Within the libertarian tradition, equality has primarily signified an equality of individual rights. This idea, which took centuries to develop, owed a good deal to post-Renaissance interest in the ancient philosophies of Stoicism and Epicureanism.

Stoics, working from the premise that all human beings possess the faculty of reason, maintained that each individual had an equal ability to live a virtuous life. Epicurus and his followers were early proponents of a social contract, a hypothetical model in which every individual has self-interested reasons to respect the equal rights of every other individual. Also important, especially in Anabaptist, Quaker, and other radical offshoots of Reformation thought, was the Christian doctrine that all human beings are equal in the sight of God.

The democratic implications of a theory of ...

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