Wednesday, February 2, 2011

In Pursuit Of "Happiness"

People in the land of Carnival are apparently afraid they could wake up one morning and find their "happiness" gone. Thus, some legislators in Brazil want to write it into their Constitution:
"In Brazil, we've had economic growth without the social growth hoped for," said Mauro Motoryn, the director of the Happier Movement, a non-governmental organization backing the legislation. "With the constitutional amendment, we want to provoke discussion, to seek approval for the creation of conditions in which social rights are upheld."

Similar explorations of officially finding happiness have been pushed by other governments. Both Japan and South Korea include the right to happiness in their constitutions, and earlier this month, the British government detailed plans to begin a $3 million project to measure citizens' well being.
Context, of course, is everything. The U.S. concept of "the pursuit of happiness" isn't found in our Constitution, but in our Declaration of Independence:
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 whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Our patriotic ancestors in the three-cornered hats and wigs were telling us government exists to protect our GOD-given rights, and when a government tries to take those rights away, it's the government that's got to go... not those rights.

You won't hear the "pursuit of happiness" mentioned in the Constitution. However, you'll see it alluded to in the preamble:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Insuring "domestic Tranquility," promoting the "general Welfare," and securing the "Blessings of Liberty" are defining the "pursuit of happiness."

One can say, "We want happy citizens," but how does a government do that? Thankfully, our Constitution is an excellent framework of boundaries.
"Happiness isn't a game, people confuse it with something that is superfluous and it isn't," [Motoryn] said. "We need quality health care, which we don't have. We need quality education, which we don't have.

"It's about creating conditions for people to pursue happiness, but with training, with knowledge, preparing us to be a more advanced society in the future."
Well said.

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