The Ultimate Positive Right: Happiness

I think in the end the research also tells us that the thing that matters most to people is happiness … I think a government that tries, systematically, to relieve what causes lasting misery and emphasize what gives lasting happiness will eventually win the support of the people,” … Derek Bok via Newsbusters

Who is Derek Bok? A former president of Harvard University. That single fact alone should tell you what is wrong with the US, and our culture in general. This is precisely the sort of mushy non-thinking that goes on at our top universities; people have a right to happiness, and a government that supports the right to happiness will be liked.

First, let’s consider happiness as the ultimate positive right. The premise is, of course, that you can take something from one person—money, goods, material, land, etc—and, on giving it to someone else, make the person receiving the goods (or the value of the goods) happy. Suppose this is actually true—suppose we knew, for certain, what would make every person on the face of the Earth happy, and we simply went to the one hundred richest people in the world, took from them what they have, and used it to give to every single person in the world that which would make them happy. Great, we’re done, right? Wait, aren’t we forgetting someone? Didn’t we just make those people we just took everything from unhappy? So we’ve really not met our goal until we make the group of people we took everything from happy again.

You don’t need money to be happy, so get over it. In other words, we’ll define happiness for you, thankyouverymuch. We’ll just spread things around, rather than taking everything. But maybe the root problem with their unhappiness isn’t that these people no longer have money, but simply the trauma of having it taken. Oh, the way to solve that is to never let them amass wealth in the first place. But what if the source of happiness for someone isn’t just the wealth, but the prestige that comes from the wealth? In some cases—not all, of course—wealth is a reward for hard work well done. What if we determine that happiness also relates to being rewarded for work well done?

But what I’m interested in is the aggregate of all happiness, not the happiness of individuals. In other words, you place the happiness of the group above the happiness of the individual people within the group. But the way this game works is to make 1% unhappy to make 99% happy. Then the next 1% must be made unhappy to make the remaining 99% happy. And again, and again… Until the “happy” portion is really only 1%, and the unhappy is 99%. This is why socialistic societies are always the most unhappy places on Earth.

The second problem with this kind of thinking is that the government can pay for research that will tell us what makes people happy. Anyone who understands human nature should know this is utter nonsense. Sending a team of researchers out across America every day to find out what would make people “happy,” would just drive the expectation that happiness comes from external circumstances, rather than from within. The Scriptures have told us all along what the secret to happiness is.

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. Philippians 4:11-12

Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 1 Timothy 6:6-8

Being content with what we have will make us happy, not striving for something else to make us happy. Happiness isn’t in state sponsored Soma, it’s in learning how to live with what you have.

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