Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Our Declaration of Independence says it. Our morality implies it. Everyone is entitled to Life, Liberty and The Pursuit of Happiness. We have fought battles near and far to uphold it. We have had numerous discussions about its meaning but dare I say, they really are self evident.

America wanted to get itself out from under monarchs, despots and tyranny. We wanted a system that would just do the basics. The last thing they wanted was a new form of domination. You can argue the above philosophically but that was the situation. They also could not have dreamed of a world as complex as ours. Fair enough?

Okay Life says you can’t go running around killing people. It is from the fact you are entitled to that life that the other two rights flow. It is the starting point.

Liberty means two things to me. First is you should be able to roam the country without constraints. No one should own you. No slavery. We really blew it here. It also means you should be able to think whatever you want. The government and others should not be able to coerce you into doing, saying or thinking anything.

Lastly is the Pursuit of Happiness. Define your own idea of heaven. But it does not mean you are assured of its achievement. You can strive for it but there are no guarantees. If you want to sit on your butt that is okay too.

Now all these things feed into a social contract. It is an agreement between government and the people saying you give me this and I will give up my right to do that. Money, airports, courts etc. Still simple enough.

Now it gets dicey. Enter conservatives, liberals and independents alike.

How much government is enough? How much is too much. We really have changed the original plan.

As a result of the depression in the thirties, we saw the entry of the government as the savior of last resort…the safety net. WPA, Social Security et al were envisioned to be the stopgap of total devastation. One for all and all for one.

Ditto Medicare and Medicaid in the sixties. Well meaning but really dangerous because now your pursuit of happiness was getting a boost from an outside source. And it became an opiate for political pushers.

The insidious nature of this conversation is that it slowly creates an underlying philosophy….you owe me. No matter how badly I screw up. No matter what I do to my finances. If I fail in school. If I badly abuse my body. You owe me. Heal me. No repercussions. Just do it. Ergo, “Entitlement”

But it goes further. If you were making $150,000 a year and you lose your job you think you are owed a $150,000 job. If you moved up to a 4000 square foot house, you wouldn’t think of sizing down to save money or avoid foreclosure. Somehow you would think you were being screwed.

The word entitlement goes far beyond Social Security and Medicare. As a country we have marketed unrealistic expectations. We advertise and entice. The American Dream. And then we rebel or cry ignorance when it results in disaster.

For every right we have there is a responsibility. If we really want to be free, we have to realize the risk it entails. If we want life, it also means you have to take care of your life. Pursue happiness but no one should think they are assured success.

Incredibly, we don’t think suffering is a part of life. Daddy Warbucks of all sorts will bail me out whether it is my house, my body or my soul. Maybe we are too soft. Maybe we are brats. Maybe we have never had it real bad. We will.

We have a fabulous country. I am not espousing we undue so much of the good we have created. I abhor the huge divisions between classes. I hate to see poverty. But we have changed the plan in principle and thrust and it will bankrupt us.

Part of the contract says I will give you X and you give me Y. No more No less. We all expect more and more. Rich and poor both have to understand what’s happening. There has got to be a lot of give on both sides. Liberals don’t despair. Conservatives don’t get smug. All are responsible….especially me.

As Always

Ted The Great

 

 

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