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Sunday, July 03, 2016

The Right to Happiness is the Antidote to Tyranny

Revolutions are not unique. Some countries have revolutions all the time until revolution becomes their national sport. In banana republics the overthrow of one dictator to make way for another gives everyone a day off from work.

These revolutions, no matter how they are cloaked in the familiar rhetoric of liberty, are nothing more than tyranny by other means.

What made the American Revolution unique was that its cause was not the mere transfer of power from one ruler to another or one system to another, but a fundamental transformation of the nature of rule.

Every revolution claims to be carried out in the name of the people, but it's never the people who end up running things.

The Declaration of Independence did more than talk about the rights of the people. It placed the people at the center of the nation and its government, not as an undifferentiated mass to be harnessed for whatever propaganda purposes they might be good for, but as individuals with hopes and dreams.

"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 is not merely some bland reference to a mass of people. There is no collective here, only the individual. The greater good of independence is not some system that will meet with the approval of the mass, but that will make it possible for the individual, each individual, to live a free life, not a life lived purely for the good of the mass, but for his own sake.

In a time when government mandates what you can eat and how much of it, only one of the ways it seeks to regulate every aspect of daily life for the greater good-- the declaration that started it all declares that the purpose of government is not social justice, a minimally obese population, universal tolerance or even equality. Equality is acknowledged as a fact, not as a goal.

Instead the goal of government is to allow people to be happy.

That seems like a silly goal. What kind of great nation gets started by asserting that government exists to allow people to be happy? But look at the common condition of any tyranny. Take in that sense of 1984ness and its most obvious characteristic is unhappiness. People are persistently unhappy under a tyranny, whether they are rich or poor, because they are robbed of the necessary freedom to pursue individual happiness.

They are not allowed to be individuals.

We live in an age of collective tyrannies under systems that seek to maximize the ideal welfare of the group. They care nothing for the happiness of the individual. And they care even less for the notion that the individual has a right to achieve that happiness by pursuing it on its own terms, rather than through their socially-approved and market-tested form of happiness.

The Declaration of Independence lays out the conundrum that governments exist to allow individuals to pursue their own forms of happiness.

A government that makes it possible for individuals to do that cannot be a tyranny. And conversely a government that makes it impossible is a tyranny.

Modern revolutions are solution-based. So are modern governments. Redistribute the wealth. Power to the workers. Put X in charge. Strengthen Laws Y through Z. Impose your will on everyone else. And there is the Declaration of Independence, old and worn, offering up an idea as fragile as a butterfly, that government does not exist to impose solutions, but to protect the individual's pursuit of happiness.

What is it that threatens the individual pursuit of happiness? Government. The proper government that the Declaration of Independence gives weight to is one that protects the people from government; other governments as well as their own. It protects from them from being regarded as a mass, a great porridge of people to be poured into the proper molds. It protects them from being an undifferentiated mass reduced to a mathematical average of allotted happiness based on the latest trends in sociological happiness research.

It protects their individuality.

The pursuit of happiness is not necessarily wise. It is often foolish. One man finds happiness in overeating and yet he lives in a society where his pursuit of gorging on giant sodas and salty snacks is protected from all the fidgeting experts eager to rush in and begin prodding him into good health. Another man finds happiness in inventing airplanes and is free to attempt flight despite all the environmentalists who want him to write up an environmental impact statement.

Happiness is individual and individuals are eccentric. Their pursuits of happiness will lead to both good and bad. Individuality is the ultimate diversity and there is no substitute for it if you want a society that breaks through barriers, rather than wrestling in the streets over the fortieth revolution that will finally convince everyone that the right way to live is under Osceopeology. (It won't.)

The Declaration of Independence was not only a national statement, but an individual statement as well. It envisioned a government fit for individuals, rather than massive masses. A government that would free individuals to pursue their own goods, rather than enslaving them to the greater good that is intellectually fashionable at any given moment.

And that is what makes it more relevant than ever. The Redcoats are not about to march into Boston, but the Regulators are. The rising power of government has transformed its laws and systems into a means for the elites to impose their will on the whole country, to stamp out their private pursuits of happiness for collective ends.

The nanny state, like every good nanny, is suspicious of private and unsupervised pursuits of happiness. It accepts equality not as a fact, but as a goal, whose achievement requires the absolute and total regulation of all private matters and activities. The only way to achieve true equality is to eliminate individuality and to maintain a most unequal elite charged with enforcing it. It has no truck with liberty because it understands, rightly, that liberty imposes limitations on its powers of control.

The Fourth is not only a celebration of nationhood, but of a nation of individuals. It is as much a celebration of private freedoms as of public ones. It is a celebration of a nation of individuals capable of voluntarily pursuing their happiness by securing a nation, rather than a nation of slaves waiting to be given their marching orders by another government agency.

