Yeah, the very first unfunded mandate was slipped in at our founding. Right there in the U.S. Constitution, we are told the pursuit of happiness is our right. So get busy getting happy or… else.
Pascal Bruckner, writing in City Journal, lays out the case for compulsory joy as he contemplates the worldview regarding happiness as it changed through the ages:
…it [happiness — D] was the oldest of ideas, defended by the ancients and pondered by the great philosophical schools. But Christianity, which inherited the notion from Greek and Latin writers, changed it with a view to transcendence: man’s concern here below must be not joy but salvation…To wish for earthly happiness would be a sin against the Spirit; the passing pleasures of mortals are nothing compared with the hell that awaits sinners who pant after them.
Obviously, we didn’t stick with any pre-Scientific Era nonsense regarding transcendence. Once the religion of Scientism took hold, that new orthodox cosmology held (and holds) that we can conquer unhappiness via our own efforts, thankyouverymuch. No pie in the sky needed when we can eat great gobs of it, our own choice of flavor, right here on our very own plate. Having your own plate is surely another right?
Christianity’s approval of that most human of qualities, i.e., curiosity provided the framework for countless evidence-based investigations aimed at knowledge for its own sake. In that sense, it was simply following its Aristotelian roots in trying to satisfy our appetite for new information obtained by observing the world around us and reporting on what we saw.
Thus, in a circuitous way, curiosity could indeed buy happiness, at least in the West. The more we knew, the happier we’d be. Theoretically, anyway.
Thus, one consequence of this pursuit led from a meticulous mapping of inheritance patterns in the humble pea by Mendel (an Augustinian monk) and ended (for the moment) with the Human Genome Project. Along the way, Mendel’s research led to improvements in agriculture. Now, in “developed” countries at least, hunger has been eradicated (of course, in those parts of the world where it’s still dog-eat-dog only those in charge have more than enough to eat).
We can see the same trajectory in alleviation of physical suffering. From aspirin to bypass heart surgery to diagnostic x-rays, in the world of those reading this post we are no longer at the mercy of fate. As things continue along this path, it will shortly become our duty not to suffer or cause our family and friends unhappiness by our stubborn refusal to go on in obvious pain when we can take simple measures to put an end to it. In some places, this is already happening, and good citizens are relieving their kin, their culture, and the economics of medicine by going quietly into the dark, thereby clearing out of the hospital bed for the next person’s use before the mattress gets cold.
So is everybody happy now? Well-nourished, as healthy as they can be (or choose to be, in many cases), are people fulfilling their duty to be happy? That’s correct: we’ve gone from pursuing happiness to being obliged to have it in hand at all times, ready to show it to any passing pollster.
Bruckner fills in the blanks between the ‘original’ American Constitution’s enumerations of rights and what we have today, which is far beyond what the authors of that document had in mind. What happened, he says, was a two-pronged transformational shift which led to our current frenzied chase after felicity.
First, a fundamental change in the concept of capitalism began as far back as the 1930s. Initially the economic underpinning of free market capitalism concerned production. Being a good capitalist required the deferral of gratification if you wanted to participate by purchasing the wares capitalism produced. In other words, it was slow; saving up for what you wanted meant fewer immediate purchasers and thus slower growth in the amount of goods produced. What better way to get out of a slump than to spend our way out? And thus, Keynesian magical thinking birthed the notion of credit:
[…] credit changed everything; frustration became intolerable and satisfaction normal; to do without seemed absurd. We would live well in the present and pay back later. Today, we’re all aware of the excesses that resulted from this system, since the financial meltdown in the United States was the direct consequence of too many people living on credit, to the point of borrowing hundreds of times the real value of their possessions.
Good point, but then again how do we define the “real” when it comes to a vague term like value? If I want to buy the shirt off your back because you’re a famous person and having your shirt would give me some kind of mana and maybe cause a little envy among my friends, then what is the real value of your shirt? If you, Famous Person, are badly in need of a fix and I happen to have the goods available, then is the real value of your shirt a quick slap on the back by my Henry Jones?
