OUR VIEW: Whatever happened to ‘the pursuit of happiness?’


Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

An oft-repeated mantra that underlies the spirit of American culture, listed as just three of the inalienable rights by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence.

But the acts of politicians, especially in the past 100 years, have practically taken away any semblance of meaning from those words.

The prohibition of certain substances is a prime example.

If individuals decide to pursue their happiness from drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana or taking LSD, that’s their natural right. As long as they harm no one else in that pursuit, what business is it of the suits in Raleigh or Washington?

However, because of legislation, only one of those avenues to pursue happiness is considered acceptable.

We found out how well prohibition works when the sale of alcohol was banned. Organized crime skyrocketed. Yet, the lesson was apparently not learned, as nearly 40 years following the end of prohibition, President Nixon declared the “War on Drugs.”

It has proven to be highly expensive, ineffective and led to assault on civil liberties — especially the Fourth Amendment, which, because of several Supreme Court decisions, barely has any teeth left.

John Locke, the English philosopher whose writings were influential on Jefferson and others of the classical liberal movement, once said, “The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom.”

However, what we have today from “lawmakers” is the exact opposite.

The myriad legal codes, dictates and edicts coming from the federal and state governments place restrictions on activities between consensual adults that cause no harm to others.

Add to that the rules and regulations from unelected government bureaucrats in the Food and Drug Administration, Environmental Protection Agency and Drug Enforcement Administration (to name a few) that have the full force of the law.

Although half of the states in the country and Washington, D.C., have loosened laws allowing medical cannabis, The DEA earlier this month declined to reclassify the plant, currently listed a a Schedule I controlled substance — alongside heroin — claiming it has no medicinal value.

Ironically, the federal government “as represented by the Department of Health and Human Services” has held a patent on cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants since 2001.

That looks like a medical use to us.

The Affordable Care Act has also done the opposite of enlarging freedom by requiring individuals who do not have health insurance to pay a fine. How is forcing people to purchase something — then levying a fine on them if they don’t — freedom?

Across the country, there are many more examples of freedom being denied — from the outlawing of old wood-burning stoves and collecting rainwater to lemonade stands being shut down for lack of a permit and raids on family farms for selling raw milk.

“A wise and frugal Government,” Jefferson also said, “which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.”

It is clear the governments we have today are neither wise nor frugal, and could use a refresher course in Jeffersonian and Lockean literature.

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