The pursuit of happiness

Here it is, my first day back from a long-ish vacation, and I’m not finding any blogging inspiration in today’s news. Instead, it’s exactly the same stuff that was in the news when I left: unrest in Pakistan; Hillary’s free-fall; alleged campaign shenanigans from the Hillary camp aimed at the Obama camp; Obama’s problem with Israel and Jewish voters; student unrest in Iran, which is intriguing but, currently, ineffectual; and the usual bad CBS polls trying to create a self-fulfilling prophecy by pushing Democratic candidates. Ho-hum. Boring. Rather than commenting on things as to which I’ve commented a hundred times before, therefore, I’ve decided to dust off some notes I made weeks ago about about happiness and government. Nothing I’ll say is new, but I still thinks it’s worth thinking about.

You all know, of course, these stirring words from the 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. (Emphasis mine.)

Did you know, though, that California has a Constitution that grants to its citizens a distinctly different right when it comes to being happy? Here:

All people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights. Among these are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy. (Emphasis mine.)

Although the words look similar (with “pursuit” and “happiness” showing up in both places in the same sentence), the meanings are spectacularly different. As I understand it, the Founders, with that simple phrase “the pursuit of Happiness,” were saying that Government cannot step in and regulate too closely the decisions that people make with their lives. Government cannot insist that you engage in a certain trade, or marry a specific person, or socialize only with a pre-determined group. Instead, government must stand back so that you can make those decisions about your life that you believe will lead to your greatest happiness. It is up to you (and fate, I guess) whether you do, in fact, achieve success in that pursuit, or whether happiness remains a chimera, forever out of your grasp.

In California, however, the government guarantees that you will not only pursue that happiness but that you will obtain it. The question then becomes, how does a state determine whether its citizens have obtained happiness? As Dennis Prager likes to say in his happiness hour, happiness can vary from minute to minute. When I’m blogging, I’m happy; when I’m folding laundry or summarizing really, really boring depositions, I’m probably not very happy. When I’m riding Soarin’, I’m happy; when I’m plunging backwards into the darkness on Expedition Everest, I’m probably not happy, just motion sick. And then there are those situations when I’m feeling both emotions, such as boredom about standing in line, coupled with happy expectation about the pleasure of an upcoming experience.

Clearly, unless the government has some probe stuck in my brain 24 hours a day, it’s going to be impossible to tell whether I’m obtaining that guaranteed happiness (and the probe would have a challenge when dealing with conflicting emotions). Additionally, since my happiness level probably averages out over a day, a week or month or even a year (with a preponderance of individual “happy” experiences determining whether I’m happy over an extended period of time), such a probe, even if it existed, would be useless.

Given the impossibility of monitoring every individual’s actual happiness quotient, the only thing left for the government to do is to define happiness and then force it on its citizens. A lot of governments, usually socialist or theocratic governments, have tried to do that. They’ve defined happiness in economic terms and in terms of an individual’s relationship to the state. In communist countries, you will be happy because the state has provided you with housing (no matter how abysmal); with food (no matter how unappetizing or limited); and employment (no matter how dangerous, demoralizing or dreary). In religious countries, the government forces you to live according to its religious dictates, and then declares that you are happy because it has enabled you to please God.  End of story.  The state has defined happiness and then provided it. That your wishes, inclinations and abilities might leave you feeling personally unhappy is irrelevant, because once a state guarantees happiness, it can no longer afford to let the individual provide the definition of what that happiness looks like.

As you probably expected, all of this talk is going to wrap around to encompass this year’s elections and the differing visions of the Left and the Right. Although compassionate conservatism shows bad signs of tipping over into guaranteeing happiness, conservative principles still hew closer to guaranteeing opportunities to pursue happiness. Thus, it holds a greater promise that government will provide security (both at home and abroad) and economic flexibility so as to enable people to do what they want to do.  In a weird inversion of the hippies’ promise, it is the conservatives that create the environment in which citizens can “follow their bliss.” Each citizen can define happiness as he wants, whether it’s where the person lives, what he does, how he spends his recreational time, who he chooses as friends, etc.

This is the same principle that appears in the conservative belief that people should have equality of opportunity, although the government (wisely) refuses to guarantee equality of outcome, or even a successful outcome. There was certainly no guarantee in the 1970s, when Steve Jobs was futzing about in a garage, or Bill Gates was dropping out of college, that either would be anything more than a long-haired loser. We benefited from the fact that the State was unable to force them to stay in school or use their skills toward particular forms of employment. Instead, they followed their dreams and, as luck and the capitalist system would have it, they and we reaped a profit from their efforts.

The Left, however, keeps scootching closer and closer to a situation in which government doesn’t create a petri dish within which we can cultivate our own happiness, but actually tries to define happiness. Two examples spring to mind, but I suspect that you can supply more. The first example is the promise of universal health care. The Democrats want to determine what constitutes quality health care for all Americans (what will guarantee us “medical happiness”) and then to bypass the market to impose that vision on all of us. There are a lot of problems with the government approach.