Obviously, value is fungible. We make an economic exchange: your shirt (did I say your autographed shirt with a picture of you wearing it?) for my heroin. Then if I can turn around and sell your piece of clothing to one of your fans for some obscene price, the value of your shirt has risen. Given the right circumstances, I could have your whole wardrobe up for sale.
Thus, the first transformation was in the way we conceived of credit and what we (our culture) thought of people who used their credit to its full extent — the full extent perhaps moving well beyond what you might ever be able to pay back. In the beginning, of course, a man who lived on credit was considered morally bankrupt — except maybe for the titled aristocrat in England, who didn’t have to follow the same rules as the people from whom he bought goods and services — or at least “got” them even if he never paid out anything.
Among the untitled very rich Americans, it was often the same. They aped their titled peers across the Atlantic. Thus was President Kennedy infamous for his casual approach toward what he owed; the man never carried money but he expected goods on demand nonetheless. He was a perfect role model for the careless rich who flowered after his brief moment of fame.
Bruckner says that the second transformation occurred with the rise of individualism in the 1960s. We were now weighed down with a very heavy load — our very own selves:
Since nothing opposed our fulfillment any longer — neither church nor party nor social class — we became solely responsible for what happened to us. It proved an awesome burden: if I don’t feel happy, I can blame no one but myself. So it was no surprise that a vast number of fulfillment industries arose, ranging from cosmetic surgery to diet pills to innumerable styles of therapy, all promising reconciliation with ourselves and full realization of our potential.
It also promised, at least implicitly, a potential agelessness. No one said they were immortal, but appeasing the gods of exercise and diet and thinking good thoughts was supposed to guarantee our right to skip old age entirely, à la Nancy Pelosi.
Working so hard on being fulfilled, we feel entitled to happiness. Is there any surer path to an Eternal Grievance than this? And the other edge of that sword is also sharp: Eternal Guilt. If I’m not happy and fulfilled, whose fault is that? Bruckner says that “sadness is the disease of a society of obligatory well-being that penalizes those who do not attain it”. However, he may be missing the more insidious outcome of a culturally imposed obligatory happiness. It may be that instead of pursuing an ever more evasive happiness, the search becomes a frenzied need to find another entity onto whose shoulders we can heap the blame for our lack of joy.
Use your imagination for that one, or just follow your nose. For example, there is this study from 2009, “The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness”. Here’s the quick summary:
The lives of women in the United States have improved over the past 35 years by many objective measures, yet we show that measures of subjective well-being indicate that women’s happiness has declined both absolutely and relative to men.
This decline in relative wellbeing is found across various datasets, measures of subjective wellbeing, demographic groups, and industrialized countries. Relative declines in female happiness have eroded a gender gap in happiness in which women in the 1970s reported higher subjective well-being than did men. These declines have continued and a new gender gap is emerging-one with higher subjective well-being for men.
And who is to blame for the decline? Further on they note “the shift of rights and bargaining power from men to women over those years”. It follows, does it not, that more power means more happiness? Well, not really. Because women are still being victimized, you see:
Social and legal changes have given people more autonomy over individual and family decision making, including rights over marriage, children born out of wedlock, the use of birth control, abortion, and divorce (Stevenson and Wolfers 2007 ). However, men may have been able to disproportionately benefit from these increased opportunities. For example, George A. Akerlof, Janet L. Yellen, and Michael L. Katz (1996) argue that sexual freedom offered by the birth control pill may have benefited men by increasing the pressure on women to have sex outside of marriage and reducing their bargaining power over a shotgun marriage in the face of an unwanted pregnancy. There have also been large changes in family life during this period. Divorce rates doubled between the mid-1960s and the mid-1970s, and while they have been falling since the late 1970s, the stock of divorced people has continued to grow (Stevenson and Wolfers 2007 ).
It’s a long report so perhaps somewhere they also note that most divorces are initiated by women, which is certainly the ultimate power, no? In the era of “No Fault Divorce” men are often left to swing in the wind.
