Declaration Of Independence
February 10, 2012 by staff
Declaration Of Independence, In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson called the pursuit of happiness an unalienable right. This was a radical idea. For most of history, most people didn’t think much about pursuing happiness. They were too busy just trying to survive.
Then came the liberal revolution based on the idea of individual freedom. Only then did they start thinking that happiness might be possible on earth.
Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, the right to pursue happiness has been perverted into a government-backed entitlement to happiness.
British Prime Minister David Cameron says, “There’s more to life than money. … It’s time we focus not just on GDP, but GWB — general well-being.”
Well-being sounds good. But is that something that government programs promote?
Philip Booth, an economist with London’s Institute of Economic Affairs and editor of “… And the Pursuit of Happiness,” says no. I spoke recently with Booth and economist Christopher Coyne of George Mason University, who contributed to that volume.
Since the country of Bhutan got all kinds of publicity by using a measure it calls “gross national happiness” instead of gross national product, and The New York Times says it’s a “new measure of well-being from a happy little kingdom,” I asked them if there is anything to it.
“It’s not a model that most Western societies would want to copy,” Booth said.
I didn’t think so. In Bhutan, people can get locked up for criticizing the government. Yet one study ranked the United States 23rd in the list of happy places. Bhutan was higher on the list.
That’s nonsense, said Coyne. It makes more sense to judge a country’s ability to make its citizens happy by whether foreigners want to move there. Clearly, more people want to move to America than to Bhutan. “The way to think about this,” Coyne said, “is the fact that so many people want to come to the United States indicates that they at least perceive there is the opportunity to pursue what makes them happy.”
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