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Life, Liberty And The Pursuit Of Happiness

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Many years ago a little document called The Declaration of Independence was written. Inside of this document was a small passage:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Life, Liberty and Happiness – doesn’t sound too hard to maintain does it? In fact it looks pretty simple. Many years ago it was.

I’m not the first guy in the world to take notice of the happenings of these three words. In fact, several other bloggers have written at great length about it. N.Z. Bear, Common Dreams, Spare Change, Getting Elected Blogline, Dust in the Light, Meyerweb, MVRWC, RealFake, Democratic Wings, The Fat Guy, Laugh at Liberals, Freespace and others have all written about it. Heck, there’s even a blog with the name LiLpoH (abbreviated out). For many it is a piece of history that should exact an effect in every life as an American.

Over time this cornerstone on which the United States of America was founded on has slowly been eroded from the hearts and minds of Americans. Today there are just too many caveats to the statement. It appears that over time we have lost our way. Nothing is ever as simple as it seems when you subject it to the scrutiny of the law.

For words so impacting on our society you could imagine that these words are written in several documents that have guided this country. That’s where you’d be wrong. Both the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, the documents that make up our laws make no mention of the phrase. The closest we can come is section one of the XIV amendment in the bill of rights:

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Okay, that’s close to what we’re looking for; Life, Liberty and Property; but it’s not the whole deal. Happiness doesn’t seem to play into law.

That’s exactly what has been happening though. Through the use of law these unalienable rights appear to be slipping away and eroding right before our very eyes. These words have become watered down versions of themselves with no more potency than a near beer. They still contain the flavor of content, but no ability to effect change or guide policy. Allow me to explain in detail:

LIFE
Everyone has the right to life. Everyone is “endowed by their Creator” with the unalienable right to life. This quandary is quite possibly the simplest to define if not for the two opposing sides in this battle.

Does a murderer have a right to life? Much data has been gathered about the death penalty and most of it indicates that it does nothing to rehabilitate or discourage any future crime. Many times it has proven to end the life of an innocent. The only function it serves faithfully is to end the life of someone that has been deemed unable to be rehabilitated, or at least that’s what it’s supposed to be for. Many courts have used if for “an eye for an eye” decisions that would make the grieving family of the victim(s) feel better but do nothing else. Is this really showing your right to life appropriately?

Does a fetus have a right to life? Where does one’s blob of cytoplasm end and life begin? How long will we keep fooling ourselves into believing that it’s okay to end this life, or potential life, so long as it hasn’t taken its first breath? It has been proven that a fetus has nerve endings and can feel by the end of the first trimester. Is this considered life? Is this considered a living, feeling human being or still no better than a dog or other household pet as some would lead you to believe?

Many people will argue that it is choice and therefore protected by the next two words: Liberty and Happiness. There’s a reason that the word LIFE was put first. It’s the word we should most cherish. It’s the one we should give the most consideration above all else. “Choice above all” infringes on others unalienable rights to all three.

LIBERTY
This is where things can get a little confusing. What is liberty? Is liberty the freedom to to whatever the heck you want or does it have to be within reason? Where do these rights come from? How can I protect my liberties?

Right now we have a good example of diminishing liberties. It’s called the Patriot Act. Some say it is a necessity if we are to maintain security in the United States. Others believe it’s a rehash of the McCarthy act. Although we haven’t had the hysteria related to McCarthyism it has drawn national attention to what powers our government actually holds over us. How much control is too much? Where is our happy medium between security and liberty?

The other piece I’d like to put in here has to do with state’s rights vs. federal rights. Again, this is a gray area that really should not be. This used to be clearly defined in the past as anything that crosses the border from one state to another gets covered under federal rights, while anything within a state is classified under state law. That all changed when some asshat judge decided it would be cool to give federal control over in-state issues. Now I sit wondering why we even have states anymore. Why not just give all of the power to the government and take it out of the hands of the individual states? Who needs the local government anyway? We should all have big brothers hand controlling every aspect of our lives. Can you see my cynicism in this?