To begin with, as Britain and and Canada keep demonstrating over and over and over again with regard to health care, the government does not end up providing something that guarantees health happiness. Instead, it provides a bare minimum service that leaves a few people happy, and most people resigned to the scraps doled out to them. The rich, of course, opt out entirely.

Moreover, there are indications that not all people want health care. Studies show that, while there are people who are genuinely at economic health care risk (mostly the elderly), there are also people, well-to-do people, who make a conscious decision to opt out of obtaining health care that they could otherwise afford. They’ve clearly decided that the odds are that their health is good and that they can better pursue their happiness by putting their money with an entity other than an insurance company. A 25 year old guy may decide that he’d rather than have a BMW, which he knows will increase his chances with the ladies, than a Blue Cross policy he probably won’t use. He also knows that he will get health care if he needs it, since ERs are barred from turning people away, and he’s willing to take the risk of subsequent bills. This guy might be very unhappy if Hillary coerced him into turning over even more of his money to the government, leaving him healthy (as he probably would be anyway), but driving a used Hyundai — a car that is most decidedly not a chick-mobile.

The second example of the Left defining happiness occurs with Obama’s relentless calls for unity. First off, this assumes that people want unity. As for me, I feel that unity can turn into brainlessness, with people effortlessly coasting along in what may be a dangerous status quo. It is the vigor of the marketplace of ideas, the fact that different ideas rub up against each other and have to defend themselves, that creates energy and quality. If you don’t believe me, look at a government office that doesn’t face competition — it’s slack, a fact that’s very irritating to those people in the office who, by temperament, crave efficiency and effectiveness. People and institutions need rigor to keep themselves polished. (Rigor, of course, is not the same as horrible threats.)

Second, as the above argument indicates, the only way in which one can actually obtain this unity that Obama impliedly promises will make us all happy is for us all to think the same way. That is, unity exists only when everyone is in agreement. But, as with the happiness problem, how do we define agreement? In my family, we all liked Disney World, but I hated Expedition Everest, and my children loved it. Were we unified or not?

On the political side, Obama is careful not to define the unity he insists he is capable of providing, but I’m quite certain that, as with government guaranteed happiness, this promised unity can exist only if Obama can also define the issues about which we will be unified. And if you look at his perfect liberal voting record, the one that makes him the most liberal Senator in government today, I can promise you that his definition of unity (read: happiness) will not match your definition of unity. Indeed, it will probably match the definition of unity only in a few select communities, such as Berkeley, San Francisco, parts of Boston, Austin, and Manhattan.

Obama’s definition of unity won’t even match the ideas of all those African-Americans who now overwhelmingly support him. His idea of unity requires abortion on demand and no school vouchers — but most African-Americans, as Larry Elder reminds us in the wonderful Stupid Black Men: How to Play the Race Card–and Lose are pro-Life and want vouchers. They’re unified behind his being black (aren’t identity politics wonderful?), but they actually don’t support some of his core policies.

Heck, as Elder points out, even Obama himself isn’t unified, playing the race card to black audiences and disavowing it to white audiences.  To make a very extreme analogy, in this he is reminiscent of the Arab spokesmen who speak peace to the West in English and, in the next breath, preach Jihad to the Muslims in Arabic.  The analogy goes even further in that, just as Western papers listen only to the English pronouncements from these death-seeking Muslims, so too do mainstream American papers listen only to Obama’s “race isn’t a problem” speeches, while assiduously ignoring his more inflammatory pronouncements and affiliations. When it comes to the press, Ostriches and monkeys, the cliched examples of avoidance, spring to mind.

The guarantee of happiness sounds like a wonderful thing.  Heck, we all want to be happy.  Before you get too excited, though, about the candidate who promises you that happiness (even if he phrases it in soporific terms of “unity”), think long and hard about what government-provided happiness really means.  It sounds great in theory, but history and current events show that, when it plays out in fact, they only happy people are the fat-cat bureaucrats who simultaneously define the happiness imposed upon us from on high and, usually, opt out of it themselves, preferring instead to pursue their own happiness.  As for me, I’d infinitely prefer living in a country where the government stands aside as much as possible, merely creating situations in which I can make those decisions I believe are most likely to provide me with the happiness I seek.

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Comments

  1. says

    Concerning: “The Left, however, keeps scootching closer and closer to a situation in which government doesn’t create a petri dish within which we can cultivate our own happiness, but actually tries to define happiness. Two examples spring to mind, but I suspect that you can supply more. The first example is the promise of universal health care. The Democrats want to determine what constitutes quality health care for all Americans (what will guarantee us “medical happiness”) and then to bypass the market to impose that vision on all of us. There are a lot of problems with the government approach.”

    I cannot understand how giving all people access to basic needs (food, warm shelter, clothing, and access to a doctor who will give quality care; read, the same care rich folks get) is in any way defining happiness. Happiness is a choice, not a given due to certain circumstances. A sick person can be happy, and a well person can be very unhappy. Universal health care just makes the petri dish a place where life can flourish.

