Evidence for the Self Evident
This is a column which is both overdue, and unnecessary.
It is unnecessary because any honest man of average intelligence can deduce the truth of the matter after a moment’s reflection, and those above average in less time.
It is overdue because for years, decades, and well-nigh a century now, sophists have been pretending not to understand the matter, or been deceived by such sophistry.
The matter of which I speak is whether or not we hold the truth to be self-evident that all men are created equal.
This phrase comes from the opening of the Declaration of Independence, penned by Thomas Jefferson, and gives in a few brief, clear, and stirring words, the entire political philosophy justifying a rebellion to replace monarchy with a republican form of government as best suited to defend the natural rights of man from trespass.
For many a year, all on the Left have openly or tacitly scorned this sacred principle of equality.
In order to abolish the republican form of government, the Left (and any malcontents following in their wake) must first desecrate and de-legitimize the very concept of equality.
Aside from the scorn, no argument properly so called can, has, or will be made against the self evident principle of the innate equality of all men before the law.
The only rhetorical sophistry raised against it springs from a deliberate misunderstanding of the meaning of the terms.
There are three terms to understand: self-evident, created, and equal. To undermine the sacred ideal of justice under law, the sophist must attack one or all.
To attack the concept of equality, all that the sophist can do, or does do, is use the word to refer to some sort of egalitarian parity which is called equal, but which has nothing to do with equality before the law.
Do not be fooled by the name. Egalitarianism is the mere opposite of equality before the law.
Egalitarianism is the theory that if men differ in success or wealth or strength, popularity or fame or intelligence or moral fiber, the state must act to subsidize, reward, and uplift the failures, and also handicap and punish the successful.
Equality before the law means that each man’s innate rights to his property or liberty are protected with a blind indifference to rank or privilege. A pauper’s hovel is as protected from entry without a search warrant as much as a millionaire’s mansion. The notorious have the same right to trial by jury as the famous. The ill-spoken has the same freedom of speech as the eloquent, the fool as much as the wise cannot be forbidden from printing his views in pamphlets or newspapers, the sinner and the saint may each serve God in the denomination as beseems him best. And so on.
Equality means that each man’s home is his castle, whether hovel or mansion, and not even the king may enter without leave. It does not mean each man’s home is no worse than his neighbor’s.
Equality does not mean that, in order to make all housing equal, both pauper and millionaire now live in the same dormitory owned by Caesar and paid for by the millionaire. That is egalitarianism.
Egalitarianism, I say again, is the mere opposite of equality: the rich are singled out and subjected to special taxes, regulation, and suspicion merely because they are rich, in order to lower him to equal poverty with the poor. The fool must be subsidized at public expense on national public radio, because he cannot compete with the wise on talk raid. Black criminals and thugs cannot be pursued by the police, or shot when resisting arrest, because then the Democrat Party will organize and fund a riot, bus in thugs, and burn down neighborhoods, starting with the pauper’s hovels.
In each case, equality before the law looks at the man’s individual guilt or innocence, and rewards and punishes with a blind disregard to popularity or political status. In each case, egalitarianism looks at the popularity or political status, punishes the unpopular and rewards the special, and disregards guilt or innocence.
Equality punishes the guilty for their guilt and rewards the innocent for their innocence. Egalitarianism punishes winners and rewards losers without regard for guilt or innocence.
Despite what you may have heard, equality and liberty are correlative and complementary concepts. Liberty consist of being free of trespass to your rights, that is, free of injustice, that is, free of being punished when innocent. In other words, liberty consists of being free from egalitarianism, or any other regime of unjust law.
The word unjust mean that the laws are not applied neutrally and objectively, which to say, equally.
Despite what you may have heard, equality and egalitarianism are opposite and inversely proportional. The more you have of one, the less you have of the other.
The more neutral and objective the law, the less it plays favorites or shows bias. The most the law plays favorites and shows bias, the less objective and neutral it is.
Egalitarianism is merely a biased system in reverse gear. A bias toward the unsuccessful, toward minorities, toward the downtrodden, is nevertheless a bias.