An inalienable right can be restricted or taken away, but it never disappears. It never goes away because its origin source in a Divine Power transcends governments and ideologies. It is not bound by the fashions of the day. It is a permanent and absolute statement that the dignity of the individual is not distributed with a soup ladle in the shelter of the state, but comes from the individual.

It is not the people that need governments. It is governments that need people.

That is the most important thing we must remember. We do not need governments. Governments need us. Without governments, people are capable of being moral and just, of caring about each other and helping each other. Without people, governments cease to exist. The best government allows people to express their individual strivings by being one forum among many for handling the communal business of their societies.

As we celebrate the Fourth in an America where the pursuit of individual happiness has been commercialized, centralized and repressed, mark the occasion by exercising your right to the pursuit of your happiness.

20 comments:

Edward Cline said...

How better to celebrate the 4th than by setting aside time to read Daniel's well-put and eloquent encomium on the meaning of the Declaration of Independence?

Infidel said...

Thanks. The insanity angle that you mentioned somewhere may be a key that unlocks some of the puzzles regarding tyranny. It is not a strange accident that tyrants like Stalin become insane, but a fundamental part of the process. Like in Venezuela, instead of recognizing that their own policies, such as price controls, are the cause of the problems, they keep projecting the blame on outside forces, become more and more paranoid, start seeing spies everywhere and arresting them, ending up with a paranoid police state.

On a tangent, reading MSM on Venezuela, they generally don't even mention price controls, but attribute the problem to all kinds of other factors, drop in oil prices, lack of rain, etc.

Of course, some leftists are just evil, like Alinsky, and understand what they are doing. But I think generally they are delusional, deranged, in denial, insane, and don't understand what they are doing.

Anonymous said...

"My Brother's Keeper" and Freedom Shaming : In the Bronze Age Levant, life may have been so marginal that siblings killed each other. Myth spinners admonished parents to keep more kids alive by discouraging this. So, in Genesis 4, a narcissist Lord made Abel the "Golden Child", and the older Cain the unworthy.

Predictably, the shunned Cain kills the unfairly favored Abel. Nabbed by an all-knowing Lord, Cain stupidly tries to wriggle out, pleading "Am I my brother's keeper?"

This poison meme equates one who prioritizes himself with Cain, the grandad of evil. So, of course, Capitalism (the Individual) is reprehensible and Socialism (the Collective) is noble.

The Founders had it right! Individual life, liberty, pursuit of happiness come first. Yet, Ayn Rand's "The Virtue of Selfishness" (1964) ignited an uproar. George W. Bush proudly called himself a "Compassionate Conservative", not the normal bad kind. It has become gauche to be an Individual.

The British Colonies of 1776 were a fortunate nexus of fortitude, individualism and a nucleus of learned leaders. It brought forth the Declaration; and Constitution shortly after. Politics is indeed downstream of Culture (Breitbart et al.).

Our Cultural appreciation and defense of Individual Happiness is the wellspring from which this greatest civilization has flourished. As for the sourpuss guilt peddled by Genesis down to Woody Allen, chuck it in the garbage.

ABSJ1136

Workingstiff said...

Well put. Collectivists abhor happy individuals, because it highlights their own empty, aimless lives that lack self-control, yet crave to run others lives as if they were toy figures.Collectivists are busybodies, who want others to do what they themselves will not do, to make the world a pretty place for themselves so they are not offended by the ugly realities. They see poor people, but will not personally help them out of their own pocket. They want to huddle in the center of the herd, protected by others from predators, in their designated safe space. They want to the position of being head lion,with the expectation that the lionesses will do all the hunting for them, while they get all the glory.

AesopFan said...

"It is not the people that need governments. It is governments that need people.

That is the most important thing we must remember. We do not need governments. Governments need us. Without governments, people are capable of being moral and just, of caring about each other and helping each other. Without people, governments cease to exist. The best government allows people to express their individual strivings by being one forum among many for handling the communal business of their societies."
Amen

Steven Fink said...

THANK YOU, Daniel, for your beautiful paean in praise of the individual's unalienable Right to pursue his own source of happiness (fulfillment). You've captured the true, deeper meaning of "Independence Day".

As an aside, the Torah (Biblical) Reading for this coming week recounts the story of Korach who pursued title and power, rather than embracing his own unique gifts. Failure to understand this led to his demise, taking many with him (but interestingly, his own sons did not follow him).

Anonymous said...

Daniel, I so very much enjoy and admire your wonderful work. Thank you, thank you! If we may compare happiness to a hopeful way of being, these words may be appropriate here: "To have a grievance is to have a purpose in life. A grievance can almost serve as a substitute for hope; and it not infrequently happens that those who hunger for hope give their allegiance to him who offers them a grievance" Eric Hoffer ("The Passionate State of Mind;" 1955) Individuality (the un-dividedness of a person) needs a favorable wind to advance, and if this wind is not blowing we get substitutes for happiness. Most often this is: power. Then, identification with a powerful, megalomaniacal leader, gives the substitute for happiness. The will to power is the result of unmoored happiness. The founders got it right; yet their off-spring is floundering!

