The words liberty and equality represent basic values of democratic political systems, including that of the United States. Rule by absolute monarchs and emperors has often brought peace and order, but at the cost of personal freedoms. Democratic values support the belief that an orderly society can exist in which freedom is preserved. However, order and freedom must be balanced.
The American government has its roots in the 17th and 18th century Enlightenment in Europe, a movement that questioned the traditional authority of the monarch to rule. What gives one person the right to rule another? Enlightenment philosophies acknowledged the importance of establishing order. They were influenced by the chaos of medieval times, when a lack of centralized government brought widespread death and destruction. Security from invaders and attackers were necessary for survival, so weaker people allied themselves with stronger ones, and kings provided protection in return for work and allegiance from their subjects.
As order was established and new economic patterns emerged, people began to question the king’s right to rule. For instance, John Locke, an English philosopher, thought that the right to rule came from the “consent of the governed.” Rousseau believed that communities were mostly governed by the general will or majority rule of their citizens. Though the philosophers believed that rulers were important for maintaining order, they questioned the sacrifice of individual freedom that they saw under European monarchs.
Source: Democratic Values — Liberty, Equality, Justice
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