Affirmative action is a bias, that is, a grant of privilege at law by birth. It is, in fact, a racialist law, just as much as Jim Crow, and equally as unjust, no matter which race is on the receiving end of the injustice. It is Jim Crow in reverse gear, but no less deliberately and openly unfair and insolent in its injustice.
Those who claim this injustice is needed to correct former historical injustices speak words without meaning. There is, and logically cannot be, a law allowing one to break laws, a right to trespass on the rights of others, or a type of justice demanding injustices be done.
The correction for historical wrongs is in the charitable hearts of private men, not by the imposition of a regime of race privilege on those who have done no wrong to the benefit of those who merit no special reward.
But the Left both old and new harp on collective injustices done to arbitrarily defined groups of people sharing certain surface features, and they call this equality. The Left says equality must enact injustices, such as Affirmative Action, in order to punish the innocent White Men here in American who are descended from the Union Soldiers who gave their lives to free the Negro from slavery.
Some who (falsely) claim to be on the Right or (falsely) promote themselves as defender of the West agrees that this is precisely what the word equality means, and says that since it is an abominable injustice, the concept of equality is false, unscientific, absurd, ugly, and ungood.
Which one is more tenuously detached from anything resembling reality or common sense I leave as an exercise for the reader to decide.
One breed of sophist upholds egalitarianism while falsely labeling it equality, and the other condemns it, but both propagate the same false label.
Each time I have had the misfortune of engaging one of these sophists, I ask a simple question: What do you think Jefferson meant when he wrote the phrase “all men are created equal”?
Do you think he meant all men were created at birth with the same talents, natural advantages, innate intelligence, blessing of honesty and good character? Where all men born with the same inherited wealth or favored seat of land or possessions? Born to the same parents? Born with the same fortunes or misfortunes?
None has answered, nor will ever, because a dishonest answer to the question would be transparently false, and an honest answer would explode their argument.
The answer is that Jefferson, who was a genius even among a nation and generation replete with geniuses, could not possibly have meant all men were born with his intellect. He certainly did not mean all men are tempted by the same sins or surrender to them to an equal degree. As a man who both lived in a mansion on a plantation and suffered ruinous debts, he certainly did not think all men were born into the same wealth as his family. He did not think that the measurements of men by height or weight or muscular strength or any other physical property was identity to all human beings.
Obviously, he meant that their social class, that is, the privilege of rank legally awarded to a man by society to rule over other men, and to enjoy rights denied to others, is not something that is or could be his by birth.
Obviously, he was speaking of equality before the law, as distinguished from the English hierarchy of unequal laws that granted the ruling classes both rights (such as the right to bear arms, or a the right to a trial of a jury of his peers) denied to the servile classes.
Now, to attack this concept of natural equality, if the sophist is unsuccessful attacking the concept of equality, he attacks the concept of natural rights. The sophists must attack the concept of any rights being endowed by virtue of merely being human, that is, by endowed by birth.
Natural rights are innate, and do not come from manmade law. They are either recognized and protected by law, or ignored and trampled by law, but in either case they are inalienable and real.
They exist whether the law recognizes them or no: and we know when manmade laws are unequal hence unfair precisely when the law fails to recognize natural rights. Among these are a right to life, liberty, and property.
Technically, one has the natural right to pursue happiness by seeking lawfully to acquire property by trade or labor, but since this seeking were vain without a right to be secure in the fruits of one’s labor. Hence, the concept can be expressed either as a right to pursue happiness or a right to property. Either expression will convey the same idea.
Rather, since the sophists since they cannot attack the crucial distinction between rights and privileges gained merely by virtue of successfully being born, versus those acquired by virtue of some success of one’s own, they merely downplay, dismiss, or ignore them.
I honestly can recall not a single debate I have ever encountered on this point. It seems the sophists know better than to admit the distinction exists, for it also explodes their argument.
Americans living in a classless society are congenitally unable to comprehend what a hierarchical society is or is like. They confuse those differences bestowed by law with those differences not based on law.
If, in England, or in India, I am lawful born the son of a gentleman, or a Brahmin, that rank means the by birth certain laws and restrictions which apply to other men do not apply to me, and likewise that by birth certain privileged guaranteed at law apply to me but are denied to other men. If I am born a higher rank than you, then, in such societies under such laws, I am born to rule, and you are born to serve.
