The Declaration of Independence connects equality, freedom, and opportunity 

July 03, 2024 | By ANASTASIA BODEN

In recent years, the page on Pacific Legal Foundation’s website that has drawn the most visitors isn’t about any of our Supreme Court cases or a hotly debated news story. It’s a six-year-old blog post by a former PLF attorney titled “The Declaration of Independence (made easy).” The premise is simple and fantastic: translating the Declaration into plain, modern English. 

“It is obvious that all people have the right to equal treatment,” the author writes, “and that all enjoy rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness that can be neither taken nor given away. The only legitimate purpose of government is to make sure that these individual rights are protected.” The post translates all 1,320 words of the original Declaration in this way, including the colonists’ 27 grievances against the king. 

Why does a plain reading of the Declaration draw so much interest? My guess is a heady curiosity: Not every country can trace its founding to a short document. There’s mystery and majesty in the Declaration—in what the colonists said, in so few words, to create a new country with a unique identity that stands to this day.  

When web visitors find this blog post—or when someone reads the original text or visits the Declaration itself at the National Archives—there is one key point I hope they take away from our founding document. 

The Declaration connects equality, freedom, and opportunity. “[T]hat all men are created equal” is the first truth listed in the Declaration; next is that we have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  

In other words: Every human being must be equally free to pursue the opportunities that fulfill them. We must be equally free to strive for the things we want. The circumstances of a person’s birth—where they’re born, their race, or who their parents are—do not cap what they’re capable of, because we are born with equal liberty to pursue our dreams. Our birthright is space to try to succeed unencumbered by government barriers, let alone barriers based on arbitrary characteristics. That’s what Pacific Legal Foundation fights for when we challenge unjust restrictions on entrepreneurs or race-based government preferences.  

Our country has not always lived up to the promise of its beginning. But the American experiment is an attempt to live up to those ideals, to become more perfect, and to treat all people with the dignity and freedom needed to pursue their own conception of a good life.  

The Declaration establishes equality, freedom, and opportunity as the DNA strands of the country—and that’s what we celebrate on Independence Day.