So why do women divorce? Because they aren’t “happy” or fulfilled in their marriage “relationship”. In other words, they’ve drunk huge draughts of the Happiness Kool-Aid they find everywhere and they now want “something better” than they have. [Men do this, too, with their Trophy Wives, but that’s for the rich, not for the average joe.]
As the report notes, these findings are consistent among women in the U.S. and in Europe. Women are simply more unhappy than men and it’s not fair. It’s also not fair that their decision to impoverish the whole family in their pursuit of happiness often leaves them with less money and less time. Not to mention what it does to their children, which is decidedly unfair.
Anecdotally, this follows along with the emails we get, particularly the so-called jokes about men. Jokes about women’s stupidity, tactlessness, cluelessness, and general boorish behavior are almost unheard of. In fact, could you use the word “boor” at all in discussing a woman’s behavior? If not, what is the equivalent word for a woman who behaves like one? [It has to be a PG-13 term since the word “boor” meets that qualification].
Women live longer than men. They often die wealthier, too. Adult children are likely to keep in more frequent contact with their mothers than they are with their fathers.
But still, women aren’t happy. Or rather, they’re more unhappy generally speaking than are men. And they never tire of telling their unhappiness to people like the academics who did this study.
In truth, they are more deluded than anything else. Happiness is inherently fleeting. Life is a vale of tears, always was and always will be. Why? Because it ends eventually, and like it or not, your turn to shuffle off this mortal coil comes eventually.
Grown-ups accept the ambiguities of life, its slings and arrows. They not only don’t demand happiness, they can tolerate great amounts of tedium. Only children demand novelty and ceaseless fun, fun, fun.
This obligation to exist in a state of utopian happiness has caused untold misery. It’s the root of our very large abortion industry and it fuels our nascent but growing euthanasia business. Babies and old people are inconvenient and expensive. Both kinds of life are dependent and burdensome. So we simply jettison these inconveniences at the opposite ends of the spectrum.
Dull spouses are inconvenient, too, and often as easy to put aside, which is fortunate, since it’s your inescapable obligation to be happy.
Hey, it’s in the Constitution!
Kinda gives a whole new meaning to the ‘full faith and credit’ clause of the Constitution.
Given the current naive believe in historically referenced happiness as a lifestyle, soon enough that full credit will be the demand of all citizens, not just certain union affiliates.
Grammatical correction: naive believe=naive belief. Sheesh, even my keyboard has a North Florida accent.
I think Pascal Bruckner, whom Dympna quotes, is being a bit simplistic when he says:
“But Christianity, which inherited the notion from Greek and Latin writers, changed it with a view to transcendence: man’s concern here below must be not joy but salvation…To wish for earthly happiness would be a sin against the Spirit…”
It’s reasonable to assume that Dante spoke for Christianity; and here’s what he wrote:
… man is, so to say, a middle term between corruptible and incorruptible things… and since every middle-term participates in the nature of the extremes which it unites, man must participate in these two natures. And since every nature is ordered toward some ultimate goal, it follows that man’s ultimate goal is two-fold… he is the only being who is ordered towards two ultimate goals… Ineffable Providence has therefore set man to attain two goals… the first is happiness in this life… the second is the happiness of eternal life…
Dante, De monarchia, III, xv, 3-8; trans. D. Nicholl, quoted in Dante, Philomythes and Philosopher: Man in the Cosmos, 1981.)
The first step to resolving a problem is to actually know the problem. One is identified in the post (that of happiness being… well, madatory).
But there is another part of the problem you fell in to:
In the beginning, of course, a man who lived on credit was considered morally bankrupt — except maybe for the titled aristocrat in England, who didn’t have to follow the same rules as the people from whom he bought goods and services — or at least “got” them even if he never paid out anything.
