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  • Not All Equality is Equal: What Does Equality Mean?

    People are obsessed with equality (or the lack thereof) these days. Outraged about inequality of income, the self-described 99 percent took to urban camping to berate the top 1 percent of income earners. In his State of the Union Address, President Obama trotted out Warren Buffett’s secretary to underscore the injustice that the rich and poor do not have an equal tax burden—supposedly, the rich have too much and pay too little.

    On one level, a certain concern with inequality is understandable in a nation such as ours, founded on the self-evident truth of equality. The Declaration of Independence proclaims “that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.”

    But, is the Declaration of Independence’s definition of equality the same as the current understanding of equality?

    When the Declaration of Independence proclaims all men to be created equal, it means that all human beings, regardless of religion, sex, or skin color, possess the same natural rights. The Founders were well aware that different people are unequal in physical and mental capacities. But however noticeable the differences between people may be, they are never so great as to deprive them of their rights. No one, no matter how intelligent or capable he or she may be, can claim the right to rule others. Since all men and women share a common human nature, they are all therefore equally entitled to the same natural rights (such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness).

    Today, many people think that equal rights are not enough and demand equality of results. They view any inequalities, whether in income or educational attainment, as a sign of injustice. Such claims are misguided. Because we are all different, inequalities are the natural result of living in a free society. Whether through luck, skill, or determination, some people will always succeed more than others. And others will fail. As long as no one’s rights are being denied, inequalities are perfectly normal and desirable expressions of natural diversity.

    This question was reprinted from the new First Principles page at Heritage.org. For more answers to frequently asked questions, visit the Q&A.

    Posted in Featured, First Principles [slideshow_deploy]

    9 Responses to Not All Equality is Equal: What Does Equality Mean?

    1. West Texan says:

      Typical of far left social progressive loons to twist the founding generation's meaning of equality. It fits their partial wants and desires. Whether purposely or not, they take for granted America's "equal" protection and opportunities that 18th century Britons were denied under England's system of nobility.

    2. CJ paul says:

      This perverted view of equality is being used to pervert our government and diminish liberty in the name of the collective good!

    3. Lloyd Scallan says:

      Under Obama and the Democrats rule, equality has only one meaning. All their subjects are under the control of the government elites. Everyone is equal, accept the elites. It's called COMMUNISM!

    4. MArk Burtschi says:

      Equality of results, how cool. Last night's thrilling overtime game would have ended in a 100 to 100 tie after 10 overtimes. We all would know who would win the SUperbowl this weekend, everyone of course. And how about all those lottery winners last week; everyone who bought a ticket was a winner.

      The logical implcation of equality of benefits plays towards a Shangri-La for all. Could it be so bad?

      I will never forget the statement of that motivational speaker who siad he preferred hustle, bustle and stress of achievement to the stale calm of utopia.

    5. Jim, CT says:

      Equality of rights, including being equally free from warrant-less search and seizure, would prohibit government profiling of Muslims at airports in search of terrorists carrying concealed weapons.

      It wouldn't stop a private security firm from profiling, because competition would ensure a check on abuses, but equality of rights would prohibit the government from doing it.

    6. Brad - Detroit says:

      "All animals are equal, although some animals are more equal than others." – Orwell, Animal Farm.

    7. Glenn Bergen says:

      Equality of Results, Let's see, if we could charter a weekend Gambler's Special flight to Las Vegas, and all the occupants on the flight were guests of the "Progressive Hotel/Casino". Upon check-in, you were informed that at the casino, you had the same odds of winning the same amount of money as everyone in the casino, and you would return home no richer or poorer. NOW, there's a money-making operation. Wonder why Las Vegas hasn't thought of that?

    8. Andrew s. says:

      equal rights should be for everyone that's why its called EQUAL rights. You should not take money from the people who make money and make an honest living and give it to the unemployed "lazy' portion of society who just want things given to them.

    9. Jiveinthe415 says:

      When I saw this blog post, I thought I would learn something. And yet – there is no firm conclusion or facts to support the authors assertion's. Ms. Shaw says that "many people view inequalities in income and education as an injustice." Who exactly are you writing about and who views life through such a narrow lense? When you say "inequalities are perfectly normal and desirable expressions of natural diversity" you didn't do your homework., and this is lpure conjecture with no citations of fact to support your argument. You have no idea what equality means at all. I would suggest you speak with Senator Vitter – as I just heard him give a very impassioned speech about equality that encompasses economic equality and opportunities, religious equality, racial equality, gender equality, equal pay, etc etc and the positive effects on economic growth, and increased economic opportunities for all – which is consistent with libertarian and conservative research.

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