There is a reason for states rights and for the maintenance thereof. By allowing the federal legislation to intermingle with that of a state’s you have effectively taken away the liberties that each state enjoys. It’s no better than centralized communism.

HAPPINESS
To be more correct, “The pursuit of happiness. This is one of those perception issues. This is also where I’m probably going to get into the most trouble. So, where does happiness come from? Does it come from intrinsic or extrinsic things? In other words, is happiness something you can buy and touch or is it something on the inside?

I would suggest that it is both of these. Happiness can be derived from both your physical pleasure sensors and how you feel about things. So, what can I make from this that might torque people?

Here’s a list of controversial “feeling” pleasures:

  • Cigarettes
  • Alcohol
  • Prostitution
  • Marijuana
  • Hard Drugs
  • Now here’s a list of controversial “feel good” pleasures:

  • Vindication
  • Malice
  • Lust
  • Holiness
  • Yes, I know some of you may not be happy that I lumped holiness with the other controversial feelings but I shall explain. Many people have a problem with those that speak and feel of religious feeling. It makes them uncomfortable for some reason as as such people try to turn the tables by banning religion, just like people try to get of lust, vindictiveness and malice. They are all controversial items of Happiness.

    To dig this pit a bit deeper, I have a hard time seeing how anything listed above should be disallowed. What? How could I say that we should let people shoot up on the streets? Should we have prostitutes on every corner now? What’s up with that?

    Okay, let me explain. As long as there is no infringement of anyone else’s unalienable rights why should it be any of our businesses what you do in the privacy of your own home. That’s the trick: in the privacy of your own home. Many of the things noted above are considered adult behavior. Subjecting minors, heck, anybody to questionable adult practices is an infringement upon someone else’s rights.

    That doesn’t answer the question of sustainability though. I’m talking about those people that will become addicted to THC, barbiturates, uppers, downers, etc. If we are to open these facilities up to general population it should come at the cost of adequate facilities to rehabilitate those that gain problems. Most people call these sin taxes and they have frequently been funneled away from the programs they were intended for to pay for Congressman Bob’s pet project. The money paid in by the tobacco giants never met the needs of a single smoker. Bob got it all.

    I’m sure you can find many more examples of how these three little words have been tried and twisted to suit the needs of today. You can see it in most every piece of major law you find. It always breaks down to a bunch of rhetoric and doesn’t really pay attention to why we founded this country: Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

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    About Jeremy H. Bol

    • http://adamantsun.blogspot.com Steve S

      source
      Noun 1. right to the pursuit of happiness – the right to try to find happiness – human right – (law) any basic right or freedom to which all human beings are entitled and in whose exercise a government may not interfere (including rights to life and liberty as well as freedom of thought and expression and equality before the law)

      I put in bold the facets in which pursuit of happiness is usually brought up in a court of law, that I (a non-lawyer) am aware of.

      For example stigmatizing and condemning and ostracizing, on a societal level, a large group of people really inflicts on their right to happiness. On an individual level, big f*cking woo.

      And note that the freedom of thought that the pursuit of happiness provides includes the right to be a bigot, the right to be stupid, the right to have a faith or to not want to be subject to any faith, etc. THIS is what the Pursuit of Happiness is about, not vices like prostitution or gambling.

      It makes them uncomfortable for some reason as as such people try to turn the tables by banning religion, just like people try to get of lust, vindictiveness and malice.

      This isn’t a comparable analogy. Lust, vndictiveness and malice are internal thoughts that one side wants to ban. Nobody wants to ban the internal thought of religion, what they want banned are the external prostelizing and evangelicalism. People outside the faith are being subjected to the faith.

      So only one side wants to ban internal thought, the other side wants to ban external action which always results in oppression and ostracization.

    • http://warmonger.mu.nu Jeremy

      Wouldn’t lust be on the same level in speech as religion by someone stating, “look at that chick over there man! Don’t you just want to tag that @$$?”

      Isn’t the violence of a horror movie part of the pleasured derived from malice?

      Ever thought eny of those chick flicks were cool because they really got the guy in the end? Coldn’t that be described as vindictiveness in the same light as holiness?