Dymphna, I know being American means that, generally, you do like taking shots at English aristocrats, but don’t be snide here. This is a stereotype. Aristocrats weren’t a bunch of stupid oafs promoted past their rank – to the contrary, they were the administrators of the largest empire the world has ever seen, representatives in her core body. For them not to pay would have been scandalous to their honour and conscience, as it would imply they were cheaters and scoundrels. Noblesse oblige would never allow such a thing to become widespread.
And now that they’ve been turfed out of Westminster (why thank you, Mr Blair), and are selling their ancestral estates because they can’t pay the bills and taxes, I don’t think they’re part of the “establishment” that enforces the present paradigm any more. They’ll end up just as impoverished as the rest of us if the socialists continued to get their way.
Let’s leave class warfare to the left. After all, we’re trying to build (or rebuild, perhaps), not tear down.
Not only is the hat coveted the pursuit of happiness now a law of entitlement to covet the crown.
The pursuit of happiness is in the Declaration of Independence.
You’re absolutely right! Do’h…
I wasn’t talking about the present. Nor do you have any basis for this:
I know being American means that, generally, you do like taking shots at English aristocrats…
Present your proof on that one. I don’t “generally” do any such thing or, IF I were to use a convenient stereotype it would be far more likely to be targeting my own.
The corruption of the titled upper classes has long been a subject of comedy and drama. For comedy, say, read Stephen Leacock or PG Wodehouse. Of course the former was only Canadian but his essays were/are so hilarious that it’s hard to read them out loud. More extensively, how about Anthony Trollope’s thousands of pages devoted to those who lived beyond their means and beggared their descendants?
I’m not being anti-English particularly. Didn’t you pick up on the comment I made regarding American uber-rich behavior — e.g., John Kennedy?
What I was explaining (the overuse of credit) was originally a top-down behavior. Now most change goes the other way, i.e., from the bottom up. That’s real degradation of a culture, as both Theo Dalrymple and Daniel Moynihan pointed out on numerous occasions.
Classes exist and they’re identifiable and for some people considering their behavior is of interest. The class/caste system in England has proved tough and enduring, even if it is now but a ghost of its former self. It still takes a looong while to erase one’s ‘umble vowels of origin but people pay good money to do so… if that’s what they want to do.
In the US, class is more…democratic, let’s say. But we also have that old adage (said sniffily): “from shirtsleeves to shirt sleeves in three generations”. In America, the self-made man is much admired, but that admiration comes from his peers and below; it does not come from Old Money or First Families.
Elitism has changed faces and places but it still exists and it still wants to be in charge and many ambitious folks want to be there.
I provided one ‘place’ where aping the behavior of the very wealthy helped bring about America’s financial ruin. OTOH, aping the behavior of our lower class — the underclass — has led to our moral degradation.
One of the features of socialism that makes it perennially attractive to some is its illusory promise to do away with class distinctions. Despite the countless failures as a system, socialism will remain compelling, especially to those for whom class envy is so wounding.
I mentioned another class, too: Famous People. Membership in that one can be fleeting indeed but belonging long enough allows access to the top. Sir Paul (McCartney) anyone?
My personal favorite is The Redneck, a peculiarly American phenomenon which draws heavily from its Scots-Irish roots. If we survive it will be because of their strengths.
Your profile says you’re a history buff. As such you may be interested in the breadth and depth of this wonderful resource, (if you don’t have it bookmarked already):
Primary Sources of the Constitution
It is so thorough that it manages to reach back before Locke, etc., to a Calvinist named Poynet who was their intellectual ancestor, at least according to John Adams.
Adams always claimed the Declaration was a Foreword to the Constitution and that they should be read together. He was most emphatic in saying the latter had not ever “disannuled” the former.
For many reasons, I would rather that phrase had been “life, liberty, and property” and not the nebulous, touchy-feely “pursuit of happiness”.
Years ago, I heard that Rose Kennedy stiffed the hairstylist from the ville. Rumor mongering at this point, I admit.
