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Some are more equal than others.

"Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world..."

That's the start of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The document spells out those rights seen as fundamental to each person on the planet..

Throughout the long struggle for those rights, the concept of equality has been central.

The French revolutionaries fought for Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite ("Liberty, Equality, Fraternity")

The writers of the United States Declaration of Independence declared that: "VVe hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal..."

Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms tells us that: "Every individual is equal before and under the law..."

But, as Napoleon the pig declared inAnimal Farm, George Orwell's satire of power and corruption, while all animals are equal, "Some are more equal than others."

Nowhere is inequality more obvious than in the sharing of the world's resources. By comparison with the majority of the world's population, Canadians enJoy a fabulously luxurious standard of living.

Let's look at a few examples of what we might call Earth's Inequality Index:

* 20% of the world's children do not attend school;

* The richest 20% of the world's population has 83% ofthe world's wealthy. The poorest 20% of the world's population has 1.4% of the world's wealth;

* In rich countries such as Canada, eight infants die before age five out of every 1,000 born;

* Among least developed nations such as Sierra Leone, 173 infants out of each 1,000 born die before their fifth birthdays; and,

* While 88 million Americans are overweight, 800 million people elsewhere in the world do not have enough to eat.

U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave us a warning about where such inequality can lead. In his last State of the Union Address in 1944, he said that: "Necessitous men are not free men. People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made."

President Roosevelt argued that true individual freedom could not exist alongside poverty. He proposed the adoption of an Economic Bill of Rights. But, the idea didn't go very far; those who had, did not much like the idea of sharing with those who had not.

A few people in the rich world still call for governments to step in and bring about a more equal sharing of global resources. But, their numbers are small, and their voices are drowned out by the chorus rising from corporate boardrooms -- "A rising tide lifts all boats." Business will create so much wealth that all humans will enjoy economic freedom.

In other words, government should stand aside and turn free enterprise loose to do the job.
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Title Annotation:United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights and world economic inequality
Publication:Canada and the World Backgrounder
Article Type:Editorial
Date:May 1, 1997
Previous Article:The nanny state.
Next Article:Gift of nature?

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