Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Declaration of Independence: The pursuit of happiness

I love this scene from HBO's John Adams, so I am including it. 
Rick Santorum is right, in part, that the term "pursuit of happiness" was not intended as some hedonistic license.  And even Jefferson, himself, stated these rights were from God:
The evidence of [the] natural right [of expatriation], like that of our right to life, liberty, the use of our faculties, the pursuit of happiness, is not left to the feeble and sophistical investigations of reason, but is impressed on the sense of every man. We do not claim these under the charters of kings or legislators, but under the King of Kings. 
Thomas Jefferson to John Manners, 1817.
But Rick Santorum's overall statement, while in some ways correct, misses the point.  Part of this is style:  There is something about Rick Santorum's manner that is off putting.  But it is substance too.  I find it implausible that Thomas Jefferson meant what Rick Santorum thinks he meant (it is frankly a little too "Puritan" an interpretation for a Virginian like Jefferson) .  The "pursuit of happiness" phrase was, at its core, a recognition of the primacy of an individual over his own conscience and dreams.  Ayn Rand nails it with this:  
The Right to the Pursuit of Happiness means man’s right to live for himself, to choose what constitutes his own private, personal, individual happiness and to work for its achievement, so long as he respects the same right in others. It means that Man cannot be forced to devote his life to the happiness of another man nor of any number of other men. It means that the collective cannot decide what is to be the purpose of a man’s existence nor prescribe his choice of happiness.
I do not want to be too harsh on Rick Santorum.  I just wish Rick Santorum was not so hostile to libertarian concepts and libertarians.  While the Democrats love to expound on liberty, they often have a rather passive-aggressive relationship with the concept  [Update:  check out this link by The Anchoress].  Ayn Rand was also correct about this:  "A right is the sanction of independent action. A right is that which can be exercised without anyone’s permission.  If you exist only because society permits you to exist—you have no right to your own life. A permission can be revoked at any time."  

We will need libertarians to win general election and I wish Rick Santorum could grasp that "self evident" fact.  Maybe Satan is trying to trick Santorum about libertarians?    And as Bill Jacobson noted by referring to a Hot Air comment, I am also sure some so-called "conservatives" are not arguing in good faith about Santorum.  And Dan Riehl is also right, many of the faith based attacks against Santorum are repulsive.  


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