@ Col Bunny–
yeah, I used to hear those stories during my years in Massachusetts. Not-so-beloved Rose purportedly said of Teddy that by the time she got that far down, it was hard to take an interest…
The Kennedys were definitely nouveau riche by any Boston Brahim standards. Daddy made his $$$ during Prohibition bootlegging liquor to those same Brahims. Later he was smitten with the Famous Person syndrome and put a lot of his money on Hollywood.
Momma Rose was the offspring of Dem machine politicians like her father, Honey Fitz, who was the mayor of Boston when she married Joe.
So, yes, she was as mean-spirited as those who snubbed her in that intense environment. “Belonging” required an ability to stiff the help whenever possible.
Nevermind all of that, however: the sainted mother went to daily Mass until the frailty of old age made excursions impossible.
In the early days, before FDR appointeed Joe as Ambassador to Britain, they were known as “Micks on the Make”.
Afterwards, because Joe was the gatekeeper who decided which Americans could get themselves into an audience with the Royals,, the Brahmins’ hatred of the Kennedys went all the way to the bone.
Meanwhile, regular folks just watched the game and kept score…because everyone loves gossip and besides, Boston is nothing if not intensely political. Blame the Irish and the Italians.
In hoc signo vinces
“Now most change goes the other way, i.e., from the bottom up. That’s real degradation of a culture, as both Theo Dalrymple and Daniel Moynihan pointed out on numerous occasions.”
This is the clever class trick in the U.K. that gives the grand class illusion that culture is bottom up when it is and has been top down.
The thuggish middle class used cultural and social mimicry to subvert the working class and undermine the upper class, theirs was entitlement while the upper and lower classes was dependency.
I seem to recall “life, liberty, and property” to be the wording in Jefferson’s initial draft. I’m not sure why it was changed, and there are good arguments that it oughtn’t to have been, but in many respects I like “the pursuit of happiness” more than “property.”
Pursuit of happiness is more general, affirming rights that would not be included in “property,” without compromising the idea that rights are essentially negative. The Declaration emphatically does not affirm that anyone has a right to be happy, merely a right to pursue happiness.
I once had an end-of-party discussion over politics with a leftist friend. (No furry animals were harmed, but some alcohol was involved ; mainly on his side, of course.)
I had him in a corner and all his arguments were exhausted. Finally he said :
— The role of the State… is to make us happy.
I left it at that. I thought it summed up so beautifully the socialist worldview that any further arguments would spoil the effect.
Per Pascal Bruckner: To wish for earthly happiness would be a sin against the Spirit; the passing pleasures of mortals are nothing compared with the hell that awaits sinners who pant after them. [emphasis added]
The enlargement of human misery represented by that one statement almost exceeds comprehension. Curled at its roots is the poisonous serpent of religious altruism. The notion of how anything nice that you do for youself is tainted whereas the only nice thing you can do is something for someone else. The so-called “selfless act”.
The cannibalism and annihilation of human joy contained in that neat little spiritual muddle is one that still haunts modern man.
This emphasis upon selflessness has burgeoned into an all out assault upon the human ego and, in the hands of Socialist apparatchiks, become a weapon that demeans genius and human inspiration. How dare anyone strive for pinnacle achievements when it will make so many others feel inadequate?
We see it now in “social promotion” of illiterate students and attempts to abolish the grading system in schools. Such efforts to spare the feelings of these fragile little beings avoids looking beyond the immediate moment to a lifetime of burger flipping that these inappropriately advanced pupils will enjoy as the only careers available to those who have spent their childhood skating through school.
As one unnamed wag noted:
NEVER HAS THERE BEEN A GENERATION WITH SO MUCH SELF-ESTEEM … OR FOR SO LITTLE REASON!
Instead, our tender-hearted school administrators and budding Social Engineers have puffed up the expectations of recent generations to an unprecedented degree whereby their sense of entitlement is out of all proportion.
Success is expected, not something to be earned. Happiness is supposedly guaranteed and not just to be pursued.
As things continue along this path, it will shortly become our duty not to suffer or cause our family and friends unhappiness by our stubborn refusal to go on in obvious pain when we can take simple measures to put an end to it.
