Liberal Equality: America Living Up to the Ideal Over Time Essays

Liberal Equality: America Living Up to the Ideal Over Time Essays

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To what extent has the US realized its liberal ideals in practice, both historically and in contemporary times?

Not every essence of liberal thought got put into American practice. The founders conceived of universal male suffrage, as long as the males were not slaves, and not women. Race and sex inequality would continue a long way into the future, and are indeed still sorting out today. However, the rights laid down by the founders would later be applied to these “minority” groups, and as such are vital to understand. The roots of the country delve deeply into liberal thought, and within these liberal thoughts is the idea that all people should be equal before the law and equal in the voting booths, where they can then make their own decisions and pilot their own destiny.

To ask what liberal ideas the United States has followed and espoused is to ask the question, what are the liberal ideas? Generally, then, people point to the Bill of Rights, which lays down what things are allowed, such as free speech and the right to bear arms. People turn to these guaranteed rights all the time when arguing their actions. However, more philosophically, the framework of the American liberal tradition is the Declaration of Independence. Therein lays the famous line: “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.” All of America’s classical liberalism begins there. However, this had its own roots in earlier traditions and political discourses. John Locke said that a man has “by nature a power, not only to preserve his property, that is, his life, liberty, and estate...


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...wing all to vote and limiting all to the same laws. As King said, “A just law is a code that a majority compels on a minority to follow that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal.” The only way to guarantee the creation of such laws is to allow the minority to have access to the vote, not just the majority. Alone, a majority will look out only for its own good; if the minority has a public voice, it can call for moderation, compromise, and equality. Inequality still exists in the true workings of the people, although not in law. However, it is slowly ending; my generation was raised in schools that finally taught that all men and women are created equal before the law, and in more biologic ways as well. We are all the same race, we are all human, and to abridge some is to harm the whole. Someday, full equality will be realized by all in America.

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