In such societies under such laws, no provision is made for the situation where you happen to be more suited to leadership, more mentally alert, physically strong, or morally straight, more popular or competent or what-have-you. Such factors simply do not matter. I did not earn my superior rank. There is no board of review. You did nothing to merit an inferior rank. You were conscripted at birth.
In such societies, the theory is that the blessings of rulership are bestowed by God, or fate, or karma, or some other supernatural cosmic principle to whom obedience is owed. Hence in India, your obedience to karma defines your obedience to the Brahmin, since karma places the higher caste above yours. Likewise in England, your obedience to God defines your obedience to the king and his nobles, who are of a favored class God placed above your class. The will of God in such cases is divined by the oracle of war, for whoever is descended from the victors of invasion or civil war forms the aristocracy.
The Leftist in the modern generation accepts this same logic and reverses it. Their argument rests on treating a man as being owed good at the expense of other men, or being granted civic rights other men are denied, on the grounds that the man’s group has some special privilege it earned, perhaps through suffering some injustice mentioned in history books, such as slavery, and meanwhile that the other men who bear the burden of paying for these extra privileges are members of a second group, who lost their right to property or civic rights though some widespread criminal act by ancestors, such as conquest or invasion or buying men as slaves from members of the first group.
In other words, the argument rests on treating an artificial legal privilege as if it were a natural individual right. It is a monstrous contradiction in terms of the finest and clearest caret.
Now, by definition, elevating a man or a group to positions of command based on their birth is not raising them based on their merit. Even if he comes from a family with a long line of distinguished and accomplished leaders, if the rank is rewarded by dint of birth, it is not his by merit. The merit of having meritorious ancestors is not a quality he earns or expresses on his own.
This is true even if the trait sought in leaders were a genetic one. In this man’s one case, the gene in him might be recessive, or nullified by the action of an enzyme not otherwise occurring in his ancestry, and therefore cannot be known to be present at birth, hence the reward for having it cannot be passed to him until he proves he has it.
Hence the rank awarded to the children of the ruling class is endowed by an artifice of the law in defiance of individual merit. It is not something existing in nature which the law merely recognizes and protects.
Hence again, by definition, whatever is awarded by an artifice of the law, and does not belong to a man by his nature, hence can not be his by birth.
It is not logically possible that a privilege conferred solely by law be innate or inborn.
A baby born on Robinson Crusoe’s Island might have greater innate strength or brainpower or moral fiber than his younger twin brother born two minutes later, but nothing in nature can grant him the right to inherit the right to rule his brother, or impose on his brother the obligation to obey.
The sole property all humans possess in common is, by definition, their common humanity. Therefore any natural right of any man must be common to all men. Logically, a right to life and liberty and to be secure in the possession of the fruits of one’s labor can and must be common, since these do not interfere with each other. A right to trespass on the rights and possessions of other cannot be, since these cannot help but interfere with each other.
Consider this: for any privilege conferred by law at birth, the baby does not need to be present to testify, nor to be examined, by any judge. He does not even have to have been born yet. The decision can be made entirely by having the judge examine the legitimacy of the marriage of his parents, and their bloodline, and so on.
But for any other question of guilt or innocence in tort or crime, the man himself must be present. Witnesses and evidence concern his acts or lapses.
No man can be guilty for the guilt of his parents or ancestors, nor does any man get a medal because his father was a hero, nor does he gain canonization because his mother was a saint.
Let us suppose that all Irishmen are disenfranchised of the vote on the argument that their race does not have the gene which allows one to make calm and mature political decisions. Suppose also that forty, or ten, or five, or one Irishman presents himself at the polling place, and shows by such signs as are unambiguous that he is calm and mature in political decisions. If he is allowed to vote after passing the calmness and maturity test, it is no grounds to deny him a vote to say that many men of his family, clan and tribe cannot pass the test. The same could be said of any family, clan, and tribe.
(Expanding the group to whom you belong until it contains sufficient numbers to invalidate your rights is particularly arbitrary is it is your enemy, and not you, who gets to identify with what group you identify. Should Spanish atheists be blamed for the historical ills of the Spanish Inquisition?).
