“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” (Jefferson)
“There is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequal people.” (Jefferson)
These two quotations from Jefferson are not in conflict. They illustrate the founder’s view that we are all equally human in nature and possess equal unalienable rights (which are the government’s role to secure). Our founders were deeply committed to creating a society that was not driven by an aristocracy – a society where who one’s father was, or whom one married would no longer matter (or at a minimum, matter less than it had historically mattered throughout the world). They fully recognized that talent and ambition was widely distributed – and unequal – throughout society and set about eliminating historical privileges that tended to restrict the rise of talent – from wherever it came from.
Equality of opportunity is not the same as equality of outcome, and governmental efforts to level the playing field in an effort to bring about equal outcomes from among unequal participants are inherently unfair because they abridge the liberty of one in favor of another. A natural consequence of unequal talents, ambition and work ethic in a free society is unequal outcomes. One of our nation’s most prominent economists Milton Friedman said: “A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both.”
Equality is about Opportunity, not outcome.