Economics, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Submitted to the Rocky Mountain News, March 20, 2001.
Posted at Opinionet and Free Republic

Eric Valdez' letter of March 19 contains so many outrageous statements, that it is hard to know where to begin commenting on it. I could write a letter about each paragraph, but I will confine my remarks to the following: "The people do have an inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - none of which has anything to do with an economic system." However, Valdez rails against capitalism, which to his way of thinking denies these rights, and glorifies socialism, which to his way of thinking promotes these rights. In other words, economic systems do matter.

How can one enjoy liberty when one cannot choose which products to consume, which employer to work for, or to start one's own business? Capitalism permits these choices, socialism eventually forbids them, and communism denies them outright. How can one pursue happiness when one's economic choices are limited or denied by the dictates of a socialist government?

Some corporations do rotten things and some do great things. Many do some of each. In capitalist societies, individuals can vote with their dollars and do business where they choose. If employer A treats them poorly, they can vote with their feet and either move to employer B or even put out their own shingle. In socialist and communist societies, the government denies this exercise of liberty and pursuit of happiness by narrowing or even eliminating these choices altogether.

Sometimes I think that big government lovers do not believe in a right to pursue happiness, so much as in a right to happiness. Life does not always conform to their ideals, so they demand that their government make them happy with all kinds of socialist programs. Never mind that these social experiments deny millions of other people their right to pursue happiness. When their socialist schemes do not produce the desired results, they clamor for even more control. In other words, their government has not made them happy, so they will persist until their government does make them happy.

The sad irony here is that the further a society moves away from capitalism towards socialism and communism, the more likely it is to deny people the right to pursue happiness by means of emigration. Consider the direction that most rafts travel in the waters between Florida and Cuba.

Douglas F. Newman

Freely Speaking: Speeches and Essays by Doug Newman

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