is worthless, expendable, disposable or in any way less valuable; and nobody’s interests are less worthy of protection. Democracy tries to give equal protection to everybody’s interests. Every human being has a certain value, simply because of his or her humanity, not because of the person he or she is, the things he or she has done or the group he or she belongs to. Being human automatically means having a certain value and this value is by definition equal for all human beings.

This is a principle of democracy because you cannot at the same time give everybody equal influence – as is the purpose of democracy – and believe that some people are inferior. If some people are inferior, then it is natural to think that they have interests that should not be taken into consideration in an equal way. However, if everybody’s interests must have an equal weight, then everybody must have equal influence and vice versa. It is impossible to consider everybody’s interests in an equal way if everybody cannot participate equally in politics and if everybody’s voice does not have an equal weight in decisions. Democracy promotes the equal value of each because

  • It protects everybody’s equal human rights
  • It is a system, which gives everybody’s interests an equal chance of being protected (even on the assumption that not all interests are morally entitled to satisfaction)
  • It gives everybody equal influence and an equal right to participate and to pursue interests.

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