This rubbish is already happening in the form of legislation that prohibits “hurtful” forms of speech and the use of “racial epithets” or “hate speech” and so forth.
Takuan Seiyo very capably addressed this madness in his essay, “The Art of Strategic Citizenship“, when he discussed how Big Government “guarantees to ‘minorities’ an equality of outcomes, and not just opportunities.”
Our Declaration of Independence mentions the pursuit of happiness as a right but not happiness itself. There is no entitlement to happiness, yet that is exactly what Big Government is attempting to impose by fiat.
Does some mean person’s verbal abuse hurt your poor widdle feelings? We’ll outlaw it and prosecute those who object. Has this made our society any safer or happier? You be the judge.
Ask Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff if Austria is any safer now that denigrating Islam by exposing the truth of its seditious nature has effectively been proscribed.
The entire issue of women’s happiness (or lack thereof), is grist for another comment.
@ M. Marchenoir–
You clever fellow.
This reminds me of a post-Tea Pary demo that ended in a walk to our Congressional representative’s local office. Someone in the group gave him a book on flat tax theories.
And then folks set him up, this Yale-educated legal scholar on the payroll of George Soros. One person asked him about the rights granted us by the state via the Constitution. He grabbed that bait and ran with it, only to be pulled up short when another person reminded him that individual rights can’t be “granted” by the state. As any first year law student should know, these a prioi rights exist above any govt laws.
One of the best natural libertarian economic philosophers was Claude Frédéric Bastiat. His brief work, The Law is considered a classic:
Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.
What Is Law?
What, then, is law? It is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense.
Each of us has a natural right–from God–to defend his person, his liberty, and his property. These are the three basic requirements of life, and the preservation of any one of them is completely dependent upon the preservation of the other two…
You can find his original work in French here, or at least it’s a place to start:
Ce qu’on voit et ce qu’on ne voit pas
I can’t remember now if he converted to Catholicism before he died (age 49) or had always been in the Church. Whatever the reason, as is the case today, his religious beliefs caused people to turn away from his ideas, even though his spiritual life didn’t intrude into his clever analyses –e.g., The Broken Window Fallacy.
Obviously, since the anti-clerical groups won, Bastiat fell into disfavor in France. However, his work has been resurrected (so to speak), especially here in the U.S. Thus, when I heard Lt. Col. West refer to Bastiat as an important influence on his own economic philosophy, I knew Florida was going to have at least one representative who’d done his economics homework.
As a quick intermezzo, please consider the similarity between Pascal Bruckner’s notion that, “To wish for earthly happiness would be a sin against the Spirit…” and that of (now deceased) bin Laden associate, Yussuf al-Ayyeri:
“The goal of democracy, according to Al-Ayyeri, is to “make Muslims love this world, forget the next world and abandon jihad .” If established in any Muslim country for a reasonably long time, democracy could lead to economic prosperity, which, in turn, would make Muslims “reluctant to die in martyrdom” in defense of their faith. [emphasis added]
How remarkably similar is Bruckner’s eschewal of mundane human happiness and that of terrorist Yussuf al-Ayyeri.
I supposed we must all bow (as it were), to Islam’s far more capable implementation of human misery among Muslims. Christianity’s midwifing of the scientific revolution could not but help to erase human suffering in ways that, even now, still continue to give Islamic clerics fits and starts if not actual nightmares.
You took a quote out of its context to set up your strawman.
Thus, no point in adressing what you have to say since it is neither honest nor open-minded.
Besides, what Bruckner quoted was an asetic, Middle Eastern world view, not mainstream Christian thought.
IOW, Anthony’s ideas –the Desert Fathers – are simply one strand out of the hundreds that make up Christian thought.
Hesperado did the same thing when he reduced Christianity to what Dante put in a poem written during a plagaue.
You both could use a little Franciscan joie de vivre…
Dymphna: You both could use a little Franciscan joie de vivre…
Joy is no stranger to me. I have already written here at Gates of Vienna about “the supremely magnificent aspect of positive intent or good will”.
