The United States Declaration of Independence asserts that “all men are created equal,” and “endowed…with certain unalienable rights,” including rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. There are two important things here: first, equality; second, its implication – basic rights.
Not all societies have believed that people are born equal. Caste, slave, religious, and aristocratic societies have found some superior and others inferior by birth. Human equality, as a political idea, is a product of the Western liberal political tradition, starting, roughly, in the seventeenth century. Thomas Hobbes, one of the founders of this tradition, said, in Leviathan (1651), that the question of who is “better” has no place in the condition of nature, where all men are equal. John Locke, a generation later (1689), also asserted that all are equal, born with the same faculties and capacities. For this reason, no one is superior by nature and no one has rightful authority over anyone...
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