  2. Allen says

    I take a completely different tack on this one. What it implies to me is that the people not only have the right to pursue happiness, but government cannot do things that might prevent one from obtaining it.

    That is a rather important distinction to me. If government set up roadblocks to obtaining happiness what is the use of the pursuit of it?

  3. Lissa says

    Oh, welcome back Book!! In response to DQ’s question from earlier — how to improve BWRoom — I say, I like it just fine, and my only request (most posts please!) is of course impractical. (Speaking of DQ, I offer up a belated and very awestruck “Thanks!” for highlighting my quote — totally glowed all yesterday.)

    In reply to Helen’s first comment, I think the easy response here is — does universal health care really make life flourish? I mean, as it has been practiced in Great Britain, or Canada? Or, like Socialism, is it a wonderful and beautiful idea in theory that wreaks utter havoc and illness when practiced?

    Remember, quality medical care requires quality doctors. Those doctors are only quality doctors because they are both brilliant and willing to put in massive amounts of schooling and effort. It is undeniable that some doctors do so simply to help the human race and are unconcerned with personal fiscal gain; in fact, many examples of that sentiment can be found here: http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/ But every medical student I’ve met also expected to make a good living by practicing quality medical care; they are investing years and money in the assumption that it will pay off in the long run. Rich folks get their care because they pay (richly!) for it; in other words, they are trading their money for someone’s knowledge and skills.

    Now, let’s try to give everyone the same access to doctors as that provided to rich folks, as you would like. How do we accomplish this?

    a) Force the doctors to give out the same amount of care and attention to any patient, rich or poor. That is saying that any patient has a *right* to a doctor’s care whether s/he wants the patient or not. That is the path that leads to healthcare in the USSR — i.e., lousy.

    b) Force the doctors to give out the same amount of care and attention to any patient, rich or poor, and have the government pick up the tab for those who are not *rich.* Assuming that this is a rightful function of government and that this is a moral redistribution of wealth (I don’t think so, but we will assume it), then this is a correct and rightful solution. Except for one thing — it DOESN’T WORK. Because once the government becomes involved with doling out care, well, then, they have a right and a duty to direct how it is allocated, does it not? And, because quality care will always be finite (I will never be a doctor and neither will most people in this country) while demand can be infinite (if I didn’t have to pay the tab, I’d have had Lasik, an MRI, physical therapy and minor plastic surgery I promise you), then we arrive at rationing. And having the government, rather than the market, decide who receives care and who does not is a nightmarish prospect.

    In other words, I see universal healthcare as I see many of my family’s dearest goals: It’s a lovely idea in theory, and it would be wonderful if it worked, but the attempt to put it into practice would 1) worsen the current situation (both in quality, and in discrepancy of care – see England for examples of both), and 2) put the government into realms it has NO right occupying.

  4. Zhombre says

    Two comments.

    With all respect to Dennis Prager, I don’t think happiness is that important. For the primary reason that it can’t last, one of the notions I’ve retained from an early interest in Buddhism; happiness is transitory; such stuff as dreams are made of. Second, from experience I see often very superficial or stupid things, or even destructive things make people happy. There may be a profound sense of satisfaction or joy one can take from this passing life — for example, I feel quite satisfied with the maturity and experience I’ve obtained at this stage of life, though I paid a price for it: youth — but happiness is often merely a sort of distracting bauble that is grasped at.

    Second, universal health care in my mind is another chimera: in practical terms it will be a large government-run program that will ultimately end in rationing of health care, mismanagement, excessive bureaucracy and general shoddiness. Working in government for 25 years has made deeply suspicious of the efficacy of government. Advocates of universal health care certainly mean to do good, but meaning to do good is one thing, having effect is another.

  5. Ymarsakar says

    The question then becomes, how does a state determine whether its citizens have obtained happiness?

    Slaves and the dead are happiest among us, so therefore the state should devote their endless energies and ambition to creating slaves and the dead.

    (and the probe would have a challenge when dealing with conflicting emotions)

    Especially with women…

    Given the impossibility of monitoring every individual’s actual happiness quotient, the only thing left for the government to do is to define happiness and then force it on its citizens.

    That’s where the slavery and the being dead issue comes in.

    If government set up roadblocks to obtaining happiness what is the use of the pursuit of it?

    That assumes you have free will, Allen, and that free will is a good thing for a nation to have its citizens have. I don’t think people that prefer national healthcare really appreciates the value of free will as opposed to free healthcare.

    In response to DQ’s question from earlier — how to improve BWRoom — I say, I like it just fine, and my only request (most posts please!) is of course impractical.

    If you can ever get an artificial intelligence that will wrote in and imbed html links for Bookworm, you will get more posts, guaranteed.

    n reply to Helen’s first comment, I think the easy response here is — does universal health care really make life flourish? I mean, as it has been practiced in Great Britain, or Canada? Or, like Socialism, is it a wonderful and beautiful idea in theory that wreaks utter havoc and illness when practiced?

