I wish I could claim original authorship of this idea but it actually comes from the French revolution. On the rare occasions in history when people become genuinely fired up by politics they also have a strong tendency to come up with insights that are really helpful for those of us who live in more peaceful times. Liberty, equality and fraternity is an astonishingly powerful vision but when anyone claims to be promoting any single one of these without considering the other it isn't long before things start to turn ugly.
The Russian communist party talked an awful lot about equality and even made support for the working class the official ideology of the state. But it also promoted the bizarre concept that there is a politically conscious class which knows what is in the best interest of the workers because it has studied Marx and Lenin. Any working person who dared to criticise even the smallest error in the thinking of this class conscious elite got sent off to the Gulags. You can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs was the argument as 20 million died in the collectivisation famine and then another 20 million died in the camps.
So it has never surprised me that the Americans have a strong fear of communism. If quite a lot of your citizens have lived under it and emigrated you know the cost of neglecting freedom. Unfortunately the costs of pursuing the free market at the expense of equality are just as high. In the 1930s the free market system failed so badly that 25% of people across the whole of the USA were out of work . Soup kitchens and near starvation conditions dominated the country. The problem was only solved by the state acting to redistribute income and improve welfare. They financed this with money that was simply printed and then invested to put people back to work to produce the goods they bought with those very same dollars - thus avoiding inflation. In 2008 the free market banking system failed just as spectacularly. There was only one solution. The free market had to be rescued by the government which both in America and in the UK printed huge quantities of money.
Incredibly the lesson that our government has learned from this is that we don't have enough freedom in the markets. Nothing has been done to tackle the extreme concentrations of wealth that helped fuel the instability. Instead our government is cutting the incomes of the poorest people who did nothing to create the crisis. No one can live happily in serious poverty for any length of time yet this is exactly what is being experienced by large numbers of people in many countries which pride themselves on the amount of freedom experienced by their citizens.
Without equality freedom is meaningless and out of control free markets become a danger to themselves and to the citizens that live within them. Freedom and equality need to be combined for them to be worth anything and both of them are meaningless without community.
When you ask anyone to name the things that they really value in life then the vast majority of people will start talking about some or other community that they belong to. The people they value are the ones they can rely on when everything goes wrong, the people that they can trust, the groups that give them a sense of secure belonging. For many this will be family. For some it will be place such as a village or a suburb of their city. For almost all of us it will be a group of people with whom we have shared interests and concerns usually ones that we have known for a long time or who we have instantly felt comfortable with. We feel at our most secure and happy when we have a community that we trust and which we believe also trusts us. It is an essential part of living in such communities that you know that when the need arises neither money nor time nor inconvenience will prevent the members of that community from trying to look out for each other. Human beings need that security of knowing that someone cares and someone can be relied upon.
If I am right and we need freedom, equality and community in order to prosper then we can use these three things to judge how well our governments are doing to look after our fundamental needs.
It seems to me that we aren't doing very well on these measures. Our liberties are constantly being curtailed in the name of security concerns and we seem to be treating liberty as a luxury that we cannot afford at a time of international terrorism. Equality is under even stronger attack. Every major inequality index has been increasing steadily for over 30 years as wealth is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few successful individuals and companies. And we appear to be trying to break away from the concept of community.
Immigrants fleeing from terror and seeking nothing more than the chance to work are demonised and dangerous foreigners. Countries such as Greece which get into difficulty are being punished for their sin of being debtors instead of being helped to grow and recover. We would rather bomb a country such as Libya to encourage it to become free rather than help one such as Tunisia financially when it actually tries to build a free country. Even the EU which has helped us work together to avoid a third European war is now under threat as the UK talks of leaving it as if it were an easy consequence free decision to go back to living in separate suspicious narrow national entities. Above all we are separating ourselves from the community of nature. We are treating the planet as if it were a consumable resource that we could throw away and all the other creatures that live in it were something we can dispense with if they are not proven to be of immediate use to human beings.
I am tempted to conclude from this that we need a new kind of politics. But we don't. We simply need to go back to the good tried and tested principles of the French revolution. We need our government to actively pursue three central goals. Freedom, equality and community. And it they won't do it then we need to fight them every step of the way until we can get one into power that will.