Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We have all heard those words, and most of us probably recognize them from the Declaration of Independence, but have you ever stopped to think about what they mean?
Those three things may seem random and unconnected, but they are as interconnected as links in a chain. Each is entirely dependent upon the one preceding it, and leads, or should lead, to the one that comes after it. Happiness is dependent on the liberty to pursue it, which you can’t do if you are not alive. Originally “property” was mentioned instead of “pursuit of happiness,” but it was later realized that property is just a facet of happiness. There are many other ways to pursue your happiness; many, but not all, depend upon your property, and your ability to keep it.
Even people who seek to violate the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of others are trying to make themselves happy by doing so.
They couldn’t try to be happy without that freedom, but, freedom is only a part of liberty.
Liberty is the freedom to do anything you want as long as it doesn’t violate the identical rights of anyone else. If your happiness depends on you punching people who are minding their own business, or if you believe you have to steal to make yourself happy, you are out of luck.
Unless you get a job that comes with the illusion of authority to do those things. That still doesn’t make it right.
Sadly, even though Thomas Jefferson claimed that government’s purpose was to secure life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, there is no greater threat to those “unalienable” rights today, and for the past several generations at least, than government.
How do you fix that? Either you stop permitting government to legally interfere with the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of everyone, or you have to put that power away; out of reach of those who use it as a weapon. That was what the Constitution was supposed to do — place most things beyond the reach of government. But government grew, and now it ignores the rules which were supposed to restrain it. It considers everything to be within its reach, and few people disagree.
No government can ever claim to possess “just powers” yet violate the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of anyone without losing its legitimacy. No matter how badly you want that to not be true.
Kent McManigal is a freelance writer who sometimes offers commentary on our websites. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org