Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – Interconnected, Inseparable, and Timeless; Why “Pursuit of Happiness” instead of “Property”?


Why did Jefferson state, "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness," instead of merely "Life, Liberty, and Property"?

Why did Jefferson state, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness,” instead of merely “Life, Liberty, and Property”?

Even a tyrant wants freedom as it applies to one’s self! The unfortunate thing is that every form of tyranny and despotism refuses to acknowledge this desire in other people. Even, and the author should probably say especially, when that tyranny is a majority of the people! Tyranny doesn’t magically lose its entire meaning if enough people accept it as somehow “right” or “moral”.

The desire for freedom, unfortunately, is often only recognized in its absence. Yet, how clearly is it recognized at such a point!! Someone who is in some form of  bondage, whether in jail, or even in debt, is forced to identify freedom as the missing ingredient when it comes to his ability to pursue his own goals, whatever those goals may be. That freedom is what is necessary for any consideration to be attainable in their respective lives.

How people use their freedom is ultimately up to them. The diversity of potential uses should be recognized and embraced. Isn’t it amazing how diverse people’s natural inclinations, goals, talents, and pursuits actually are? Even within one’s own family, let alone one’s own community, or nation, there are an amazing amount of various pursuits. But notice that the common denominator for everyone being able to seek, develop, and pursue those purposes is the need and the desire for the freedom of action to do so! Freedom is the bottom line of meaningful human existence, and is as crucial to a pursuit of happiness as it is universally implicit to any human endeavor.

It should be noticed that fundamental natural rights/duties are so completely connected with and, essentially, are even outlined by the universal desire for freedom that is within and equal to all of mankind. In fact, the rights mentioned in the Declaration of Independence are essentially the overarching categories for every element of freedom, and, subsequently, every right of mankind! And not only that, but there is another dimension to this. Those rights are outlined in such a way, that they span all of time as well.

The necessary elements of freedom, without any of which, freedom is impossible, are:

1) Life
2) Freedom
3) Knowledge (without which life would have hardly any practical purpose and effect)
4) The Right to honestly acquire property, and to control its use

Notice the similarity between those necessary elements of freedom, and the three overarching rights that are outlined in the Declaration of Independence:

1) Life
2) Liberty and
3) The Pursuit of Happiness

Any one of these things, at any time, being hindered in relation to any other person, is felt and dramatically realized. If any one of these things is hindered in any situation, the effect is a blockade of sorts, towards any aspect of human progression. These rights, or claims, outlined by the universal desire for freedom, are completely interconnected and inseparable.

Without life itself, or the Future, freedom to pursue happiness is irrelevant. There would not even be a relevant subject matter upon which to even discuss freedom, let alone it’s use in any pursuit of  happiness. Without freedom, or the Present, life is hindered and rendered, at the very least, compromised in relation to the desires, goals, and purposes of the one whose life it is.

The pursuit of happiness, or the Past, always comes down to the current position of that individual person. It is essentially the accumulation of the effects of an individuals’ choices in relation to their life and freedom. This would include property, since property is the extension of one’s life in the past. Even when one receives a paycheck, does not that money reflect the time/work/service of that person previous to the acquiring of it?

Thus, any infringement, even by government itself, on one’s life, and the rights directly associated with that life, will impact the entire recipe for mankind itself as outlined in the phrase “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

Whether it is violence against one’s body or belongings, unjustifiable bondage, or even deception and lies which corrupt someone’s knowledge, these types of actions are dramatically felt by every person and often bring with it a natural inclination for retaliation, reparations and a desire for justice.

With that in mind, now try separating the elements of freedom, and you will find that they are, also, all entirely necessary and interconnected for the pursuit of one’s own purposes.

Without life, what is even the subject matter at all, in relation to a desire for freedom? Life is the basic premise on which we even determine which claims that particular life naturally has in regards to his/her surroundings. Without freedom, that life’s own desires, goals, and purposes cannot be realized. When compulsion is used to limit someone’s freedom, that person’s life is therefore at the whim of the one controlling the situation.

Without knowledge, how can intelligence be used to attain any goals at all? Attaining a specific goal would require the knowledge of the cause that would lead to the desired effect. As was written by a great legal scholar: “If one bases his actions on false principles and erroneous information, his efforts are futile, his failure certain and the exercise of freedom is frustrated.”

Without recognition of the right to honestly acquire property and control its use, how could sustenance, housing, and the necessities of life be acquired, some of which are totally necessary for life’s perpetual existence?

And without property, how can one ever live comfortably and even survive? If one’s life is one’s own, how could the extension of that life/time/work in the past, including the belongings that would naturally come with that, somehow not be considered one’s own? Once “self-ownership” or “self stewardship” is admitted and recognized, the right to acquire and be secure in the honest extensions of that life must also needs be admitted. If the extensions of one’s life can somehow be considered someone else’s, what is the fundamental problem with even slavery itself?

