The Pursuit of Happiness: Bring on the Capuccino Machines!

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When our founding fathers signed the declaration of independence, they could not have imagined that some two hundred years later their successors would be bickering over a single phrase in that historic document, and the gravity of its meaning: “the pursuit of happiness”.

It’s enough to make you sick, the quality of ignorance that our elected officials display daily on the public airwaves and in print. But, whatever you do, don’t actually get sick, or one of them might hear you cough and have you dragged before congress to testify on how bad things are for the average American with a head cold.

How is Pursuit of Happiness used in our current healthcare issues?

Recently I have heard more than one politician invoke the phrase “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” to make an argument for national healthcare in the US. It is a bit of an odd argument because the declaration of independence is not the Constitution. Now, if they’re gunning for an armed revolt against England, the Declaration is the place to go for fodder.

The Constitution, on the other hand, is the foundation of our law. In the Constitution there is no suggestion that the federal government has any obligation to care for the physical or mental health of its citizens.

Lawmakers claim that this phrase bears some “degree of forcefulness” within the law. So how is this fragment of a phrase used to support the national healthcare in the current health care debate? Well, supporters of reform say that health care is a right guaranteed within the framers’ intent, as represented in the Declaration of Independence. They support this idea by saying: “Our country has developed socially so far that we are now ready for national health care.” The opposition usually torments: “What else would you like to guarantee? Free rides to the doctor or free cappuccino machines?”  At this point the whole thing breaks down.

But this conversation misses the point. The pursuit of happiness is not easy to define. It can be different things for different people and therefore cannot be universal, i.e. nudists must segregate themselves from others in their pursuit of happiness, eating panda and manatee casserole may make some food connoisseurs happy, but the pleasure is certainly not guaranteed by law, and handling poisonous snakes while shaking to rockabilly music is not – wait a minute – that actually is guaranteed under the Constitution. Anyway, you get the picture.

Let’s analyze the phrase, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. These three are presented in the Declaration as natural, God given rights of all individuals. Life and liberty explain themselves, but what about “the pursuit of happiness”?

Can the Pursuit of Happiness be guaranteed in healthcare policy?

The question is: Does this statement promise happiness? The problem with many is that they confuse true happiness with the energy we spend daily working to achieve that happiness. No politician should promote his or her bill this way because no bill is that good.

Government and all of its happy programs cannot fulfill the need in Americans to pursue the things that make them happy. Seldom is the happiness as satisfying as the pursuit of it. Look at anyone who has achieved any kind of happiness and you will find that they are people in constant pursuit of something and, if they should catch it, they are soon off after something else.

Should this health care bill catch up with us, we may be hotly pursuing some happiness in the form of counter legislation, replacing politicians, or maybe cappuccino machines.


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