Finance – The Pursuit of Happiness

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July 12, 2022 by Scott Crosby - Views: 50

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Finance – The Pursuit of Happiness

July fourth is Independence Day 

S376-1.jpgIn 1776, America’s Declaration of Independence was signed by delegates from the thirteen American colonies, announcing to the world their severance with British rule; but more importantly, their declaration of the Natural Rights of Man.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

“Life” – the Right to your own life; to live for one’s self, and not at the whim of some ruler.

“Liberty” – the Right to take the actions you decide are in your own best interest, and not forced to take actions dictated by a king.

“The pursuit of Happiness” – What is that?   It seemed at the time self-evident.  But what was it really?

The Founders were human, after all, and not all-knowing.  The “pursuit of Happiness” was … owning a plantation in the South; it was Ben Franklin’s publishing career in Pennsylvania; it was John Hancock’s ownership of commercial shipping vessels in New England.

All of these were business enterprises – commercial enterprises.  But the very notion of a business, with several owners – shareholders – was still in its infancy.  The complexities which came into common use in the late 1800s and the 1900s were unknown, unimagined, and unforeseen.

The first ten Amendments – the Bill of Rights – passed after the ratification of the U.S. Constitution specified a person’s Right to his Life, and to his Happiness.  They also stated the authority of the individual States.

Totally lacking was any mention of a person’s Right to “the pursuit of Happiness”.  The Founders failed to define legally what “the pursuit of Happiness” really meant.  It would take more than a hundred years for the implications and consequences of that failure to impact American government and Americans’ lives.  

Nobody realized that “the pursuit of Happiness” was fundamentally contradicted and nullified by a single line in the Constitution’s Article 1, Section 8, “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes”.

That phrase was intended to (1) assign control of foreign trade to the federal government, and (2) end the tariffs which had been enacted by the individual States for trade conducted across State lines.  In the 1900s, however, that phrase became a pathway for the extension of the federal government’s powers and control into certain activities within the borders of individual States.

That extension violated “the pursuit of Happiness” as the Founders meant that phrase.  It put the federal government in direct control of commerce in a way the Founders could not foresee, and which, had they known, would never have delineated and implemented in the form it took in the 1900s.

All because the evolution of commerce evolved far beyond the understanding of the late 1700s.  

And it has been the desire of the Presidents and Congresses ever since to take advantage of that loophole, and exercise greater powers as a result – much more than what was intended when the Constitution was written.

The “pursuit of Happiness” is economic freedom – just as important as a person’s Right to his Life and Right to his Liberty, but which was not delineated and included in the Bill of Rights – a crucial omission.

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