I always thought that the much quoted line in the Declaration of Independence, that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights such as "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" actually meant the same thing to everyone who read it.
I always thought "Liberty and the pursuit of happiness" meant that you, as an individual, were free to do anything that you wanted as long as you didn't infringe on the rights of others to do the same thing. My understanding is that we formed a government in order to protect those individual rights for us.
But it's shocking to find out that some "conservatives" have a different understanding. Here's what a Republican candidate for president has to say on the topic.
"The pursuit of happiness and personal pleasure is harming America."
"One of the criticisms I make is to what I refer to as more of a Libertarianish right.
They have this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do, government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulations low, that we shouldn't get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn't get involved in cultural issues.
That is not how traditional conservatives view the world.
There is no such society that I am aware of, where we've had radical individualism and that it succeeds as a culture."
This is what Rick Santorum actually said on multiple occasions. He said it several years ago and he has said it very recently. It seems to be his core belief.
He says that the pursuit of happiness is harming America. He says that the kind of freedom that our founders envisioned wasn't to be able to do whatever I want to do as long as no one gets hurt. Instead, it's a freedom to be responsible to do what is good for society and the common good. I suppose that Rick Santorum and other smart people in government know what that common good is. They seem to want to use the force of government to make us be "free" to do those good and responsible things.
What does "Liberty and the pursuit of happiness" mean to you? Do we as individuals decide what's best for us or do we allow the government to use it's force to make us do what's best for us and society? This is a core question that each of us needs to answer because it determines what road we go down.
Presidential elections are very important. They set the agenda and the philosophy of government. Here are some quotes that I love that I found from Jefferson. He's the guy who actually wrote the Declaration of Independence. Read these quotes and then watch the videos of Rick Santorum's interrpretation of liberty and the pursuit of happiness. There's a big difference.
Jefferson's own definition of happiness:
"Happiness is not being pained in body or troubled in mind."
He also said that:
"I believe that every human mind feels pelasure in doing good to another."
Then goes on to say:
"I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them."
Here's his definition of liberty:
"Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual."
Can we trust ourselves to govern ourselves?:
Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the form of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.