      Just an observation, but did you just try to explain how list, vindictiveness and malice are better than holiness? Maybe I’m mistaken…nevermind. I’m sure it’s purely unintentional.

    • http://adamantsun.blogspot.com Steve S

      Just an observation, but did you just try to explain how list, vindictiveness and malice are better than holiness? Maybe I’m mistaken…nevermind. I’m sure it’s purely unintentional.

      If you are asking me, no I’m not syaing they are better than holiness but then again prostelizing and evangelicism are not holy.

    • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

      Complex and interesting. Great thoughts. Thanks Jeremy.

    • http://gonzo-marx.blogspot.com gonzo marx

      good Topic..very worthy of some Discussion..

      ( and yes, the “Patriot” Act, {well, acting like “patriots” at least} scares the hell out of me as well)

      Life

      simplicity itself, established by towns and states…from the moment the doc sez “it’s a gender!” and puts the lil foot print on the birth certificate until the time another medical person saz “Elvis has left the building” and signs date and time on the death certificate…the Time between is yoru life Folks…enjoy it

      Liberty

      the freedom to do as you Will, as long as it does not infringe on the Rights of others…and if you choose to do so, you have the Responsibility of answering for it to the Rule of Law (laws of men here folks, important point)

      the pursuit of Happiness

      pursuit is the active Symbol here, kiddies..no one is saying you have the Right to be “Happy”…just that you have the Right to pursue it, utilizing the Liberty of your free Will, during your Life…as long as you don’t infringe on others and within the Rule of Law

      now, a lot of the things you touched on involved only hurting yourself…silly, but you have the Right to do so as long as you don’t infringe…or suffer the Consequences

      why so much bullshit spewed about in our Government?..my hypothesis has a bit to do with a “professional” political class, mostly lawyers, looking for something to do to justify getting re-elected so they can remain “professional” political people, and thus further their “careers”

      objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear…

      Excelsior!

    • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

      The happiness bit wasn’t supposed to be in there originally, but got added in. When Jefferson wrote the draft it read ‘property’ instead of ‘pursuit of happiness’, but Adams and Franklin who were overseeing the project decided to change the wording in order to avoid any suggestion that the new country would be guaranteeing free land ownership to anyone who immigrated. Ironically, of course, the country did offer free land to anyone for the next hundred years or so. And of course all of the other founding documents include the reference to property which is one of the three cornerstones along with life and liberty of our fundamental natural rights.

      Dave

    • http://adamantsun.blogspot.com Steve S

      in spite of capitalism and the free market, we find home ownership is out of the reach of millions.

      property which is one of the three cornerstones along with life and liberty of our fundamental natural rights.

      how can we say property is a cornerstone of our fundamental natural right and then charge half a million for a large closet with a cot?

    • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

      The RIGHT to own property is not the same as the ability to acquire that property, Steve. Nothing in our founding documents guarantees a certain minimum income.

      >>how can we say property is a cornerstone of our fundamental natural right and then charge half a million for a large closet with a cot?<< I don’t know what planet you’re living on, but down the street from me you can get a decent 1200sqft 3/2 with a yard and a 2 car garrage, within easy commuting distance of Austin for $100,000 with no money down, no credit check and fairly reasonable loan terms. It’s not a luxury home by any means and it’s not in a swank neighborhood, but it’s one that any family with an average American income of $37,000 a year can afford. On a 15 year note, with nothing down and 5.5% interest (and on a 15 year you could get lower) that’s only $1100 a month with insurance and taxes, and that’s within the 30% limit for housing recommended by HUD. A 30 year note would bring the payment to under $900. Dave

    • http://warmonger.mu.nu Jeremy

      then charge half a million for a large closet with a cot?

      So Steve,
      When did you come by my house? I’d have baked a cake.

      That property deal is one of the great rumors of our founding documents. Since the Declaration of Independence was written first I would be more likely to believe that Adams and Franklin suggested he take happiness out and put property in for the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

      Knowing just a tad (and I do mean just a tad, nothing more) about Adams and Franklin they sound to me more apt to have suggested it that way.

