“All men are created equal” is a phrase with which we are all familiar, but what does it really mean?
That question must be answered if we are to accept this statement as true and accurate.
Let’s first eliminate some of the areas in which we are not equal.
We are obviously not equal in status or position. If we were, there would be no need for this conversation.
We are also not equal in skills or abilities.
What of potential? Perhaps in one sense, but how do we compare two individuals’ potential when their skills or abilities are completely different?
Many think that people are equal in worth, but does that mean that a good person is worth no more than an evil one? Is not the person who seeks to help others while harming no one worth more than the evil one who intentionally harms others, yet helps few or none? Can not a person change their own worth based on the actions they choose to take?
So how are people really created equal? They are equal by virtue of the natural rights which they possess. This simple fact is one of the critical keys to understanding the founding documents which contain the premise that all are created equal. We all have a right to the following: Life, Property, Communicating our opinions, Self-defense, Self-determination, and a few others. We do not have the right to acquire these things from another, as to do so would be to violate their rights and, by so doing, treat them as if they were less than equal to us in terms of being able to enjoy their natural rights.
A good understanding in how we are equal in regard to the possession of natural rights, and nothing else, is crucial to our ability to understand not only what the founding documents mean, but why they were deemed necessary and the context within which they should be interpreted.
One of the biggest fears of the Founders was that one group of people would gain the means to abuse the rest of the population by disregarding their natural rights and taking from the population what was desired by the ruling group. This is the reason that Life, Liberty and Property were held in such a high regard. Consider, if no laws were written which transferred any amount of Life, Liberty or Property from one person to another, most of the laws on the books would not exist. For us all to be equal as stated, the only valid laws are those which reinforce our natural rights, as any law which does otherwise, and is allowed to stand, invalidates the most important premise upon which our very Liberty rests.