Taking the pursuit out of the “pursuit” of happiness

Another great article-

Forgetting Founders’ tough love
Michael Goodwin, New York Post
Last Updated: 7:02 AM, July 3, 2011
Posted: 1:16 AM, July 3, 2011

The second sentence of the Declaration of Independence contains the most beautiful song of human liberation ever composed. “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.”

Those words were revolutionary when they were adopted in Congress on July 4, 1776, and 235 years later, they remain the purest expression of universal yearning known to man.

Yet that glorious ode to freedom contains a little-noticed limit, one that carries a special meaning for our fractured nation today. The Founders, we can say safely, would have zero tolerance for the soul-sapping entitlement culture of modern America.

To be sure, they envisioned no restriction on God-given Life and Liberty. But they were wise men whose vision was shaped by knowledge of history and the human condition, and that wisdom led them to put “Happiness” in a different category. America would make no guarantee beyond the opportunity to attain it — “the pursuit of Happiness.”

When it comes to results, you are on your own. Theirs was the original Tough Love.

We don’t often recognize it as such, but the lack of a guarantee for happiness is also a right — the freedom to fail. It, too, is precious and crucial to the well-being of individuals and the nation.

We can’t know success without also knowing failure, just as we can’t recognize black without white. And failure often leads to success because it awakens a deeper, more creative desire. It builds character.

But in the frenzy of our entitlement mania, where happiness is viewed as an “unalienable Right,” we are losing the freedom to fail. That loss is a major factor in America’s decline. Much of the unprecedented growth of government aims to protect people from the consequences of failure and the vagaries of life.

For most of our history, it was a given that success and failure were two sides of the same coin — and that both were necessary. The world was a nasty place, and for generations of newcomers, liberty was blessing enough.

No more. Our culture now demands not just the chance for happiness, but also the result. Millions of Americans believe that are entitled to get what they want because they want it.

They are not pursuing happiness. They are demanding it.

Meanwhile, failure gets a bad rap. And why not? If happiness is available on demand, failure is for suckers.

This cultural switch is ruinous, and a betrayal of the spirit of 1776. The idea that their countrymen would demand bailouts for their businesses and homes, handouts for not working and a life without duty to family and community would shock the founders. They would find it hard to comprehend the popularity of notions like “spreading the wealth around” and the desire to punish earned success by seizing its fruits.

Yet all around us, traditional values of independence and hard work, based on modest expectations and personal humility, are being eroded. In the “culture of me,” everybody is a star.

Should you dare protest, you are attacked as greedy. Insist that failure must have its consequences, and you are scolded for lacking compassion.

Never mind that you lived with the old values, that you sacrificed and worked and saved for what you have. Now you must pay and pay again for those who didn’t. Oh, and shut up about it, too.

That is the fault line of America’s culture war in 2011. Pray that the spirit and wisdom of the founders prevails. Otherwise, our nation won’t.

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