The Pursuit of Happiness (More from The Price of Sin)

The pursuit of happiness always involves risk. In marriage we seek a relationship filled with the pleasure of love.  Of course the risk is that in some instances the marriage does not fulfill one or both parties and the relationship dissolves into acrimony and divorce. Should we expect government to protect us from the possibility of such failure?  To do so would require laws and statutes that in the end would prohibit love.  We know the danger every time we climb into an automobile (confirmed by the annual statistics on highway fatalities), yet this does not halt the pleasure we seek when we travel, or lessen the smile on the face of a sixteen year-old having just acquired their driver’s license. A world free from the risk of business failure, failed marriage, and death by accident would be a world void of happiness. Man has the natural right to actions in the pursuit of happiness within the bounds of the moral code; man does not have the right to the guarantee of happiness. Yet the guarantee is precisely the thought that permeates the views of those who see government as the great equalizer and that happiness is relative to the material gains of others. A point illustrated by an exchange that was witnessed on a liberal blog where an individual actually stated that rising prices for premium cable channels due to increased demand [supposedly by the wealthy] had made the service unattainable for him. According to this individual, government action regulating the pricing of cable service was needed so he could enjoy the same “happiness” as others, commentary that leaves me speechless to this day.  

During the course of political campaigns, we hear people asking in the most serious of tones what a particular politician is going to do for them. Whether it is cable channels or healthcare or a multitude of other deprivations, many view the government as the means through which their relative stature is improved and thus their perceived personal happiness. It is the basis on which much of today’s government education classrooms operate. Academic competitiveness has been muted over fears of self-esteem. The individual who struggles is made to feel better not by the actions leading to self-accomplishment and the resultant joy, but by denying or confiscating from others the rewards that come from sacrifice and work. The same can be seen on the playing fields of youth sports where recognition of victory is denied.  They all assume happiness is derived from relativism and outcome. It ignores everything that comes before, in a sense there is a desire for the effect without the requisite cause.

 Man does not have the right to employment, wealth, retirement, education, marriage, acceptance by others, or the guarantee of happiness [only the pursuit of happiness is a right]. Most of all, we do not have the right to expect or demand others to give a damn about our plight! The only true right is to withdraw without harm from interactions that are deemed not beneficial to self. In economic terms, free trade cannot take place without both parties benefiting. So it is whether in a transaction between a merchant and a consumer or between a citizen and the government.  In today’s age of technology and transportation, the ability to withdraw has never been less costly or accomplished with greater ease. Places of employment are decreasingly designated by a specific location; fixed structures with offices are being replaced by the laptop computers, wireless technologies, home and virtual offices. Even the search for new employment or business opportunities is literally no more than the click of a mouse away. With the advent of the modern freeway systems, the address of one’s domicile is less and less determined by the work location. Commutes over twenty-five miles are no longer a rarity. All of this makes it easier to find those pockets of society which most closely espouse viewpoints that are in alignment with our own. The need for national or consolidated law, if ever there was a case to be made for such, is as antiquated as the quill.  The ancestral barriers to long distance travel and communication have long been removed; the subjugation of personal preference and wealth to those with opposing views no longer needs to be resolved through the political process. If the execution of the legal code is local in nature, then the imposing will of the majority can be readily negated through the simple act of moving.

As briefly noted in a previous chapter, migration eliminates human interpretation of morality from the national debate thus depriving the national government an issue through which it expands. Reiterating earlier examples, if a woman in Texas wishes to have an abortion which is allowed under the laws set forth by Minnesota, there is little in preventing travel to Minnesota for the procedure. Or more specifically as illustrated by a few parishes that banned slavery in Louisiana during the period of The War of Succession, a.k.a. The American Civil War, Perhaps certain localities within a state where abortion is illegal would make it legal inside those city limits. Homosexual marriage, a thought viewed unfavorably by many with strong religious underpinnings, certainly can be pursued in those regions where it is supported.  If the state of Massachusetts allows this type of union and Utah did not, then a homosexual couple could simply withdraw from Utah and relocate to Massachusetts. Though there is no real right to having others, let alone government, recognize the marriage of two people the union of two homosexuals need not be imposed on the people of Utah, and conversely the people of Utah need not impose their will on the happiness of the homosexual couple. The same would have held true for the temperance movement early in the twentieth century. Those localities which disapproved of adult libations could simply ban their consumption; there are still areas of the country, notably in parts of the South and Utah, where the sale of alcoholic drinks are prohibited. If a resident of these “dry counties” wishes to partake in drink, they must purchase it elsewhere. The same would be true for today’s moral issues of abortion, homosexual unions, and the legalization of drugs.

  Happiness is an emotion unique to and controlled by the individual. It is found through personal pursuits, actions, which result in pleasure. To be sure, happiness can involve others in the pursuit, but the feeling is unique. Happiness is not an economic calculation. Complete happiness, if such a concept can be defined, is virtually unattainable; yet this fact does not halt us from seeking it. Since happiness is profoundly personalized, there is no magic formula for acquiring it. The search must be painstakingly done by trial and error. We must be allowed to freely withdraw and discard those relations and actions that do not give us pleasure, let alone those that lead to our demise; if this were not the case, then slavery would be legal and moral.     

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