Life, Liberty and The Pursuit of ?

Has the media and business tried to turn Americans aims into the Pursuit of material products ?

Don’t get me wrong, i am against poverty as much as the next guy but has it all got out of kilter ?

Do people pursue ‘things’ or happiness ?

This is probably going to come as a surprise to you, but the first draft was “life, liberty, and the pursuit of propery”, or wealth, or something like that. “Happiness” was put in during the rewrites.

I think it was because they couldn’t decide on the proper spelling of “property.”

As to the OP, I do pursue wealth. I know that if I work hard and do my job, I’ll be able to afford things that make my life more comfortable. I can’t guarantee that anything I do, no matter hard I try, will make me happy.

As the old saying goes, you can’t buy happiness, but you can rent it.

Are you kidding me, was it really the pursuit of property ? are you sure… being a limey i ain’t sure if its your yanky sense of humour.

I can’t believe that, its so,well, funny.

ha ha

American Inc, formed as a business ha ha, so much for ideals, ha ha, it really cracks me up.

Wealth does make life easier but I have a sneaking suspicion that things which make you happy ( loving partner, health etc. ) are hard to sell so they try sell you a flash car.

Well, whatever the history of the phrase, I think it is true that modern advertising-dominated cultures tries to instill us with the idea that “happiness = ownership of more things”. In particular, there is a subtle…or sometimes not so subtle…attempt to convince us that the best way to alleviate any of the feelings of dissatifaction we have in our lives is to buy this or that product. And then, when that doesn’t work, it is clearly because we have to buy this other thing…And so on and so forth.

Check out The Center for a New American Dream at (Their motto is “More Fun, Less Stuff”.)

Jefferson plagiarised that bit from Locke, who said, that governments protect life, liberty, and property. Jefferson changed it to, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Uh, dude, you do own a computer, don’t you? Uh huh.

Wouldn’t happen to be a “flash” computer that someone sold you, would it? Huh?

So…how’s your health?

[sub]BTW, John Locke, originator of the phrase (thanks, friedo), was, in fact, an Englishman.[/sub]

friedo wrote:

My understanding was that Jefferson (or perhaps it was Benjamin Franklin, who gave Jefferson lots of advice on re-writing the Declaration of Independence) turned “property” into the rather meaningless catch-phrase “the pursuit of happiness” because he did not want to imply that owning slaves was an inalienable right.

Interesting. I had never heard that before. Jefferson was a slave owner, though he never could justify that fact to himself. My understanding has always been that property is inherrent in “the pursuit of happiness.”

I always figured that you were free to pursue whatever made you happy, be it property, emotional satisfaction, professional satisfaction, etc. Whatever made you happy, as long as it brought no harm to anyone else (saving the issue of slavery for a different thread).

I believe that corporate America has tried very hard, with considerable success, to make material acquisition the definition of happiness.

I find this disturbing, and reject it out of hand, even though I drive a “flash” car, have a snappy wardrobe, a cool, powerful laptop, DVD’s, etc. These things don’t define me, however. My “sun” doesn’t rise or set around them.

If they were gone, I’d miss them, sure; but I would quickly get over it and move on with my life. None of them enhances my enjoyment of the company of family and friends (present company excepted, of course, as without my computer, I’d have to scream really hard at the telephone to post here :slight_smile: ), or alters my enjoyment of a beautiful sunrise or sunset.

I have worked and saved to acquire this stuff, but having done without it before, I could quickly learn to do without it again.

The essential question in the 1770’s was whether the colonies would be ruled by the aristocracy of England or its own elite. It should come as no surprise that of the numerous revolts against colonial governments only the one with support from the most powerful classes succeded.

This doesn’t mean that the ideals were unimportant. While there was no intent at the time to implement the egaltarian rhetoric contained in the Declaration of Independence it has served as powerful inspiration for freedom and equality to others. Others both in the Americas and beyond.

I also have heard that the final document exchanged “pursuit of happiness” for “property” but I belive it is a myth. I have been unable to find any purported original draft of the Declaration without “pursuit of happiness”. This is the original draft that you do come across. I will cheerfully admit to any consipiracy advocate that that site does have a strong bias and I have found what I believe to be a case of them omitting a part of an original document because of that bias; however, they did note that part of the original was missing.

Interestingly, the Virginia Declaration of Rights, crafted less than a month earlier by George Mason ( with help from James Madison ) began in this manner:

As to the OP, the purpose of marketing is to convince people that they need a product. We are surrounded by advertising. This certainly has an effect on our culture. How much effect is debateable but whether or not things are “out of kilter” depends on your opinion of how things should be. People pursue both happiness and property. They exchange one for the other, in turn.

Is there a particular part of this topic you are interested in discussing, dude.

