The pursuit of happiness dictates that others will make choices that conflict with one’s concept of the world, and we can either choose to accept this principle in the conservative spirit of maximum personal liberty tempered by personal responsibility as enshrined by the Founders in the Constitution, or we can choose to adopt the progressive totalitarian model of centralized control over a nanny state that arrogantly makes decisions for us according to their worldview.
America was founded by Europeans seeking religious freedom they did not enjoy in the Old World. This was not the religious persecution faced by American Christians today consisting of ridicule and court-ordered removal of public religious displays, but the very real and imminent threat of death for daring to practice religion in a manner not proscribed by the state. The Browning Separatists who arrived at Plymouth Rock as the Pilgrims suffered the loss of several leaders who were martyred for their faith. Religion is a most passionate topic as it involves the relationship between man and God, and concerns the immortal state of one’s soul throughout eternity. It is an area one wishes to get right when the thought of an eternity of damnation is at stake. This is why the Pilgrims were willing to leave their friends and families behind to venture to the New World knowing that they would never return or see their loved ones again.
The freedom enjoyed by the colonists was indeed refreshing when compared to the strict class structure upon which European society was built. When the British Parliament began to infringe upon this freedom, the colonists began to see the influence of the Old World encroaching upon them and feared the loss of the freedom they so easily enjoyed thanks to the expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. Each act of the British Parliament fueled the suspicion of the colonists as fear and panic began to set in over future acts of aggression by Parliament. The colonists chafed under a system whereby the British extracted wealth from the colonies, and the threat to their freedom was more than they could bear. Prominent colonists met to discuss these actions and consider their options in forming a response in the Continental Congress. What emerged from this group of Founding Fathers was a document listing the grievances of the colonists over the encroachment of their freedom and their reasons for seeking to dissolve the political bonds which held them to Great Britain. This Declaration of Independence set forth the argument that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
The Founding Fathers saw fit to construct a country around the concept of maximized personal liberty tempered by personal responsibility. This is the concept behind the pursuit of happiness, in that a man is free to make his own choices, including those choices which lead to failure. Knowing that bad choices may ultimately lead to failure, a man is careful to choose wisely and thus prosper. This concept requires a great deal of self-sufficiency and rugged individualism which breeds a sense of confidence and risk-taking entrepreneurship. It is these qualities unique to America that saw it rise from colonization to the world’s lone superpower in less than four hundred years. America prospered not because of the wealth of its natural resources, but because of the risk-taking entrepreneurial spirit of its citizens. This spirit was bred into the American DNA from the Pilgrims who risked all for religious freedom and strengthened by the pioneers who pushed westward in search of opportunity. America was founded by risk takers unsatisfied with what the Old World offered, and it has attracted risk takers from around the world ever since.
As America’s standard of living rose and life became more comfortable for its citizens, the desire for risk taking began to diminish and a class arose that was comfortable with what they could scrounge. There had always been those who were content with whatever came their way and uncomfortable with risk, and there had always been those who chose a life dedicated to wanton lusts of the flesh without regard to their circumstances in life, but the increased prosperity allowed this class to grow. Along with this class came another class who saw it as their duty to provide for these downtrodden souls by dedicating public resources for their relief. They began this crusade with appeals for the providence of those most sympathetic to the public such as widows and orphans. Surely no one could begrudge the support of unfortunate widows who were cast adrift in society through cruel fate to suffer indignities for which they were unprepared.
While this was occurring, America was experiencing a transition from an agricultural society where most Americans enjoyed independence and self-sufficiency made possible by their ability to grow food and provide the basic necessities of life on the family farm, to an industrial economy where workers relied upon the turbulence of poorly understood business cycles for their livelihood. Americans went from self-sufficiency on the farm to dependence upon a factory boss which further subdued the entrepreneurial spirit of risk taking. America prospered even more through this natural evolution, but the societal contract was altered in fundamental ways requiring some form of social safety net to be constructed for those no longer able to rely upon sustenance from a family farm.
One of the fundamental problems of the ages has been the design of a support system that avoids dependence by those being supported. A man constantly given a handout will soon come to depend upon that handout and cease attempting to provide for himself. It is far better to give a man a job where he can earn a paycheck that supports himself and his family while engendering a sense of responsibility through the hard work required for him to earn that paycheck and the subsequent reward of accomplishment. The man reliant upon a handout begins to loathe himself and his dependence upon others to do what he should be doing for himself. He is denied the pride of trading his work for his livelihood. In ceasing to care about himself, he begins to make bad choices that worsen his condition.
It is incumbent upon us to remember that the choices of others are theirs to make and not ours to command. That is the basis for the pursuit of happiness. It is not our happiness they are pursuing with their choices, but their happiness, just as it is not their happiness we pursue with our own choices. Those of the elitist ruling class of progressives who see their mission as to command all Americans in their choices for their own good are arrogantly pursuing their happiness at the expense of those they seek to command. This is not freedom and it is certainly not the pursuit of happiness. Conservatives seek a return to the foundational ideas upon which America was built where limited government exercised limited control over Americans. We were a much more free and happier when we were able to do for ourselves without being told what we could and could not do by the nanny state.
We are losing the desire for being independent and self-sufficient, along with the risk-taking entrepreneurial spirit responsible for America’s unique exceptionalism in the world. Once the progressives have destroyed this portion of the American DNA, we will be no different than any other nation and much poorer for the experience on multiple levels. It is time to unshackle ourselves from the insidious corruption of government dependence thrust upon us by the elitist progressives convinced they know better for us than we do ourselves. We must put forth the argument that it is not wrong to be exceptional and does not detract from any other nation or individual. We are all created equal, but that does not mean that we must remain equal. It is up to each of us to develop our unique talents and abilities to maximize our opportunity for success in pursuing our happiness.