Even if he is the sole member of his tribe able to pass the test, it is no justification to deny him the rights granted those who pass the test to say that the number of those among his cousins and ancestors who cannot pass is high. He still passed. His merit cannot be denied based on the demerits of his kin.
The final point of confusion rests on the phrase self-evident.
Some take this to mean that the concept of equality before the law is obvious, or is known and upheld by all men ancient and modern. The rather unconvincing argument is made that if it were self-evident, it would be known to all and disputed by none.
That is not what the phrase means. Self-evident means that the statement is to constructed that the warrant for its belief, that is, its evidence, rests within itself. No other axioms need be granted: it contains its own warrant.
Hence the statement “All Englishmen are men” is a self-evident statement. “Two magnitudes equal to a third are equal to each other” is a self-evident statement. “I am thinking therefore I am” is a self-evident statement.
Once the terms are understood, the sentence, just by being spoken, proves itself. For example, “Englishman” means “A man from England.”
The statements are self-proving because uttering the opposite statement involves a self-contradiction. For example, assuming the term is not being used ambiguously (for example, I am not calling the English cowards or something of the sort) the statement that Englishmen are not men is a clear logical contradiction of itself.
Likewise for equal yet unequal magnitudes, or non-existent yet existent thinkers, and so on.
Now, some might be tempted to believe that any idea not known from earliest prehistory could not be self-evident. This temptation must be resisted, for it is simply silly. No statement is spoken until someone speaks it. This does not mean people believed in the inequality of equal magnitudes before Euclid, nor in non-existing thinkers before Descartes. At most it means their expressions of these concepts, if they expressed them at all, were not as clear.
So, here. The phrase “all men are created equal” is self-evident once the terms are properly understood, that is, understood in the way Jefferson, and all honest men, understand them.
We have already studied the meaning of the words. Created means having an innate or natural right by birth. Equality means equal before the law. “All men are created equal” means all men, by birth and without needing to do anything during his life to earn it, are entitled to equal treatment under the law, that is, that the guilty will be punished on the basis of guilt alone, and the innocent rewarded on the basis of innocence.
As with the other examples, the statement is self-proving because uttering the opposite statement involves self-contradiction. In this case, the opposite of equality on natural rights before the law would be subjecting men to unequal laws, which, as we have seen above, means doling out rewards and punishments regardless of guilt or innocence, which in turn means singling such men out for injustice, which in turn means trespassing on their rights.
Now, who in all justice merits being punished under the law? Only the guilty. Hence, who merits such punishment naturally, that is to say, by birth? Only those born guilty.
Hence if the statement “all men are created equal” is false, then the statement “some men are born guilty” which is the same as saying, “some men committed crimes, torts, or other blameworthy acts at or before birth, hence before action is possible.”
But the nonexistent actor is as much as self-disproving and logically absurd concept as the equal yet unequal magnitude or as the nonexistent yet existent thinker.
Yet again, if the statement “all men are created equal” is false, then the statement “it is just for laws to be unequally applied” is true. But we have already seen that unequal application of laws is the very definition of injustice.
Hence, substituting one term for the other, the statement “it is just for laws to be unequally applied” means “unjust laws are just” which means “injustice is just.” But this statement must be false, for it proves itself false by its own terms.
And, as we have already seen, the opposite of a self-contradictory falsehood is a self-evident truth.
This is true even if we take the harder case sadly common in history.
Let us suppose that the privileges derived from the legal system erected by a conquering race are needed, as a matter of cruel necessity, to keep the conquered and servile race unarmed and docile. By the nature of the case, such privileges are a legal artifice, not something derived by the nature of man and innate to all men.
Hence, even if such legal systems were excused by necessity (and I am not arguing that they are or are not) such privileges running to the sons of the conquerors are not innate, that is, not their own solely on the grounds of being created human. For the sons of the servile race as just as human, just as equal in humanity, as they.
If the argument were to be made that the conquerors in an areas had to maintain a class hierarchy, or maintain martial law with strict curfews, and curtain freedom of speech and the ownership of arms in order to prevent mutiny and anarchy, even here, the conquerors are not claiming that their sons inherit the privileges of the higher class based on any merit of the son. Like any property passed through inheritance, it is a gift of the father.
