We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed … Declaration of Independence
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Abraham Lincoln Opening words of the Gettysburg Address
It is a perversion of terms to say that a charter gives rights. It operates by a contrary effect — that of taking rights away. Rights are inherently in all the inhabitants; but charters, by annulling those rights, in the majority, leave the right, by exclusion, in the hands of a few. … They…consequently are instruments of injustice. The fact therefore must be that the individuals themselves, each in his own personal and sovereign right, entered into a contract with each other to produce a government: and this is the only mode in which governments have a right to arise, and the only principle on which they have a right to exist. Thomas Paine in The Rights of Man
There are three forms of equality: equality of outcome, of opportunity, and of perception. Equality of perception is the most basic: it dictates that for people to be equal, each person should be perceived as being of equal worth. Equality of opportunity dictates that all people should have the same opportunities open to them if they put out the effort this is a central tenet of the “American Dream.” The final form of equality, equality of outcome, attempts to “level the playing field” by forcing people into certain roles and dictates that all individuals should tend towards the mean this form of equality is evident in socialist theory. Anthology of Ideas Blog – April 27, 2008
About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers. — Calvin Coolidge
So what did the founders mean when they stated in the Declaration – “All men are created equal.” Clearly, as any one who has been in the workplace, visited a mall, or talked to more than himself, knows – some people are dumb, some are smart, some are fat, and some are thin. About the only thing they have in common is, ironically, their individuality. Everybody is different. With 6 billion some odd people on the planet, no two share the same fingerprints. So, then how can things which are obviously different, be equal?
Well, there is one aspect of human beings which is not immediately apparent. But it was this aspect that the Founders had in mind when they crafted the Declaration and the Constitution. That aspect is value.
Now one might ask, how can that be? Surely society values people differently. The fortune-500 CEO and the NBA basketball star are evidently worth more than lady at the hair salon or the mechanic who fixes your car. The Jonas Salk who cures polio must be worth more to society than the landscaper that does your lawn.
And this gets to the crux of the matter. People have a value that is not derived from their contribution to society, their appearance, their intellect, or any apparently “rational” measure. The value of a human being is inherent, regardless of circumstance. It does not come from being part of a collective, the servant of the state, the subject of a king, or even from “saving the planet”. No, the value of a human being comes from their Creator. God does not value people based on the measures that man uses.
The Founders recognized this fact and used God’s measure rather than their own. If people are instilled with a value that cannot be denied, then a just government recognizes this value and proceeds from the premise that this value is equal.
When we lose sight of God’s measure and apply our own, we fall into the trap of trying to “fix” the inherent inequality of ability or “faculties” as Bastiat said. In short we try to force solutions. Without a long-term view of existence, we are left with an extremely short span of time in which to live, and a God-shaped hole in life.
Nature abhors a vacuum. So, those who call themselves Progressives, Communists, Socialists, etc, struggle to find meaning in demeaning the value of life. In the name of social justice, we got things like eugenics. If the state has to fill the hole left by abandoning Godly principle, then it follows that in the name of “fairness” some have to be punished to achieve man’s vision of equality.
Never mind that such experiments have never worked. The didn’t work in Nazi Germany, Communist China, the Soviet Union, or revolutionary France. In such attempts at forcibly ordering society have resulted in the deaths of an estimated 100 million in China alone. This doesn’t count the Holocaust, the Harvest of Sorrow in the Soviet Union, or the slaughter of millions of the unborn. If people don’t have equal value, much can be justified.
The only way in which such value can be justified is if it is of an external unworldly nature. Our entire system of government hinges upon this core tenet. If everyone’s freedom of action is equally important, then true justice prevails. But, when the government seeks to take from one to equalize and outcome for another it commits an error not justified by the result. Only in a society bereft of morality do the ends justify the means.
We have the first government in history that was based on the principle that human beings are created with equal value. So, on this July Fourth, let’s remember that.