Bonum Diffusum Sui
Much of my original comment still stands in that modern Socialists and their progressive church brethern are actively seeking to instill a sense of entitlement in so many who have neither earned nor even deserve it.
My appraisal of Bruckner does not seem to be misplaced. In “Condemned to Joy“, Bruckner asserts:
The first was a shift in the nature of capitalism, which had long revolved around production and the deferral of gratification, but now focused on making us all good consumers.
Capitalism can no more make us “good [little] consumers”, as the author so condescendingly implies, than a gun can magically transform us into skilled hunters.
Nor should credit be tarred as the principal promoter of consumerism. Without credit, in the form of early loans, much of the Industrial Revolution might not have happened nor, quite possibly, much of today’s technological revolution as well.
Bruckner’s posture smacks of “money is the root of all evil”.
But credit changed everything; frustration became intolerable and satisfaction normal; to do without seemed absurd.
Again, Bruckner imbues credit with too much ability to alter human behavior. First off, the predatory nature of those offering the credit must be taken into account. Secondly, there was an overall rise in productivity that improved the quality of life which permitted less functional humans to survive where natural selection would have seen them perish even just a century before.
Is this empowering of the feeble-bodied and feeble-minded to be blamed on Capitalism? Or might it be traced to the church’s universalism that deemed all worthy of life even if they made no productive contribution to society?
Capitalism does not drive entitlement; far from it. Entitlement is something that exists only when sheltered by artificial forces that overcome survival of the fittest.
We would live well in the present and pay back later.
Only if one has allowed themselves the moral laxity to believe that acquiring staggering debt at usurious interest rates is not an impediment to true quality of life. Bruckner continues to assign functional motives to dysfunctional behavior.
Today, we’re all aware of the excesses that resulted from this system, since the financial meltdown in the United States was the direct consequence of too many people living on credit, to the point of borrowing hundreds of times the real value of their possessions.
From what “system”? Let’s ensure that this is identified and defined quite clearly. This “system” is most certainly not Capitalism. Greed, as in thieving swine like Michael Milken with his, “Greed is Good” mentality, is the principal culprit. While the quote is Ivan Boesky’s, Milken has probably done far more to infect young minds with this highly toxic mantra.
Thus happiness becomes not only the biggest industry of the age but also a new moral order.
Only for those stupid enough to permit others to define “happiness” for them. Again, moral fiber seems to play no role in defining real happiness.
We have come to believe that the will can readily establish its power over mental states, regulate moods, and make contentment the fruit of a personal decision.
Only because so many have been led to believe that personal will can arbitrarily redefine reality. No such thing applies and our modern world is littered with the hulks of those who have hit reality’s brick wall. The Greek economy is a plu perfect example of this delusional behavior. Europe’s dalliance with Muslim integration and Multiculturalism is another.
Over and over again, Bruckner conflates modern dysfunctional personalities with what were once healthy psyches.
Condemned to joy, we must be happy or lose all standing in society.
Bruckner neglects to mention that the loss of such standing will be in a Hollywood “society” and not one of actual moral integrity or ethical merit.
In hoc signo vinces
“We see it now in “social promotion” of illiterate students and attempts to abolish the grading system in schools. Such efforts to spare the feelings of these fragile little beings avoids looking beyond the immediate moment to a lifetime of burger flipping that these inappropriately advanced pupils will enjoy as the only careers available to those who have spent their childhood skating through school.”
This is not about a “pursuit of happiness” this is about knocking out the future competition and dumbing down any future dissent it is the present day reality for millions of British NEETs
Not only does the phrase “the pursuit of happiness” (or even the word “happiness”) not exist anywhere in the Constitution of the United States of America (either original or as amended), it does not appear in the Articles of Confederation either. And regardless of Adams’s sentiments (or whether they were more than just his own) the Declaration has no legal force and I doubt that anyone, Adams included, would take seriously anyone who tries to put so much weight on those four words.