    As I mentioned to Allen, I think it depends on how you see free will and human nature.

    1) worsen the current situation (both in quality, and in discrepancy of care – see England for examples of both)

    Why do you think it would make things worse to have a central authority ensuring that everyone is taken care of? It is far more efficient than the direct democracy Athens was running under, for our nation.

    And England, for one thing, saw the benefits of national unity and central planning in WWII. Thus they wished to bring the benefits of war unity to civilian life during peace. Can you blame them for wishing, as helen does, to produce more happiness from the unity that comes from a central group controlling everyone’s actions and desires for the good of all?

    I don’t think happiness is that important.

    Aristotelian happiness is very important to a productive citizen and nation. The problem is, not everyone accepts Aristotle’s definition and explanation of what happiness is or should be.

    Advocates of universal health care certainly mean to do good, but meaning to do good is one thing, having effect is another

    Should the road to Hell be paved with good intentions or should heaven be?

  6. jj says

    Well, that’s exactly the problem, isn’t it? Not everyone (in fact, probably no two people) define happiness in precisely the same way. I have days when a fine cigar and a nice brandy will fix up the whole day; and then there are days when those couldn’t be farther from my mind.

    Genuine happiness is transitory at best, it isn’t a long-term maintainable state.

    Which is why, they being bright guys, the Framers said everybody was guaranteed the right to pursue it: no guarantees about getting there.

    And in the case of those, like, say, John Wayne Gacy, Richard Speck, or Charlie Manson – what it took to make them happy fellas is just flatly not permitted at all, not even for a moment.

    So I’m on Zhombre’s side: I don’t rank happiness all that high. It comes, it goes; sometimes it’s susceptible to simple things, sometimes it’s far more complex. Depends too much on the mood of the moment.

    DQ and I have already had the health care discussion. Don’t see that anything’s changed. Yet another area where the government can only screw up what already exists, while simultaneously making it cost more.

  7. Tap says

    Many liberals, I think, do not understand that our government does not have unlimited resources. They just cannot or will not understand this. Due to limited resources, health care will ALWAYS be rationed. The difference is that under the current system, we have the right to make those choices for ourselves in conjunction with the free market.

    Liberals would have Uncle Sam making the choices for us…some because they don’t even understand that such choices will always have to be made, others because they know that they are wealthy enough to opt out of the system they would impose on the rest of us.

    The liberal vision of universal healthcare will result in at least temporarily improved healthcare for some.. the poor who choose to make use of it. It will make no difference for others..John Edwards will always be able to access the best care available, regardless of the restrictions that will be in place for the vast majority of us. But for most of us, it will result in much worse health care available to us.

    And you have to wonder where the poor Canadians will go to get their premium healthcare if we aren’t around for them.

    The scary thing about socialized medicine is where this will lead us in the long term. Socialized medicine always results in fewer doctors, which increases the need for rationing and decreases the availability of treatment. It also decreases the quality of doctors. The same goes for nurses, etc. Socialized medicine squashes R & D for new medicines and for new treatments. We won’t be making many more blazing advancements in medicine. That’ll be pretty stagnant.

    I just think we are all far better off without it. Free clinics, charity hospitals, tax breaks, etc. all allow for access for the poor. It’s not great, but it’s certainly better than the alternative.

  8. Danny Lemieux says

    “Universal health care just makes the petri dish a place where life can flourish.” Hi HelenL. That’s quite a statement. Do you have any examples?

  9. says

    Helen opens with an interesting statement:

    I cannot understand how giving all people access to basic needs (food, warm shelter, clothing, and access to a doctor who will give quality care; read, the same care rich folks get) is in any way defining happiness.

    As I understand it (and correct me if I’m wrong here, Helen), Helen seems to believe that government has the responsibility to provide to all citizens all of the basic life requirements. I have a lot of problems with that statement.

    The moment government gets in the business of providing to everyone housing, medical care, etc., you start inching into a Soviet style system, where, instead of having the majority doing well, with a minority needing support, you have everyone doing equally badly. Government’s idea of what’s adequate is always going to clash both with the health of the market and the needs of the individual. Keep in mind that governments never, never, never make money — they only spend it. The more they interfere with the market by trying to take over all aspects of the market (including housing, food, etc.), the less money there is going to be to provide the goods required in that sector of the market.

    I simply don’t believe government has an obligation to provide something for everybody. Instead, I believe government has the obligation to provide freedom and an honest economy in which everybody has the ability to do well. (And by honest economy, I believe the government should step in to police market fraud.) Once you’ve primed the pump, I then believe that, as to those who can’t succeed, and only as to those people, we as a humane society have an obligation to ensure that they don’t die like starving animals in the street.

    That’s actually quite a different viewpoint from saying that everybody is owed something. I say, instead that, only as to those incapable of providing for themselves should we step in. And in that regard, as the welfare machine that existed from the 1960s through the 1990s demonstrated, we’d better be careful how we allow the government to manage that type of charity so as not to make a generation so dependent on government that it is incapable of caring for itself.