      Adams considered himself more of a royal than a politician and property was frequently on his mind. It was a point of status and meant such in that day and age.

      Franklin, if I remember correctly, was a lot less of the jovial fellow many make him out to be and more of the shrewd and ruthless businessman. He too would be thinking property much more than happiness. For these two men property WAS happiness.

      Of course, I could be completely wrong in this presumption and you could be completely right. The reports of the day have long been embattled and many political papers of the day have tried to change the way things read.

      For example, Jefferson never had a black mistress OR a mallatto child from her. It was completely made up by the anti-jefferson (pro-adams) newspaper of the day.

    • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

      Wow Jeremy, you ARE a font of misinformation.

      >>That property deal is one of the great rumors of our founding documents. Since the Declaration of Independence was written first I would be more likely to believe that Adams and Franklin suggested he take happiness out and put property in for the Constitution and Bill of Rights.< < It's not a rumor, it's history. Jefferson later admitted to it being in his original draft. Plus Jefferson didn't write the Constitution or the Bill of Rights, just the Declaration. Madison wrote the other two with much editorial input because Jefferson wasn't there, being ambassador to France at the time. >> For example, Jefferson never had a black mistress OR a mallatto child from her. It was completely made up by the anti-jefferson (pro-adams) newspaper of the day.<< While they did make many things up, this one is true. The descendents of his mulatto (proper spelling) children were DNA tested to prove it a couple of years ago and the Jefferson family has acknowledged their descent from Jefferson. Dave

    • http://warmonger.mu.nu Jeremy

      Actually, it was proven to be either his brother or cousin, not Jefferson himself I can’t remember which. I’ve got the book and the passage for evidence at home. I’ll dig it up and drop it here for you perusal. I’ve been going through a book about the presidential elections and this book has been a wealth of knowledge to me.

      …gimmie a few hours. I get off work in an hour and a half and I should be home a half hour to an hour after that. Probably there in about three hours.

      …I think the paper that ran it was The Intelligencer…can’t remember.

    • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

      Last I heard they couldn’t differentiate for sure between Jefferson’s DNA and that of his brother who might also be the progenitor of that line, and the Jefferson family accepted the Hemmings line’s claim that Jefferson was their ancestor. Given that Sally Hemmings told her kids that Thomas Jefferson, not Field Jefferson was their father, I would think the benefit of the doubt would go to that answer.

      Dave

    • http://warmonger.mu.nu Jeremy

      Hemmings? I don’t think that was the name I remember. I thought it was something else. That could be an entirely different deal. I’ll have to check in a couple of hours.

    • http://warmonger.mu.nu Jeremy

      Okay, here goes: Sally Hemmings or “Black Sal” as the Federalists called her was charged as Jefferson’s concubine of which he was supposed to have had several children by. Jefferson remained silen about the matter on the theory that “the man who fears no truth has nothing to fear from lies.” He did, though, indirectly deny the Hemings story in letters to freinds adn it seems likely it was his nephews, Peter and Samuel Carr, who were really involved with her.

      (Paraphrased from: Presidential Campaigns by Paul F. Boller, JR. Pg, 19-20. ISBN:0195034201)

      I was actually mixing up two separate events though. I comingled Jefferson and Jackson. Here’s the Jackson:

      He was reduced to tears when he came across the following statement in newspapers opposing his election: “General Jackson’s mother was a COMMON PROSTITUTE, brought to this country by the British soldiers. She married a MULATTO MAN, with whom she had several children, of which number General JACKSON IS ONE!!!”

      Same book pg. 46
      The ISBN I gave is for the old book. (Signed hardback published in 1984) The new one is: 0195167163

      Jackson was not a Mullato man, nor was his mother a prostitute. The point I was trying to make about the papers of the day embellishing on the truth. I do take your word on the happiness vs. property thing though. It’s still a fun debating point.

      In the end I must bow to the master. Your American history Kung-Fu is greater than mine and I must submit.

    • http://swiftreport.blogs.com/news/2005/06/fbi_wiretap_fin.html Todd Fox

      The FBI just conducted a poll of Americans in support of the Patriot Act, which covers all three (life, lib, happiness)