I find interesting what the Articles of Confederation (ignored in all of my American history classes, which elided that era and resumed with the Constitution) says about citizenship in Article IV:
“the free inhabitants of each of these States, paupers, vagabonds, and fugitives from justice excepted, shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of free citizens in the several States….“
If only we had the same attitude toward people claiming “welfare rights” today, it would be a very different United States.
“Hesperado did the same thing when he reduced Christianity to what Dante put in a poem written during a plagaue.
You both could use a little Franciscan joie de vivre…”
I’m confused. I quoted Dante as extolling happiness both in this life, and in the next; while you accented this life as a “vale of tears”.
P.S.: St. Francis used to roll in the snow not for fun, but to freeze his genitals so he could quell his lust.
Oh, as far as the noveau riche are concerned, I wholeheartedly agree. But I guess the snideness of my comment came from the fact I was reading this post at the Mad Monarchist at the same time. And I have heart the rags to rags in three generations saying before as well.
But as the discussion has shown, the middle class has been a big part of this push. They emulated the aristocrats they so wanted to be while at the same time undermining them in Parliament, using class warfare as a shield. They claim to love individuality even as the quash it in the mass democracy, mass media, mass everything, where that which stands out gets nailed in or repeated ad nauseam.
Perhaps, however, the final word on the pursuit of happiness should go to Ben Franklin, who said:
The Constitution only guarantees Americans the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.
In hoc signo vinces
Christianity the reason for West’s success, say the Chinese
Bastiat is a hero of this microscopic minority, French classical liberals. However, he is nearly unknown in France outside that circle.
I was not aware of the link between his thought and Christianity. Your remarks and quotation of Bastiat are priceless to me.
A short while ago, I came to the entirely personal conclusion that classical liberalism cannot not work in the absence of a set of moral values, which are not the result of liberal dogma, but rather stem from our Christian heritage.
Therefore, I am delighted that you brought me the historic and ideological confirmation of my intuition.
I’m off spreading this quotation by Bastiat on French catholic, conservative blogs, a number of which strongly oppose classical liberalism on the grounds of its alleged lack of moral values.
My theory is that a political system cannot replace moral values, which exist on their own — or not.
Naturally, certain political systems, such as socialism or islam, carry incentives which go against moral principles.
But being a decent fellow is entirely up to each person — it’s a delusion to think that, if only we could bring to power a different political system, individual morality would be restored (which is the assumption underlying all anti-liberal thought in France).
That’s akin to a doctor trying to cure a patient by attempting to repair his car.
@ M. Marchenoir —
That’s akin to a doctor trying to cure a patient by attempting to repair his car.
Hey, doesn’t it count if the doctor meant well?
Here’s an American site which does much to promote the practical aspects of Bastiat’s ideas:
The Acton Institute
His work can be purchased there (I presume it’s still available; I got one book from them a few years back).
For your conservative Catholic Francophones, I suggest this page on the site: Agenda Social, which is devoted to various topics, some of which will surprise them. The intro says:
…Les sélections sont classées de manière thématique selon les divers sujets de la doctrine sociale catholique. Sous chaque titre thématique, les citations sont disposées selon un ordre pédagogique-plutôt que chronologique ou magistral-et chaque sujet commence par une citation expliquant la question traitée…
Each subject is available also as a download (PDF), or the whole lot can be purchased, here:
Agenda Social: Une collection de textes du Magistere
I’ve been following this site since…oh, forever it seems. Their scope has always been somewhat international, but over the years they’ve really conquered the steep learning curve involved in using social media to reach people.
The group is based in Detroit but the students come from everywhere. I’m especially glad to see they have people from South America.
Since your English is so fine, I suggest you spend a little time looking around the site so you can report back to the hidebound what’s been happening in Roman Catholic teaching since they last looked.
As they say here, this “isn’t your father’s” RC intellectual thought. IOW, it has moved on, sometimes even ahead of the curve.
It is an excellent source for writings and workshops which explore the moral underpinnings of the marketplace.
Thanks, Dymphna, those sites look great, I’ll look into them.