Egalitarianism and the Warren Court

As late as 1966, an English philosopher could say that the word “equality,” unlike the words “freedom,” “liberty,” and “justice,” was not a “value word” but only a descriptive one. He was not denigrating the term or the concept. He was saying that “when people talk about equality in a political or moral context what they really mean to talk about is some closely evaluative concept, such as impartiality or justice.” What may have been true in England in 1966 was only partially true in the United States. While the word “equality” may still be used here to invoke other notions, it has now developed charisma-to use another word that became popular at the same time. Equality is the banner behind which there have been, both literally and figuratively, many marchers. In constitutional terms, “equality” has become the first freedom. It is a goal-a value-in itself that, to many, needs little or no justification.