As H. Verlan Andersen pointed out so well:

“There is no difficulty in recognizing that [Freedom, Knowledge, Property] are valueless without life; and it is also plain that without liberty or knowledge the other elements would be unusable. But the right and control of property is equally necessary for without it life cannot be sustained, liberty exercised, nor knowledge utilized. Let it also be recognized that a partial denial of the right and control of property diminishes the value of the others accordingly. Since a loss of property reduces one’s ability to carry out his purposes, the utility of life, liberty, and knowledge is reduced in like manner.”

If one owns his or her life, at least in relation to other people on equal footing in this life, then their time would naturally have to be considered an extension of that life. If the individual doesn’t own their life or time, who does? And wouldn’t that be considered slavery in any kind of “civilized” society? And if one’s life and time are realized to be sacrosanct, how could there ever be an argument against the idea that one’s property, or the materials that are secondary extensions of one’s right to life/time/freedom, is equally sacrosanct?! Once one compromises one of these overarching rights to life/freedom/property, there is no way to avoid compromising the others! And, are not the horrors of slavery and murder self-evident enough for any thinking person to realize?

Think about it. One needs subsistence for survival! And thus, acquiring that secondary property, which includes the material things necessary for living such as food/clothing/shelter, is also, and obviously, natural! Even the Communists and Socialists, who champion government taking things from some and giving them to others that they perceive as ‘needing it more,’ implicitly admit this fact by the amount of energy and focus they give to these material things in their social demands! (“right” to healthcare,” “right to publicly funded education,” “right to a home”). And how ironic for such movements to give so much lip service to these material things, while often simultaneously brutally criticizing the thinking that acknowledges the source of that very desire to progress and live happily: The desire for freedom, and the human rights associated with it…including the right to honestly acquire and be secure in one’s property!

No one could ever have a right to a service or good provided by someone else. To think and say otherwise is to, not only throw out the concept of rights being unalienable and equal to every person, but endorses nothing short of slavery itself. And why even stop there? If someone else’s time, money, and service can belong to someone else…why not the source of that very property: Life itself?!! At that point, what is the problem with even murder itself?

It is true that the Declaration of Independence says that “All men are created equal.” But the question is: how are they equal? Obviously, humanity, although equal in the desire for freedom for themselves, has extremely different skill levels, natural abilities, and even inclinations, goals, and interests. The problem begins when people attempt to apply equality to material possessions, as if that is even possible to begin with. No two people even have the same mind and thoughts, let alone the expectation to “equal stuff,” which “stuff” comes as a result the application of these same unique minds.

The Declaration, to be self-consistent and true, would have to be speaking of equality in terms of human rights. The Declaration states that: “All Men are Created Equal, and are Endowed by their Creator with certain Unalienable Rights.” So not only did they declare that they saw humans as equal in the eyes of Divine Providence, but that they were equally endowed by that God with Rights, antecedent to any civic society. Thus, the attributes of the word “equal” being used in this context, speak of Rights being:

1) Equal to every person, as well as  

2) Equal in value in relation to every other person.

The secondary material possessions are up to each respective individual to honestly acquire on their own, if and how they so choose. It is up to them to reap what they sow, while civil society and government’s whole meaningful purpose is to protect their ability to do just that: reap what they sow, and keep and be secure in what they earn (obviously, as long as rights are not violated in the process).

In the end, the material possessions are, and will forever be, secondary to self-ownership, and the intangible rights associated with it, such as the right of conscience. One’s own thoughts, frame of mind, time, etc. are theirs and it is through the use of these primary elements of property that can lead to the material possessions, which are too often considered solely as ‘property.’

Please notice that Jefferson didn’t say “Life, Liberty, and Property.” This is not just a typo, or merely a desperate attempt to somehow not plagiarize John Lock. He wasn’t just merely saying “property” in a flamboyant way!  Jefferson realized the truth that, in the end, there is a bigger and more important underlying principle than just the material goods one can acquire in this life. The entire purpose behind people attempt to acquire it in the first place, is because of the universal desire for happiness. The only way that property is acquired and happiness is pursued is with the freedom to do so. Thus, the universal desire and need for freedom will forever remain paramount, and the right to pursue happiness, including property in all its forms, is sacrosanct.

In fact, Jefferson was right on many levels in replacing the word ‘property,’ or ‘estate,’ with the pursuit of happiness. When Human Rights are truly understood as properly defined, it becomes obvious that a person doesn’t even have an inherent entitlement to secondary property. Man has the right to honestly acquire property if one so chooses. But even the ability to somehow not choose to pursue ‘this-or-that’ secondary property assumes the freedom to do so! The same freedom which allows someone to pursue a course, must assume the freedom to honestly pursue a course completely contrary to it.

Because, ultimately, it is entirely up to us.

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