The human striving for improved and usually more pleasant conditions

"Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" is a well-known phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence. The phrase gives three examples of the "unalienable rights" which the Declaration says have been given to all human beings by their creator, and which governments are created to protect. There is debate about what the word "happiness" may have meant in 1776. Current usage focuses on pleasant, positive emotions and having needs satisfied, whereas in 1776 the common meaning may have been "prosperity, thriving, wellbeing".

  • Achievement - Success or accomplishment in life's endeavors
  • Entertainment - Movies, TV shows, plays, concerts, etc.
  • Recreation - Leisure activities outside the realm of work and responsibilities
  • Relationships - Pairings of people for mutually satisfying purposes
  • Self-Esteem - Confidence and respect in oneself
  • Sports - Athletic games of skill
  • Travel - Journeys for pleasure or education

Articles

Bentham, Jeremy (1748-1832), by T. Patrick Burke, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Biographical essay
"An action or policy is rational to the extent that it possesses utility, that is, contributes to human happiness. The measure of right and wrong is the greatest happiness of the greatest number. Bentham fleshed out the concept of happiness by reference to four subordinate goals: security (from aggression by others), subsistence, abundance, and equality. The first two goals are more essential to happiness than the second two. Government can do much to provide security, through law, but little to provide subsistence, which must come from the efforts of the individual."
Related Topics: Jeremy Bentham, Law, Liberty, Rights
Government, by James Mill, Encyclopædia Britannica, 1820
Discusses the purpose of government, the means for attaining that end and various related questions and objections; rationalises that representative democracy, as exhibited in early 19th century Britain, is most conducive to "good Government"
"We may allow, for example, in general terms, that the lot of every human being is determined by his pains and pleasures; and that his happiness corresponds with the degree in which his pleasures are great, and his pains are small. Human pains and pleasures are derived from two sources:—They are produced, either by our fellow-men, or by causes independent of other men."
Mill, John Stuart (1806-1873), by Aeon Skoble, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Biographical essay
"Mill, in contrast, argued that pleasures could differ in qualitative as well as quantitative ways. Pleasures associated with the exercise and development of the higher faculties were, he maintained, intrinsically more valuable. ... men are capable of appreciating the sorts of things that might bring a pig pleasure (food, sleep, sex), but the pig is incapable of comprehending distinctly human pleasures such as love, drama, or intellectual growth. Pushpin, a relatively mindless children's game, is not as good as poetry, even if one plays for hours, because it neither exercises nor develops the higher faculties."
Related Topics: John Stuart Mill, Liberty
Murray, Charles (1943-), by Brian Doherty, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Biographical and bibliographical essay
"Murray's late 1960s stint as a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand informed his next book, In Pursuit: Of Happiness and Good Government. Murray decided that, despite the relative destitution of life in the Thai villages he knew, the strength of the communities there allowed him to imagine he could have lived a quite happy life there ... Murray concluded that human beings need self-respect born of satisfaction with their own achievements to be happy, and that the modern state too often deprives people of the opportunity to do things for themselves and their communities."
Related Topics: Charles Murray, Libertarianism
The Flagellation of the Pursuit of Happiness, by George Reisman, 14 Jun 2006
Commentary on Paul Krugman's lamentations about a Senate vote that would abolish the estate tax
"Cutting Medicaid and all other government programs while reducing and eliminating taxes is precisely the policy that is needed to restore the founding principle of the United States, which is the individual's right to the pursuit of his own happiness. ... Implementing it means cutting government spending precisely for the purpose of cutting taxes."
Related Topic: Ludwig von Mises
Vices Are Not Crimes: A Vindication of Moral Liberty, by Lysander Spooner, Mar 1875
Contrasts crimes and vices, discussing the need to legislate or take other governmental action against the former but not the latter, countering several potential arguments in favor of vice legislation, in particular laws regarding spirituous liquors
"... his right to inquire, investigate, reason, try experiments, judge, and ascertain for himself, what is, to him, virtue, and what is, to him, vice; in other words: what, on the whole, conduces to his happiness, and what, on the whole, tends to his unhappiness. If this great right is not to be left free and open to all, then each man's whole right, as a reasoning human being, to 'liberty and the pursuit of happiness,' is denied him."

Books

In Pursuit of Happiness and Good Government
    by Charles Murray, Oct 1988

The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" as of 17 Oct 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.