    Fundamentally, then, I don’t agree with Helen that government has to provide a bare minimum for everyone — which is what socialized medicine proposes. There is a difference between charity, which I wholeheartedly support, and socialism, which I fear — and that is true no matter how smiley the socialist face presented.

  10. Marguerite says

    For some perspective, I think that at the time we became a nation happiness was a higher calling than ‘food, warm shelter, clothing, and access to a doctor who will give quality care . . .’ Jefferson, Washington (et all) believed that happiness was an activity of virtue in a complete life, and the pursuit of happiness and pursuit of virtue were one and the same. Life and liberty are such grand themes, and I don’t believe that they added ‘the prusuit of happiness’ meaning the same material and transitory thing that is often meant today.

  11. Allen says

    Ymarsakar poses an interesting question vis a vis free will. I mean in it the sense that free will is also the freedom to fail. If government promises success then free will is no longer what we mean. This type of system despises choices.

    Then the murderer becomes a political prisoner.

    The poor become wards of the state.

    Those with no health insurance, by choice, become insurgents.

    The wealthy, through hard work become reviled for their hard work.

    I have been both poor and wealthy in my lifetime, and I am thankful for a system that gave me that opportunity, and the one that gave my grandfather the opportunity to rise above the system by leaving his old world.

    You want to buy into the system that sent people here for opportunity? Not me, I’ll take freedom to even fail every time.

    Sorry for the rant folks, but this angers me.

  12. SGT Dave says

    All,
    Speaking to “destructive, but happy” – the last time I heard a grown (47 year old) man giggle like a schoolgirl was a 1SG I was mobilizing with for Iraq. We went to the Mk 19 range (it’s a machine gun that shoots grenades up to 1700 meters or so) and fired familiarization and qualification with the system. At the end we were able to shoot “free” rounds (no formal targets/requirements – it helps the firer learn how to engage without a transverse and elevation mechanism). The 1SG started chuckling after his first three-round burst. He was laughing and flushed by the end of his 25 rounds.
    I had to agree with his assessment; the weapon is fun to fire.
    On to the other side – does this mean I can move to CA and have them buy me a Mk-19 and two hundred rouds a month? It would make me very, very happy. I’d even keep it on the range and spread the joy.
    It would also be the only way to deal with CA traffic (thank god I left Monterrey years ago!).
    Pursuit implies effort; obtaining implies success. Why make an effort if success is a guarantee? It is pablum for the masses – a new religion to make into an opiate for the uniformed and ignorant. And if one doesn’t think socialism/communism is a religion, then I would ask them to show me how either is tolerant of other “faiths” in practice. Including the secular faith of chasing the almighty dollar. I don’t like the last one, but it has produced more and better things than socialism over the past hundred years despite its moral bankruptcy and ethical vacuousness.
    Anyhow, back to dealing with the newest nation (sorta) in the world,
    SGT Dave – “Let me see, you have a conglomeration of nations that cannot agree on a common policy moving to replace another, even more corrupt, conglomeration of nations in trying to establish a new, representative nation? And then you are confused when they only trust the US?”

  13. Danny Lemieux says

    Margeurite notes that, “For some perspective, I think that at the time we became a nation happiness was a higher calling than ‘food, warm shelter, clothing, and access to a doctor who will give quality care . ..”.

    I think that it is telling that so many so-called Christians on the “Left” define happiness in purely materialistic rather than moral terms. I think this gets to the original Rousseau-ian view of humanity that people are shaped by their environment, rather than the moral choices they make in life. So, in their view, government (the State) has a duty to provide for the materials needs of its citizens, which it can only provide by stealing from it s productive citizens (thereby rendering them slaves of the State), in order to mold its wards into “good” human beings.

    If, however, “good” or “bad” people are the product of moral choices they make, then providing for their material needs only enables them to make “bad” choices by shielding them from the consequences thereof. For example, having a baby out of wedlock used to be a “bad” choice (for the mother, the child and others influenced by their example) with bad economic and social consequences. This provided a bad incentive for women to have babies out of wedlock. However, when the State intervenes to meet all the material needs of the mother and baby (what many would define as “compassion”, right HelenL?), the disincentives for bad behavior are gone and it becomes no big deal. So, you get more of that behavior and society pays are terrible price…all in the name of “compassion”, of course.

    Even more important, however, is that when people depend upon the State to protect them from the consequences of their moral choices, then not by any definition can they be considered to be free. A child dependent upon a parent is not free.

  14. Ymarsakar says

    Free clinics, charity hospitals, tax breaks, etc. all allow for access for the poor. It’s not great, but it’s certainly better than the alternative.

    When the Democrats reform the tax policy so that the poor don’t pay any tax, how will tax breaks then provide an advantage to the poor?

    I say, instead that, only as to those incapable of providing for themselves should we step in.