Likewise, the argument against 100% estate tax is not that it deprives the heirs of something properly their own: the proper argument is that it deprives the deceased of a right properly his own, namely, his right to dispose of his property by last testament.
So even here, even if we granted the rather cruel and cynical argument that some nations must have unjust laws and rigid class privileges to survive the turmoil of impending anarchy, it cannot be argued that the men in those nations were therefore not created equal.
The prospective rebels among the servile class are being proactively penalized, and their dangerous rights trampled and suppressed, due to the fear (whether reasonable or not) of the ruling class.
Even in such a case as this, the proposition that all men are created equal is self-evident. The inequality in a class society is manmade for the cynically pragmatic purpose of securing to the conquerors peaceful enjoyment of their plunder, and demoralization of their disarmed and servile underlings. The equality still exists, and is still self-evident. It is merely not recognized at law.
The inequality, even if we allow inequality by law, is an artifact of the conquering race to preserve its domination. It inequality is artificial, manmade, extrinsic. The innate equality of man is not artificial but innate, inborn, intrinsic.
Ergo saying “All men are not created equal” when the words are properly understood, means nothing more than “Injustice is unjust” nothing more than “rights bestowed by nature are not bestowed by man” It is a tautology.
And, to emphasize the point, the rights bestowed by nature, those things that are yours merely by being human and for no other reason, are not a reward for any act of yours, since they attach at or before birth. No baby earns a right to life by some effort of his own.
And if he has a right to life, a fortiori has has a right to liberty and property, as he cannot live independently without property, and likewise cannot acquire property independently without liberty.
(Dependents, such as children, live at the goodwill of others, such as parents, but are not secure in their rights until reaching the age of independence.)
The right to life is unearned; a gift from the Creator. It is innate to his being as a human being. Manmade laws can protect this right or trespass on it, but cannot bestow or alienate such a right.
The reason why the sophists strain so mightily to obfuscate, mislabel, and distract from the plain truth of the matter actually is self-evident.
No man, not even an ancient whose society was built on glaring inequalities of class or caste, repudiated the core concept of equality before the law. Their apologetics, if they bothered to invent any, were based on awarding to the race, clan, or conquering group some higher privilege allegedly earned by divine favor, karma, a right of conquest, or a general right of civilized societies over barbarians.
In such apologetics, servitude was usually characterized as penal, perhaps recompense for engaging in a lost war or rebellion.
Cowardice in battle was using in ancient times as the excuse; lack of intellect or moral enlightenment is used in modern.
But such arguments, again, are always collective, and make no provision for the exceptions to the general rule, even when the exceptions are in the majority.
Such is the elliptical sophistry of collectivism: some or most of the members of a group I have defined to include you are unwise in their voting patterns, ergo you must be deprived of a vote. some or most of the members of a group I have defined to include you sabotaged German efforts during the Great War, or kept slaves before the Civil War. You are guilty of the wrongdoings I ascribe to them, but not innocent based on what you yourself have done or failed to do.
Never mind that the ancient arguments actually were addressed to the children of slaves whose actual fathers had been actually conquered, whereas in the modern era, a white man whose greatgrandfather fought in the Union Army to free the slaves, is made a second class citizen in college admissions and government contracts behind a Negro from the coast of Africa whose greatgrandfather captured and sold slaves. And this is done allegedly in the name of intergenerational reparations.
The discussion about the self evident nature of the natural equality of man might have been needed in the era of Monarchy, or when Soviet Russia was a going concern, and despots of one sort or another claimed that royal birth or loyalty to the proletarian gave them the power of life and death over their inferiors.
But in the current era, such a discussion is far less necessary. The matter is long settled.
Collectivism has been proved false, wicked, and ruinous in its every modern iteration: the historical examples of evils done by National Socialists, Communists, Fascists, Race-warmongers, Class-warmongers, and general hate-peddlers of every breed is so obvious that even the hate-peddler and racist is reduced lamely to accusing his innocent victims of being hate-peddlers and racists.
The idea is so entirely discredited, that even those who uphold it, dare not cease to pretend they uphold the opposite.
The truth of the principal of equality before the law is indeed self-evident, and so much so that those who seek to undermine the concept, even after wearying themselves writing long books on the matter, somehow never manage to address the concept under discussion.