John Locke (from his Treatises of Government, 1690):
“Though I have said above ‘That all men by nature are equal,’ I cannot be supposed to understand all sorts of equality.”
He then enumerates as sources of legitimate inequality “age and virtue,” “excellency of parts/and merit,” birth, benefits received, etc. Equality is confined to the “natural freedom” of not being subjected to authority without consent. Governmental authority, however, has the one and only end of the “preservation of property.”
This idea of “equal opportunity,” not “equality in every aspect of life,” is what the Founders had in mind when they conceived and wrote the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution. We are all equally born with a God-given right to government by consent, says John Locke. It is up to us to make use of that right to achieve our goals without infringing on the rights of others.