Las frágiles bases del Estado de Bienestar

Desde que la democracia moderna puso la ciudadanía como raíz de la legitimidad política han existido tensiones entre libertad e igualdad. En toda sociedad democrática, la libertad para todos entra en conflicto con la igualdad para todos, y viceversa. Pero no importa con qué frecuencia proclamemos que todos "hemos nacido libres e iguales en dignidad y derechos", este choque de principios no ha disminuido. De hecho, simplemente ha tomado nuevas formas, en parte debido al progreso económico y técnico (y con el aumento de la riqueza disponible) y en parte debido a las iniciativas orientadas a aquietarlo.

La tensión entre la igualdad civil, legal y política y la realidad de la desigualdad económica y social se observó ya en la Revolución Francesa. Hoy en día, los ciudadanos inevitablemente usan sus derechos civiles, legales y políticos para exigir igualdad económica y social, o al menos una reducción de la desigualdad. De acuerdo a esta lógica (como ha puesto énfasis el pensamiento socialista), los derechos equitativos implican políticas públicas orientadas a reducir las desigualdades en las condiciones de vida reales de todos los ciudadanos.

De hecho, las democracias contemporáneas se distinguen precisamente por su aspiración de combinar el respeto por la libertad y la igualdad formal de derechos con políticas públicas que, como lo manifiesta el Preámbulo de la Constitución Francesa de 1946, ofrezcan a todos los ciudadanos "condiciones de vida adecuadas". Las democracias contemporáneas basan su legitimidad en asegurar derechos tanto políticos como sociales.

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