Opinion: Equal opportunity for happiness, not equal results

George F. Will’s Sept. 19 Opinions Essay, “ The pursuit of happiness is happiness ,” inadvertently divulged the con in conservatism. Referring to the Declaration of Independence, Mr. Will wrote, “the United States is . . . founded on . . . the proposition that people should be free to pursue happiness as they define it.” And yet, Thomas Jefferson could not have meant that everyone has a God-given right to do whatever makes him or her happy. Too many of today’s conservatives define happiness as unbridled discrimination and pollution, unfair business practices, guns everywhere and going both unvaccinated and maskless. “The pursuit of happiness” cannot mean that the self-serving are free to run roughshod over the common good. In fact, Mr. Will is reading our founding philosophy the same way conservatives read the Second Amendment — by ignoring an earlier part of the same sentence , which in this case proclaims that “all men are created equal.” Read the whole sentence and it becomes clear that Jefferson was not saying people have an unchecked right to pursue happiness but that they have an equal right to do so. In today’s language, we’d call that equal opportunity. Conservative philosophy is based on this linguistic sleight of hand; it’s all about promoting the happiness of a few to the detriment of the many.

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