    Take it one step farther. Those that receive society’s charity are nothing but the unpaid servants and artists patronized by the aristocracy. It is they, the ones maintained by society, that owes society an obligation and a duty, not the other way around.

    Being patronized by the aristocracy is not a state any peon, serf, slave, or poor person should want to be in. But they do. That’s human nature for you.

    The fascinating additional aspect is that the intellectuals and spiritual leaders have convinced the poor and the disadvantaged that they are the ones gaining power by going on the dole of the rich and powerful. How that logic works, nobody knows. Then again, nobody knew how the logic that kings had the divine right to rule worked either, but that wasn’t a big problem to most people. Up until the revolution that is. Which is what happened in Russia and Cuba when intellectuals and aristocrats convinced the poor that they deserved more than they were getting from the ruling power. The ruling power, like the Shah of Iran, that were disenfranchising the intellectuals and aristocrats. You notice how convenient how that kind of power struggle always exists when a revolution starts up? Rarely have the people ever benefited from a revolution of any kind. It was always the leaders of the people, and the requirements for leader automatically mandated that you are educated, advantaged, rich, and powerful. Which simply makes the classwarfare struggle of “poor vs rich” into a propaganda device for one group of nobles to everpower another group of nobles.

    Which is what it is. It’s a struggle amongst the rich and privileged factions for dominance. Bill Clinton, the first black President, vs the Republicans, promoting institutional racism. Clinton’s white and a Democrat, part of the long and proud tradition of Democrats in keeping slaves ignorant and powerless. But did most black folks care about his skin color and history when they made and voted him their first “black” President? Not particularly. This again proves that human beings love self-deception. If you give them even a hope of winning, even if they unconsciously know it is false, they’ll take it if nothing better comes up. Obama came up and he was better to most black folks. But still, the poor and the masses at the bottom have an enormous tendency to fall into the traps of those at the top, to be used as cannon fodder against aristocrats by aristocrats, by slave owners against slave owners, by Americans against other Americans.

    We went to the Mk 19 range

    Wasn’t that the same grenade launcher used in Vietnam?

    So, you get more of that behavior and society pays are terrible price…all in the name of “compassion”, of course.

    Just as there is fake liberalism vs real liberalism, so is there fake compassion vs real compassion.

    A child dependent upon a parent is not free.

    A slave living in the Master’s house is not free, either. But that’s what a majority of blacks in America wish to recreate with their support of the Democrat party. How they justify this as living up to the example and heroism of people like Harriet Tubman and blacks that were killed and enslaved by the Democrat party, whites, and Amerindians, I have no idea.

    Most Americans, let alone black folks, don’t know that the Cherokees and other noble savages owned slaves. That when the Americans and white people outlawed slavery after the Civil War, American Indians still kept them cause… Amerindians wanted no part of the Union. Just like the South and their Democrat leaders, coincidentally.

    Working in the master’s house is a less physically killing task than working in the fields where heat exhaustion can kill and nobody will even notice for you are just property. But that kind of comfort, in relation to what could have happened, is not the key to happiness.

    Frederick Douglass wanted knowledge because his owner didn’t want him to have it. That was all the reason he needed to become educated on his own time. Now a days, people can give black folks a white man’s education and if you accept it, you are now an Uncle Tom. Someone who submits to white man’s rule… by becoming as educated and knowledgeable as the white man.

    Someone tell me when it ever has been true in human history that an oppressed people have refused to learn about and acquire the tools that made their oppressors dominant in the first place.

    In the end, that brings up an interesting question about whether blacks today are really oppressed under such myths as institutional racism. A truly oppressed people would wish to become stronger and better, to acquire the tools, power, and knowledge of their oppressors in order to resist their oppressors and make their own place in the world.

    Harriet Tubman, for all her life experiences, were able to work quite well with people like John Brown and Quaker abolitionists that provided the safehouses for the Underground Railroad. You can’t fight the oppressors unless some of your oppressors help you out. That’s a basic principle of guerrilla warfare. Thus refusing the help of some of your oppressors means… you ain’t really shackled hard enough to care. Why would any slave fighting for freedom care which political party helps him out? But now a days, people do care. Because they were made to care when they were born in the Master’s house.

    Now a days, people who live well because of the sacrifices of people like Tubman and Douglass, are more hostile towards white people than Tubman ever was. This is called being spoiled, in case you didn’t know.

    Tubman soon met with General David Hunter, a strong supporter of abolition. He declared all of the “contrabands” in the Port Royal district free, and began gathering former slaves for a regiment of black soldiers.[105] US President Abraham Lincoln, however, was not prepared to enforce emancipation on the southern states, and reprimanded Hunter for his actions.[105] Tubman condemned Lincoln’s response (and his general unwillingness to consider ending slavery in the US), for both moral and practical reasons. “God won’t let master Lincoln beat the South till he does the right thing,” she said.

