Liberals begin from the idea that individuals have rights to life, liberty and property which cannot be overidden by the state but they also acknowledge the collective dimension of political and social life. Liberals argue that the state may legitimately redistribute the benefits and burdens of living in society to balance citizens' equality with citizens' freedom. Liberals therefore tend to argue for a wider range of both rights and duties than libertarians, favouring some redistribution of wealth through taxation and provision of social goods such as education and healthcare.

'social and economic inequalities, for example inequalities of wealth and authority, are only just if they result in compensating benefits for everyone, and in particular for the least advantaged members of society'. (John Rawls, A Theory of Justice, 1971: 15).