What is Equality?

President Obama recently spoke to the Human Rights Campaign about "equality."  Here is how he began his speech:

Thank you so much, all of you. It is a privilege to be here tonight to open for Lady GaGa. I've made it.  (Laughter.) I want to thank the Human Rights Campaign for inviting me to speak and for the work you do every day in pursuit of equality on behalf of the millions of people in this country who work hard in their jobs and care deeply about their families -- and who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. [Emphasis added.]

I don't know much about the singer Lady GaGa. But I do know a little about equality: there is no such thing.

The myth of equality started in the late 18th century. The successful American Revolution (which had nothing to do with equality) guaranteed "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." The failed French Revolution promised "Liberté, égalité, fraternité," (liberty, equality, fraternity). It disintegrated into the Reign of Terror.

The French discovered (long before the Soviets and the Communist Chinese) that equality among human beings is impossible. Utopians on the left continue to ignore those lessons.

Our Founding Fathers were fully aware of the dangers of the state trying to impose "equality" on its citizens. The specific word "equality" does not appear, anywhere, in either the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. Variations of the word "equal" ("equal" and "equally") appear twice in the Declaration of Independence and eight times in the Constitution. Let's take a look at the appropriate appearances of the word "equal" in our founding documents.

The two appearances of the word "equal" in the Declaration of Independence both refer to a "starting point" for human beings under the law. The first line of the Declaration of Independence reads in part:

"... to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them ..." [Emphasis added.]

In other words, if people are not treated equally before the law by their government, they may "dissolve the political bands." Stated differently, if all citizens do not have equal protection under the law, they have a right to overthrow the regime. This has nothing to do with the state making people equal, or forcing them to be equal, or guaranteeing that all citizens are equal - this is a revolutionary statement about overthrowing an unjust regime.

The second use is the famous one:

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.

Our Founding Fathers believed that we have the same rights "coming out of the box," so to speak. But after that ... all bets are off. The government protects only three things: life, liberty and property.[i] It does not make us equal. God takes care of that.

Let's move to the Constitution. Of the eight appearances of the words "equal" or "equally" in the Constitution, seven of them are about technical voting procedures or holding office, or some other "rule of order" for the internal process of governing.[ii] (Keep in mind the word "equality" appears nowhere in the Constitution.) Only once does the word "equal" apply to all citizens. It appears in the first section of the 14th Amendment:

...nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. [Emphasis added.]

Here we vividly see that the duty of the state is not to make people "equal." The obligation of the state is to protect life, liberty, and property. It does this by trying to insure us, as citizens, equal protection under the law.

The Founding Fathers knew that it was impossible to make human beings equal. People have a variety of talents, skills, and aptitudes. The freedom to pursue those differences among us is what has made our country great. In fact, the Founding Fathers, in #10 of the Federalist Papers, said as much:

The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government. From the protection of different and unequal faculties of acquiring property, the possession of different degrees and kinds of property immediately results; and from the influence of these on the sentiments and views of the respective proprietors, ensues a division of the society into different interests and parties. [Emphasis added.]

The promise of the Constitution is that when a stronger (or wealthier) party (or faction) illegally takes advantage of a weaker (or poorer) party, the weaker party will have protection equal to the stronger party under the law. That is how our system is supposed to work.

Every effort to impose equality has ended, to paraphrase George Orwell, making all people equal ... but some people more equal than others. In almost all socialist and communist countries this has been attempted through force by the state. Wealth is confiscated from the rich and redistributed to the poor to achieve "equality." Yet those running the state always end up with more wealth and power than the state's now "equal" citizens.

In his infamous radio address of 2001, Barack Obama flatly stated his disagreement with our constitutional system:

But, the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society. To that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn't that radical. It didn't break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution.... [T]he civil rights movement became so court focused I think there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalition of powers through which you bring about redistributive change.

Attempts to enforce equality through "redistributive change" are not only unconstitutional; they are efforts to impose upon the masses a Utopian pipe dream. Such efforts have failed everywhere they have been attempted.  Wealth may be redistributed, but it does not, and cannot, make people equal. The attempt will fail here, in America, under President Obama.

Larrey Anderson is submissions editor of American Thinker.

[i]"Property" was replaced by "the pursuit of Happiness" in the final draft of the Declaration of Independence." It was clear that property, in itself, was not an unalienable right, but the pursuit of it was. The government cannot and should not guarantee an unalienable right to property since property can and should be freely traded. (If I buy a house and miss my payments, I don't have an unalienable right to a house I have not paid for.)

[ii] Those seven words appear in the following sections of the Constitution:

Twice in Article I, Section 3; three times in Article II, Section 1; once in the 5th Amendment; once in the 23rd Amendment.