    Master Lincoln, he’s a great man, and I am a poor negro; but the negro can tell master Lincoln how to save the money and the young men. He can do it by setting the negro free. Suppose that was an awful big snake down there, on the floor. He bite you. Folks all scared, because you die. You send for a doctor to cut the bite; but the snake, he rolled up there, and while the doctor doing it, he bite you again. The doctor dug out that bite; but while the doctor doing it, the snake, he spring up and bite you again; so he keep doing it, till you kill him. That’s what master Lincoln ought to know.

    [106]
    -Wikipedia

    This kind of degeneration into retardedness I am describing applies to everyone in the world. Especially Americans. Everyone has seen the rich daddy earn his wealth and then his son inherits the money with no appreciation of how to make more or what was done to create that wealth. This is what has happened to America on the macroscale.

    People will never be happy, in the end, when they live on the whims and wealth of others. They must know that their life and achievements were made by their own hands, not the hands of their slave master’s or ancestors. People can have fun parties and be spoiled at the same time, but they will never have a chance at happiness until they acknowledge the debt and duty they owe to those that had gone before.

    Nobody will give a slave his rights. He had to fight for them. But fighting as defined by killing slave owners was meaningless. Fighting in the Union’s forces, however, meant much more. The Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam believe they will take their freedom from the Republicans and white folks through fighting. They have forgotten that violence is never a permanent solution to political problems.

    Violence and war can only be a means to an end, the means by which an American can demonstrate that he is worthy of the trust and respect of the Al Anbar Sunni tribes that once resisted American forces.

    How will Black Panthers demonstrate to Republicans and Democrats that they are worthy of the additional rights they demand? By Having Jessy Jackson and Al Sharpton aid Democrats against Republicans, categorically defining the Black Panthers as being nothng but a political tool of the Democrats? I think not.

    It is a total disgrace, in more ways than one, how African Americans and non-African Americans refused to see the benefits of liberation and security brought to Iraq by America. This is the American Civil War all over again, when blacks had the choice of supporting white folks they didn’t particularly like against white slave owners they really didn’t like. Now it is, “we don’t care about other people being enslaved by dictators, we just care about ourselves”. As if a population can maintain their rights, with that attitude, for long.

    Slaves back in 1861 had the excuse of being ignorant and uneducated. Now a days, what is the excuse of people that they don’t know about the suffering being alleviated by American military forces? The same military forces that made the Emancipation Proclamation a reality for all slaves in the Union? That they are as ignorant of and apathetic about white man affairs as some black slaves back in the olden days? What a waste of the ancestors that bled and killed for the rights all Americans enjoy today.

    Please read the bottom part of this post for how race equality can really occur

    As to how all this is relevant to the pursuit of happiness, all I will say is that nobody who is locked into the enmity and envy that is the “class struggle” of victims vs oppressors, will ever be happy. No matter what we do. The first step to getting out of victimhood is to stop thinking like a victim and stop thinking of your oppressors as oppressors. A slave that keeps thinking of himself as a slave and his owner as the Master, will continue to be a slave under his master. He ain’t getting any happiness on this cycle of reincarnation.

  15. says

    Bookworm, Concerning your comment #11

    (and whoever said these numbers were useful was 100% on)

    What I believe about happiness is stated more clearly in the sentence that follows the one you quoted. I said, “Happiness is a choice.”

    Happiness has nothing to do with having one’s needs met by others of even by oneself for that matter. Poor people choose happiness just as rich people do. Happiness is a right no one can take away. Happiness is mostly a result of knowing who one is and having a meaningful relationship with God. (Please note: I am NOT defining what that relationship is or should be. If a person and God are happy with it, it falls under the category: none of my business.)

    The government must allow people “the pursuit of happiness,” – that’s the law – but no person or agency can guarantee that happiness will be the result.

    In the US, because we are a first world country, we have a high average standard of living. And because people have the propensity to desire what they see, it must be hard for the truly poor to maintain their focus on what happiness really is, when they see others flaunt such material wealth.

    Yes, I would like to see the government participate in redistribution of wealth. I don’t know if that would make anyone happy, but I do know that the ones who would have a little bit less would be miserable. People get mad as fire just thinking about having less (sharing).

    This leads me to believe that in actuality poor people are happier than rich ones right now. Poor people know how to share what little they have. Rich ones are afraid the government might “steal” their happiness.

    If someone can steal your happiness, you don’t have it in the first place.

    Happiness is a choice. So I choose happiness.

  16. SGT Dave says

    Y,
    The M79 (aka the Bloop Gun) was the Vietnam-era grenade launcher and predecessor to the M203 (the one that fits under the front of an M16 or M4). The Mk-19 weighs about seventy pounds and is fired from a tripod or on a vehicle mount. The business end of the projectile is the same (40mm grenade) but the M79/M203 uses a smaller propellant charge and has a max range of around 400 meters. The Mk-19 rounds are longer (about the size of a Red Bull can) and have a larger charge, capable of going out to 1500 meters or more (about a mile or so). The rounds burst on hitting and are capable of inflicting casualties to about a five meter spread; roughly one car length. The dual purpose rounds are capable of penetrating armored vehicles.
    The cool thing about the range is watching the shrapnel spark off the targets; we normally use old hulls of M113 APCs that have reached the end of their service career. The sparks can be seen from the firing line, allowing an observer to call hit or miss so that the firer can adjust.
    Notably, we aren’t using Mk-19s all that much right now; they have a minimum arming range and are rather good at killing large groups of people. The Army prefers to pick out single bad guys so the M2 (.50 caliber machine gun) and dedicated sniper rifles are doing a lot of the heavy lifting in urban areas to cut down on collateral damage.
    Have a good day, and glad I can answer some things in my lane.