Frederick Fisher said...

Thank you for your wonderfully eloquent ID essay,however; I subscribe to the notion that the source of rights are not a deity but the law of identity. They are conditions of existence required by man's nature for his basic survival. AR

Nappy said...

Insightful as always. But what the Hell is "Osceopeolog6y?" Google found no definitions but did find your very similar Independence Day column from 2013.

What's "Osceopeology"? Just a made up word that sounds like it should have significance but is only a collection of nonsense syllables, the ultimate "-ism?"

Anonymous said...

Thanks again, Daniel, for showing the simple beauty of the Founders' thinking. These wise, free men wanted their progeny to lead happy, fulfilled lives.

They had studied the history of tribal chiefs and emperors, subject to the inexorable entropy of tyranny. Whenever ends trumped means, or the "overall good" prevailed, they foresaw the consequence: tyranny.

An innocent child loves the joy of performing feats of skill or bravery. We all remember times we were consumed by zeal of pursuing our dreams. This is the domain of the massively positive sum game. Forget austerity, diminished expectations, envy, victim and privilege. That's for losers. Much better for a climber to look for the next handhold, than to look down.

The Founders' message to us is "pursue". Of course we don't have the right to Possess happiness any more than the revolutionary French had a right to "Fraternite'". The zing of life is in the doing. Go ye forth and PURSUE!

ABSJ1136

hmmm said...

please know that your brilliant essays reach new audiences every day, and thank you so much for putting the words to what so many of us feel

fsy said...


It is not the people that need governments. It is governments that need people.


Let's not forget that governments are nothing but people, a small group of people who are tentatively trusted with power, and whose power should always be easily revoked if they betray that trust.

On the question of the difference between the American Revolution and others, I think a very important factor is that it was not a 'revolution' in the standard sense, but a secession. No one was advocating the overthrow of King George III; the Founders were simply asserting the fact that his power over them was dependent on their consent, and refusing to give that consent from that point on.

Anonymous said...

Such a good read. Thank you for the potent reminder.

FuzzyBear said...

A wonderful perspective piece. The paragraph referring to the Declaration of Independence as a fragile butterfly was priceless.

AesopFan said...

fsy said...

It is not the people that need governments. It is governments that need people.


Let's not forget that governments are nothing but people, a small group of people who are tentatively trusted with power, and whose power should always be easily revoked if they betray that trust.

On the question of the difference between the American Revolution and others, I think a very important factor is that it was not a 'revolution' in the standard sense, but a secession. No one was advocating the overthrow of King George III; the Founders were simply asserting the fact that his power over them was dependent on their consent, and refusing to give that consent from that point on.

5/7/16
* * *
Excellent point - and they were far enough away that they could actually do that.
Secession in the 1860s didn't work so well, even though the reasoning was nearly the same (withdrawing the consent to be governed) although the motivating factor was diametrically different, of course.

How will we go about seceding from our now all-but-openly-declared-lawless government?
-- "a rebellion is always legal in the first person" - as Ben Franklin might have said.

Mr. Cohen said...

Elie Wiesel Attacked by New York Times:

www.algemeiner.com/2016/07/06/the-new-york-times-has-the-nerve-to-cheer-a-posthumous-palestinian-centric-assault-on-elie-wiesel/

CONCLUSION: Jews should stop reading the New York Times.

Anonymous said...

Here is an example of how government can interfere with pursuit of happiness in completing mundane tasks. If Daniel wants to sell me a print out of his article and provide the privacy of a paper bag wrapping, some jurisdictions require he also collect a bag tax to encourage environmentalism. If I bring my own bag, I am not subject to the tax. If Daniel provides me with any kind of bag--even a used one--there is a tax. But, he can sell me a bag and charge
https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/md-politics/a-maryland-countys-nickel-tax-for-plastic-bags-is-paying-off-but-not-as-planned/2016/07/
--mg

Anonymous said...

The ONLY effective "antidote to tyranny" is a 168 grain bullet. Tyrants that are alive will continue to be tyrants until they are dead. Systems that promote the tyrant are made up of people , who make the tyranny possible. While any of them live. They will work tirelessly to maintain that tyrant, or reinstate the tyrant/tyranny if deposed. That is their "vested interest". Only the ruthless extermination of those who propagate the ideology of tyranny CAN make the tyranny stop. The Roman SYSTEM created Nero. The German SYSTEM created Hitler. The Soviet SYSTEM created Stalin. There is NO one tyrant. Rather it is the system itself that becomes one million little tyrants. Only the ruthless application of rule .308 CAN make that stop. "Happiness" is both subjective and temporary. It cannot set you free. Bullets however can.

Dan Morgan said...

Once again you demonstrate the reason I keep returning to your site; your ability to recognize fundamental truth, and express it so eloquently.

VA Rancher said...

Beautiful essay sir.

I miss America...

Be well.

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