On July 4th, 1776 we declared our independence from the oppressive rule of the British Crown. Thomas Jefferson, arguably the most influential founding father and our third President, eloquently wrote the Declaration of Independence establishing not only our nation, but our rights as well. As a founding document, the Declaration of Independence guarantees us the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” These rights have somehow taken a new meaning in the 21st century and it is time that we return to a time where these rights are interpreted in a meaningful way.
The right to life is more or less self explanatory. All Americans have the right to be alive, and this right cannot be taken away without the due process of law. The right to liberty means that you have the right to be free. Liberty is the basis on which our Bill if Rights are based on. The Pursuit of Happiness has become the most misunderstood right from the Declaration. The Pursuit of Happiness means that we are free to pursue things that make us happy; we are free to pursue an education, we are free to pursue employment, we are free to pursue property. If the American Dream were happiness, we’re free to try and achieve it. In a recent phenomenon, more and more Americans believe the right of Pursuit of Happiness is a guarantee of happiness, and that a guarantee of happiness means guaranteed equal outcome. The Declaration and Constitution guarantee no such thing.
While we are free to do what makes us happy, nothing guarantees that we will be successful at it. In life there will always be winners and losers and the very idea of a guaranteed equal outcome is the opposite of liberty. If you fail to reach the American Dream, it is not through the fault of the government. In order for a government to guarantee equal outcome that government will have to give individuals that which they have not earned. In order to do that, the government must take that which somebody else earned and give it to those who have not earned. Guaranteed equal outcome requires the government to literally steal from one person and give it to another. Government stealing is not liberty. We all have the right to pursue happiness, but the government can never guarantee you’ll achieve it.