    SGT Dave – “This ‘ere tripod mounted beauty is an absolute jihadi-smiting joy to use.”

  17. Ymarsakar says

    Thanks for the answer, Dave.

    Breathing under water is also a choice. But I don’t think choosing to breath under water is something you just choose and it happens. I suppose it will happen if you really want it to, but it won’t go according to one’s personal wishes.

    Concerning the logic that happiness is something you choose and other people can’t choose to take away from you, it has some interseting implications to modern life. For one thing, any person’s wife could be kidnapped and the argument could be made, using helen’s logic, that the husband never had his wife in the first place. Same goes for anything else of value.

    There’s something not quite right with that line of logic to me.

    I also don’t agree with the logic that a person should have the power and right to take wealth from others and give it to themselves, just because seeing wealthier people makes them unhappy. The logic is also flawed for observers to take money from those that have it and give it to those that don’t, just because the have nots are unhappy with being have nots.

    I don’t know if that would make anyone happy, but I do know that the ones who would have a little bit less would be miserable. People get mad as fire just thinking about having less (sharing).

    I suppose when one’s purpose is to create more government stealing, not less, sharing would be seen as a choice made for people instead of made by people. After all, when the government is no longer for the people and by the people, why should free will be for and by the people either?

    This leads me to believe that in actuality poor people are happier than rich ones right now.

    When you aren’t worried about people stealing stuff from you cause you don’t have anything to steal, I suppose you might have a higher chance of being happy.

    Happiness has nothing to do with having one’s needs met by others of even by oneself for that matter.

    I get the impression through my intuition that the logic used here is that obtaining happiness does not depend upon what the government does to its people, while making people less happy can be achieved by government redistribution of wealth. Except helen’s argument is that while you had money and you had it stolen from you and redistributed, this would not have made you unhappy unless you were never happy to begin with. That’s an interesting line of logic.

    It hits upon the theme that a person cannot obtain happiness by benefiting from the fruits of their choices and labors. Because what you have earned can also be taken away by those that didn’t earn it. And helen has claimed that you are not really happy unless someone cannot take your happiness away from you.

    As I said in the beginning here, “The problem is, not everyone accepts Aristotle’s definition and explanation of what happiness is or should be”. Which means people are talking past each other.

    The government must allow people “the pursuit of happiness,” – that’s the law – but no person or agency can guarantee that happiness will be the result.

    Certainly that seems to be something most everyone, Don specifically, would agree with. But what’s important is what this signifies. It doesn’t mean what a similar statement would have meant had it come from Bookworm. For example, if the government must allow people the pursuit of happiness and helen believes that rich people flaunting their wealth distracts poor people from the pursuit of happiness, then does this not justify helen’s wealth redistribution beliefs? Wouldn’t government, by preventing rich people from flaunting their wealth, be ensuring that poor people can now pursue happiness? It’s never the bold and large print on the contract that determines the quality of the deal. It is the fine print. The things that aren’t obvious; the things that people don’t say outright.

    but I do know that the ones who would have a little bit less would be miserable

    Which I suppose is often a critical element in ensuring that people who are miserable obtain some joy from seeing other people’s lives wrecked.

    The ultra rich don’t pay income taxes. They live entirely off trust interests and capital gains. Income taxes for corporations may be as 40 or 50% or even higher. Those with six figures but less than a 7 figure income must pay higher than a 40% income tax, either federal or fed+state.

    Thus it is very easy for the ultra rich to become politically allied with people who want to redistribute wealth through higher taxes. Since higher income taxes will only hurt the majority of Americans, it won’t even touch the top 1% and higher.

    And of course, if the government really wants to redistribute wealth, they can always take a percentage of a person’s savings. Increase capital gains so that you can’t gain as much money from the stock market or other investments that produce interest. That’ll really redistribute the wealth from the top percentage earners. It would also crash the economy, but that’s okay, since real happiness can’t be stolen by hunger and economic destitution anyways.

    Historically there was another wealth redistribution scheme of note. No, it wasn’t called communism or socialism. It was the Spanish Inquisition. The Church, and by extension the Spanish royalty that controlled the Church in Spain, got a slice of the property of those they tortured to death or made confess.

    Good times, I suppose; good enough for folks to want to recreate a similar situation.

    People get mad as fire just thinking about having less (sharing).

    The Spanish Inquisition sure shared in many things. Fire was also part of things.

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