Part 1: What’s So Great About Our Constitution, Anyway?
Essay 21 – Equality
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”
– The Declaration of Independence
All men are created equal.
What does that mean? The differing interpretations of this concept is the cause of disputes on many, if not most, policy debates.
When the founders talked about equality, as in the Declaration of Independence, they were referring to the concept of equality as envisioned from the natural law insights of the enlightenment philosophy.
It means that all people are born with equal natural rights, such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
- that all people are equal in the eyes of the law, so that laws will be applied equally to all.
- that no person is born with a saddle on their back to be used by another person.
- that no person was born to rule another.
It does not mean:
- that all people will enjoy equal results.
- that all people will be equally successful in their pursuit of happiness.
- that all people deserve equal income or equal property.
While all people are created with equal rights such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, all people are also created with different individual strengths and weaknesses. That’s part of human nature.
All people are created with free-will, so part of the liberty that they equally have is the freedom to choose how they will use their individual strengths and weaknesses. Some will choose wisely and some will not. It is these choices made that are the biggest determination on how successful an individual is in their pursuit of happiness.
Much of the debate on policies are based on one side arguing that people should be made more equal in the results by government taking from those who are “well off” (higher taxes) and giving it to those who are not “as fortunate”, while the other side maintains that doing so infringes on the rights of those who make better decisions, work harder, take more risks, and generally prioritize their lives more effectively.
No matter how equal we all are in our natural rights and our legal rights, all other aspects of life will inevitably be unequal.
Some people will be born with better genes for intelligence and physical abilities, while others will work harder to achieve in these areas.
Some people will be more industrious, while others will choose to be lazy or more focused on having fun.
Some people will take more risks and gain more rewards from it. Others will seek stable, reliable employment.
Some people will be willing to relocate to better opportunities, while others will choose to stay put.
Each of these choices will affect the outcomes of each individual differently. Some will end up with more income, fame, or power, while others will struggle to make ends meet. But for the vast majority of people, this will all be determined by those choices that were individually and freely made throughout their lives.
Where we’ve gone wrong…
When government tries to interfere and make the outcomes “more equal”, many unintended consequences occur.
When property is taken from one group of people and given to another in the name of “equality”, it takes the incentive away from people to be more productive and take more risks. Why should they if it’s going to be taken away and given to those who do not work as hard or take as many risks?
In the end, this causes more animosity, more division, and less tranquility.
About this series:
The People Are Sovereign! is a series of 30 essays that will be posted on a daily basis. The series will continue tomorrow with Essay 22 – Educating the People
To view the previous essay in the series, click this link: Essay 20- More On Slavery
To view the next essay in the series, click this link: Essay 22- Educating the People