Sunday, November 15, 2009

Created Equal

Andrew and I are reading Whatever Happened to Justice. The book starts with the assertion from the Declaration of Independence that "All men are created equal."

In recent years, we have heard that equality means that poor people who can't afford a mortgage should not be prevented from home ownership. We've heard that equality means that it's not fair that some kids attend schools with just the basics while others go to super-duper schools with all the amenities. We've heard that equality means that everyone has a right to health care and food and electricity/fuel.

And yet, the original "All men are created equal" meant that everyone is treated equally with regard to the law's demands. It's not about equal possessions or equal opportunity or equal results. Rich or powerful people are not exempted from the law just because of their privileged position. Likewise, poor people are not exempted from the law because of their need. "All men are created equal" simply means that
-- a thief is not excused because of an impoverished upbringing, and
-- a legislator is not given a "pass" on his drunk-driving.

Amazing how a simple little phrase can be turned inside out and upside down. You'd almost think it was 1984.

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