Thursday, April 28, 2016

Harvard Magazine: The Egalitarian

About Danielle Allen's newest book. A taste:
At the moment, no book is more visible or abundant at the gift shop of the National Archives in Washington, D.C., where more than a million visitors a year come to view the earliest copies of America’s founding documents, than Our Declaration—the most recent work by Danielle Allen, Ph.D. ’01. The title, appealing boldly to a spirit of national wholeness, is so prominent that it’s easy to overlook the argumentative note in its smaller subtitle: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality.

Allen, a recently appointed professor of government and director of Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, writes that in the past century, equality has been pushed to the side—by philosophers, politicians, and laypeople—in favor of its sibling, liberty: “I routinely hear from students that the ideals of freedom and equality contradict each other.” She rejects this notion that liberty and equality are on a seesaw, that one can rise only at the expense of the other. Instead, she contends, “Equality is the bedrock of freedom.” Her evidence? The Declaration of Independence, read line by line as a masterpiece of plain-language philosophy. The Declaration’s authors, she contends, were far from being libertarians in the modern sense. To the contrary: they were proud and eloquent egalitarians.

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