Political philosophers have doubted the compatibility of various major values, such as equality and freedom. Ethnographic and historical evidence has indicated the presence of (1) economic equality and individual freedom in the absence of civil peace in segmentary societies based on self-help; (2) economic equality and civil peace in the absence of individual freedom in corporate societies; and (3) individual freedom and civil peace in the absence of economic equality in mercantile and capitalist societies. However, little if any evidence has documented all three — economic equality, individual freedom, civil peace — in stable coexistence. By way of delineating the relations between and among the values in question, I offer “The Iron Law of Politics,” which asserts that economic equality, individual freedom, and civil peace cannot all exist simultaneously in any society, although any two of the three can.
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Vol. 23 • No. 2