… is from page xi of the late Wesleyan University economic historian Stanley Lebergott’s brilliant 1993 book, Pursuing Happiness: American Consumers in the Twentieth Century (ellipses original to Lebergott):
Life and liberty are “rights” in the Declaration of Independence. Happiness is not. For Jefferson, with terrible realism, only proposed its pursuit. (George Mason had referred to a “natural right … of pursuing and obtaining happiness.” But, after all, any right to obtain happiness can only be enforced by a deity, not a Declaration.)
DBx: Today, this Jeffersonian-Lebergottian wisdom is far too scarce. And it’s getting ever-scarcer. Politicians and high-level bureaucrats eagerly assure their favored constituents that, if allowed to seize more taxpayer money and discretion, the state will dispense to these constituents the full measure of happiness, serenity, and even bliss that these constituents deserve simply by being citizens of Our Great Country.
Attempting to ease the unhappiness they experience as a consequence of their dislike of how their fellow citizens pursue happiness, many people plead with the state to obstruct their fellow citizens’ pursuit of happiness. And on those rare occasions when attention is drawn to the fate of the citizens whose pursuit of happiness is obstructed in attempts to better secure the happiness of other citizens, the happiness pursued by the obstructed citizens is dismissed as being either unworthy or unreal, or at best less important than is the happiness that the state promises with all its might to achieve for those citizens who successfully capture its favor.