“Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” is a well-known phrase in the Declaration of Independence. These “unalienable rights” are given to all human beings by their Creator. There are to be protected and defended by governments. Note the Declaration said “Pursuit of happiness.” It made it clear that happiness itself was not to be protected and defended, while life and liberty were.
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“Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” is a well-known phrase from our Declaration of Independence. The pursuit of happiness was included as one of the “unalienable rights” given to all human beings by their Creator. These rights are to be protected and defended by government. Note the Declaration said “Pursuit of happiness.” It made it clear that happiness itself was not to be protected and defended, while life and liberty were.
Today we can get to the core of the topic by looking at some definitions and differences:
- Equal opportunity under the law vs equal opportunity, a level playing field.
- Free vs reasonable access.
- The right to pursue vs the right to have.
First. Equal opportunity under the law vs equal opportunity, a level playing field. As individuals and as a nation, we should insist upon equal opportunity under the law. As a fledgling nation, we set that goal, that statement of direction, some 250 years ago, and have been hard at it, committed to that goal, ever since. I’d be hard pressed to find any evidence of any remaining codified, legal lack of opportunity. Do you know of any? On the other hand, we will never live in a world of equal opportunities and equal playing fields. Some inequalities are congenital, for example if you are 5’2”, you will never play in the NBA. Some inequalities just happen. I went to public school through college, and paid my own way in college and grad school. Others had parents who paid for private schools all the way. Unequal? Yes. A natural part of life? Also yes. Are things like this something the government should fix? Oh, horrors!
Second. Free vs reasonable access. There is a lot of conversation these days about making more and more things free. Well, not free; free to the individual with the bill going to the taxpayers. Some things must be free; national defense, law enforcement and first responders and basic infrastructure. Most other things, e.g., post-high school education and healthcare, should be arranged so that everyone has reasonable access, and reasonable access does not mean free. Here’s a useful way of separating what should be free to individuals, paid for by the taxpayers, from services that the government might need to monitor and regulate, but should not pay for. In Size of Government we put forward a way for deciding if a task was properly the province of government to provide: “Ask two questions: 1. What needs to be done? and 2. Of those tasks, which are the ones that government does uniquely well?” As an example, law enforcement is properly provided by government, and things like entertainment, vacations and second homes are not. Those are easy black and white examples; others are gray and take a bit more time to answer, but there are answers. Most of life is laid out in shades of gray, and we must still draw bright lines or we will be forever waffling
The last point is the right to pursue vs. the right to have. Happiness was the word used by the Founders, but food, education, clothing, housing and more would also fit. I posit that the right to pursue means having reasonable access to those things; it clearly does not mean the right to have them.
Key point: People do not have right to have the things they want in this life; the deserve to have reasonable access. And reasonable does not mean easy. Life is Hard. And it is correctly designed that way. People should be allowed the opportunity to learn about life and live it to the fullest by needing to do their best–their very best–over time in order to get what they need and want. If people absolutely can’t provide for themselves and those they may be responsible for, then the taxpayers should pay. If they simply won’t provide, won’t do their best over time, whether difficult or not, then they are properly left on their own. Deciding where to put the slider on the Can’t or Won’t scale will determine much about how a society handles its responsibility to the individuals in it. Are we going to make it easy on people, and ourselves, and let them fall short–perhaps far short–of their potential and their ability to contribute?
Let’s apply the two Results With Reason main tenets to today’s issues. The two main tenets that we believe in at Results With Reason are:
- Personal Responsibility; practice it, teach it and
- Be Your Brother’s Keeper.
Today’s application is straightforward:
- Personal Responsibility. Lead. Be accountable. Show others by example that life is indeed hard, as it should be, as it must be, but once you get that, things get a lot easier. And show then that hard does not mean either unfair or bad. Hard is good. And hard is a great way to happiness.
- Be your Brother’s Keeper. Be patient with each other; some will want to join you, others will not. Teach and encourage; don’t criticize and reject. Love and lead. Remember, we are all in this together.
Now it is time for our usual parting thought. For us at Results With Reason, it is not only change your thinking, change your life. It is change your thinking, change your actions, change the world. And if you can do it in love and enjoy the people around you at the same time, all the better. And if we, you and I, don’t do something, then the others who are doing something, will continue to run the show.
Remember: Knowledge by itself is the booby prize.
Will Luden, writing to you from my home office at 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.