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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


"And the Pursuit of Happiness": Nathaniel Branden, RIP, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 12 Dec 2014
Memorial essay, including some personal recollections, with emphasis on Branden's work on self-esteem and self-responsibility, and a preamble on the quoted phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence
Libertarians and others have wondered why Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence concludes its explicitly incomplete list of unalienable rights with the pursuit of happiness rather than property ... states,
... he was almost certainly influenced by George Mason's Virginia Declaration of Rights ... which referred to "the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety."
... Carol V. Hamilton claims that Jefferson found the phrase the pursuit of happiness in John Locke's An Essay Concerning Human Understanding ...
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
The Flagellation of the Pursuit of Happiness, by George Reisman, 14 Jun 2006
Commentary on Paul Krugman's arguments against a Senate vote to abolish the estate tax
[Krugman's] message is that everyone's life is mortgaged to the needs of others and that no one can breathe free and live for his own happiness and pleasure so long as anyone else, anywhere on earth is suffering and in misery ... 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. This principle ... is the primary. Implementing it means cutting government spending precisely for the purpose of cutting taxes.
Related Topics: Ludwig von Mises, Taxation
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"
That dissection of human nature which would be necessary for exhibiting, on proper evidence, the primary elements into which human happiness may be resolved, it is not compatible with the present design to undertake. We must content ourselves with assuming certain results. 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.
An Interview with Robert J. Ringer, by Robert Ringer, David M. Brown, Oct 2004
Topics discussed include reactions from readers, questions about Action! and Winning Through Intimidation, how he became a writer, his venture in New Zealand, religion and his next book
Everyone who isn't sleepwalking through life realizes that some of the greatest opportunities come disguised as obstacles ... The more action you take, the more your "mental paradigm" expands, which in turn gives you the capacity to see beyond the immediate problems in your life and identify the opportunities. ...
If a person is to have any hope of finding happiness in life, what is the one thing he must do?
I guess I would have to give the nod to having a meaningful purpose. A powerful, meaningful purpose to one's life leads to continual, bold action, and the happiest people I've known are those who are action-oriented.
Related Topic: New Zealand
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, much happier than with greater wealth ... 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
Vices Are Not Crimes: A Vindication of Moral Liberty, by Lysander Spooner, 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
Vices are usually pleasurable, at least for the time being ... Virtues ... often appear so harsh and rugged ... If ... each person is deprived of the highest of all his rights as a human being, to wit, 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.


Into it: John Stossel, by John Stossel, Stephen Humphries, The Christian Science Monitor, 16 Jun 2006
Stossel is asked about he is reading, listening and watching, and then questions related to his book Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity
John Stossel, anchorman of ABC's 20/20, what are you ...
... Reading?
Charles Murray's In Pursuit of Happiness and Good Government was a good stimulus to my mind. It approached basic questions, which, from Aristotle, have been, "How do we best pursue happiness?" "What is happiness?" It just asked and answered many of the basic questions about which form of government is likely to provide happiness for more people. The essence of that turned me on to other libertarian concepts.
Related Topic: Compulsory Education


In Pursuit of Happiness and Good Government
    by Charles Murray, Oct 1988
Partial contents: One: "The Happiness of the People" - Measuring Success in Social Policy - Two: When There is Bread - Enabling Conditions and Thresholds - Three: Toward the Best of All Possible Worlds - Policy and the Idea of Man

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.