We've lost our way. Should we return to the beginning?
All people, being equal to each other, are endowed by their creator with certain rights. That is to say, All people are born with particular rights that cannot be taken from them and that they cannot give away. Having these essential and sure rights is a function of a person's existing in the real world, not a function of any achievement of her or his own or of someone's else's generosity or approval.
Incidentally, just as every individual may be confident of his or her having these rights, so is she or he obliged to recognize every other individual's corresponding rights. The essential human rights are common to all human individuals.
Among these unalienable rights, which all people have throughout their lives, are -
(1) the right to life,
(2) the right to liberty or freedom, and
(3) the right to what has been called "the pursuit of happiness."
That is to say, All people, from their birth from their mother's womb to their death, cannot be denied the opportunity to live and to continue to live. They may not lose their right to live in law, in policy, or in practice.
Also, all people cannot have taken from them their right to behave freely, doing what they want, where and when they want, so long as their freely chosen actions do not infringe upon the freedom of anyone else. Such freedom may not be denied in practice, in policy, or by law.
Also, every person has the unalienable right to strive to provide for herself or himself what is needed to live comfortably: safely, dependably, adequately. Denying someone this right is illegal, unethical, and immoral.
3These three rights are not necessarily the only inherent rights each of us has in equal measure as long as we shall live, but they are the only ones singled out for particular emphasis in our Declaration of Independence.
It only makes sense for every practice we observe, every policy we experience or enforce, every law on the books or under consideration to be assessed first and foremost by how well the practice, policy, or law supports everyone's equal rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Do our practices, policies, and laws governing education - for instance - provide equal opportunities for achievement to all Americans - to poor and rich, to new (legal) immigrants and descendants of immigrants of generations past (not to mention native Americans), to all those living in the rural South and the urban East, and so on and so forth? Do they? If not, why not, and how can we do a better job, without delay?
And what about health care? the judicial system? Are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all, equally, supported by the prevailing laws, policies, and practices in our country today? Whenever we look for ways to improve what we have now, is that the chief goal of every proposal we consider?
Why don't we hear of these fundamental principles in every political discussion in which we engage?