– Yuval Noah Harari, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century
— Viktor Frankl
Under Natural Law, to be valid, any law or court decision must agree with these 17 words. In one form or another, the 17 words go back at least 4,000 years, and are taught by all religions. I’ve never found an exception.
Made-up law is political. Whatever the lawmakers decide is right, or wrong, is right or wrong.
In democracies, the lawmaking privilege is owned by the majority. If the majority or their representatives decide to declare something right or wrong, then so be it. And, there is no limit to the laws the lawmakers can cook up. That’s why the federal government alone has 300,000 laws, and the average American commits three felonies per day. Felony means at least a year in prison.
’The more laws, the less justice,’ warned Roman lawyer Cicero, who died two years before the Republic did. ”— Richard Maybury
— Timothy J. Shannon (link)
Perhaps the answer lies in the Constitution. The Bill of Rights gave tangible form to the natural rights of life and liberty. The right to life is expressed in prohibitions on cruel and unusual punishment and unlawful imprisonment. The right to liberty is laid out in freedoms of religion, speech, and assembly.
But the framers never attempted to define happiness in the Bill of Rights, nor did they guarantee it to anyone elsewhere in the Constitution.
Is it possible that Jefferson’s “pursuit of Happiness” was just a rhetorical flourish, a bit of purposefully vague window dressing inserted to give universal appeal to the colonists’ cause against King George III?
If that was Jefferson’s intent, he certainly succeeded – we are far more likely to quote Jefferson’s distillation of Lockean principles in the Declaration’s second paragraph than anything contained in the long list of grievances that makes up the rest of the document.
However, Jefferson was not alone when he wrote about happiness. Many of his contemporaries pondered the same issue: What is happiness and what is the best way for individuals and societies to pursue it?
The short answer that Jefferson and other Enlightenment thinkers came up with was that happiness had its roots in humankind’s inherent capacity for reason and desire for material security. Reason was the faculty that enabled humans to manipulate and control their environment. It was the means by which they pursued individual and collective improvement. The “Creator” gave humans reason because he wanted them to be happy. (All those T-shirts to the contrary, Benjamin Franklin never said that beer was the divine gift intended to make us happy, but he did write, “So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a Reason for everything one has a mind to do.”)
In Jefferson’s world, reasonable people pursued happiness by migrating from poverty and deprivation in the Old World to the natural bounty of the New. They pursued happiness by adopting new techniques that improved crop yields and livestock breeding. They built ships, roads, and canals that opened new markets and sped commerce.
Happiness meant being able to provide for your family without fear of famine, incessant warfare, or an exploitive aristocracy. In his essay “Information to Those Who Would Remove to America,” Franklin called this condition a “general happy mediocrity.” Today, we call it a stable, middle-class society, where people who work hard can reasonably expect freedom and prosperity for themselves and their children.
With that context in mind, Jefferson’s “pursuit of Happiness” becomes much more than a pleasing turn of phrase. It was a remarkably succinct expression of the American dream, a confident look to the future rather than a backward nod to Locke. As such, it remains foundational to how we define ourselves as a nation.
Pursuing happiness doesn’t mean we get it, but abandoning the pursuit seems a much worse alternative.”
— Robert Greene
— Harry Browne From “How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World: A Handbook for Personal Liberty” P. 5
A typical example of a trap is, ‘It would be selfish to be concerned with your own freedom; you must think of others first.’ Or ‘The kind of freedom you want is immoral,’ or ‘The government is more powerful that you are,’ or ‘You have to accept the will of the majority.’
There are probably hundreds of such traps, but I’ve reduced those I’ve seen to fourteen basic types.
It’s very easy to get caught in a trap. The truisms are repeated so often they can be take for granted. And that can lead to acting upon the suggestions implied in them — resulting in wasted time, fighting inappropriate battles, and attempting to do the impossible.
Traps can lead you to accept restrictions upon your life that have nothing to do with you. … [They] are assumptions that are accepted without challenge. As long as they go unchallenged, they can keep you enslaved. That’s why it is important that we challenge them…. I think you will find that most of them have no more substance than ancient cliches such as ‘The world is flat.’
The 14 Traps:
- The Identity Traps
- The Intellectual and Emotional Traps
- The Morality Trap
- The Unselfishness Trap
- The Group Traps
- The Government Trap
- The Despair Trap
- The Rights Trap
- The Utopia Trap
- The Burning-Issue Trap
- The Previous Investment Trap
- The Box Trap
- The Certainty Trap
— Harry Browne From “How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World: A Handbook for Personal Liberty” P. 2
For most people, freedom remains a pleasant fantasy — something to dream of while carrying out daily obligations in the real world. They spend their lives talking vaguely of what they want in life, what they think they are missing, why they don’t have it, and who it is that prevents them from being free.
For most most people, freedom is an ‘if only.’ ‘If only it hadn’t been for my wife, I would have been a success.’ Or ‘if only it hadn’t been for Roosevelt (or Nixon or whomever), the country would be free.
The unfree person can never fully repress his urge for freedom — whether he considers his jailor to be his family, his job, society, or the government. And so, from time to time, halfhearted attempts are made to break free from the restrictions.
But unfortunately, those attempts usually depend upon the individual’s ability to the change the minds of other people — and so optimism eventually turns into frustration and despair.
Hoping to be free, many people engage in continual social combat — joining movements, urging political action, writing letters to editors and Congressmen, trying to educate people. They hope that someday it will all prove to have been worthwhile.
But as the years go by they see little overall change. Small victories are won; defeats set them back. The world seems to continue on its path to wherever it’s going. Until they die, the hopeful remain just as enslaved as they’ve always been.
The plans, the movements, the crusades — none of these things has worked. And so the unfree person continues to dream, to condemn, and to remain where he is.
There must be a better way.
There must be a way to be free without having to wish for a miracle. It must be a way by which an individual can change things without having to rally the rest of the world to his side.
Fortunately, there is such a way.
It isn’t necessary to join a massive campaign to reconstruct the society in which you live, nor do you have to patiently re-educate everyone you deal with.
There’s a way that depends entirely upon what you choose to do. You can be free without changing the world. You can live your life as you want to live it — no matter what others decide to do with their lives.
Freedom is possible, and you can have it — if that’s what you really want.”