Just my 2sense


I’m going to do some digging because I don’t believe that “property” being changed to “happiness” is a myth. I was surprised as anyone else would be when I first learned of it. As to where I ran across this information, I’m not sure, but I’ll search through my Jefferson books and his papers. The very first drafting of the DofI was written on the top half of sheets of paper to allow room to additions or changes. From this, a second handwritten document was drafted which also contains additions or deletions noted on it.

dude: Well, of course. It’s only out of kilter if an individual allows himself to be consumed by a materialistic nature found in most humans. The responsibility is ultimately his.

Not sure it is quite so simple as this because we live in a society where the choices of one affect others particularly, for example, in regards to the environment…and when people aren’t really paying the full costs of their choices but are passing some of it off on the rest of us and on future generations.

Well, “happiness” is a more inclusive term than “property”…certainly happiness would include property ownership, but property ownership isn’t everyone’s ultimate pursuit of happiness.

Ahh…** j **, my favorite liberal…long time no see ;). As you can probably imagine, I’m going to have to disagree with this, simply because I have to doubt the causality established here. If I purchase a tract of land, I fail to see how my purchase of land negatively affects any other person (except perhaps any competiting buyers…but if we keep it in the context of catastrophic effect, then I’m sure that doesn’t apply). As for pollution created by “commercialism”, if I purchase a…microwave for example, there are going to be thousands of microwaves created in any given day and any pollution that is attributable to the creation of MY microwave is going to be negligible, so I fail to see how this affects others as well. I used to live downwind of Hammermill
Paper and yes…you could tell by the foul sulfur smell that paper manufacturing was in full swing. However, the situation has improved from what I used to hear about the area and well…the marginal pollution certainly does not outweigh the excessive economic benefits of this plant…workers are happy since they have jobs, retail stores have a product that they can profit off of, stockholders make dividends…so the only effect here is POSITIVE!

Throw out the telly and turn off the pictures on the web so you can’t see most of the adverts and things seem better.

Your right, they are trying to sell us things because they know we won’t go back to the shop and say ’ i like it BUT it doesn’t make me as happy as i thought, can i have my money back’.

Or as the ugly guy at work with the sports car said ’ i still get no girls !’


Shucks, RugbyMan…good to see you again too. Do you rugby folks play through the winter? Ultimate is great in the snow but convincing enough other people that this is the case has proved challenging! Today, with about 6 inches or so of fresh, soft snow, field conditions were perfect…But only 3 of us showed up to take advantage of it.

Well, I am not claiming that every transaction has bad externalities. Here it would depend on where the land is and what you do with it…I.e., if you contribute to sprawl, traffic congestion, etc.

Ahhh…But it all adds up! And if you think it negligible, then I imagine you would be willing to pay these costs, for example, by having the manufacturer pay for or clean up the pollution they are causing and by requiring the manufacturers of such appliances pay for disposal costs (as they are starting to do in Europe)? (Having said this, I should add that your particular example is an interesting one because microwaves are actually a more efficient way of cooking than ovens, even toaster ovens, so a book I have “Consumer’s Guide to Effective Environmental Choices” says a microwave is one consumer item they would actually encourage people to buy.)

Well, the question is not whether the net effects are positive or negative, but which of those effects are and are not being captured well by the market. The market is good at capturing some effects and bad at capturing others. If the costs that aren’t being captured outweigh the benefits that aren’t, then the paper produced will be underpriced relative to what it ought to be. In this case, I believe most of the benefits you speak of are captured by the market, although I am a little confused about some of the impacts on the local economy. You would have to ask an economist or someone else more skilled in thinking about these externality issues than I am.

I hope people don’t mind if I hijack this thread to tell a little joke that this reminds me of…

[hijack] A horse and a baby chicken living on a farm strike up an uncommon friendship and spend a lot of time playing in the fields together. It’s a very rainy spring and one day, the horse gets stuck in the mud. The chicken tries in vain to pull him out. He then goes and tells the farmer who gets his old BMW, attaches one end of a rope to it and the other to the horse and manages to pull the horse out.

A week later, the baby chicken and horse are playing in the fields again and this time the chicken gets stuck in the mud. The horse is about to run off and get the farmer, but then has an idea. He stands over the chicken, tells the chicken to grab onto his penis and pulls the chicken out of the mud. So, the moral of this story is…

If you’re hung like a horse, you don’t need a BMW to pick up chicks!!!

I like that, its kewl.

materialism mmmm, nice idea but…mmmm

‘I also consider that plain living is good for everybody, phsically and mentally.’ - Einstein

Liberty is a great word, but thats really all that it is if you dont have hope. Life is is the only thing that is real in this world. I wake up each day and question religions, cultures and individuality, but the only thing that keeps me satisfied is the thought that I have nothing to hold me down. I can be broke, rich, fat, skinny, black, or white and still be me. Thats all there is to it. Respect yourself, repsect other people, and hope that there is life after death. I dont need someone else to declare my independence because thats not me. I am free and I am happy.

Well…generally, the season doesn’t run through the winter. I played my first game last Saturday when it could have conceivably been cold (however it was a pleasant 50 degrees :slight_smile: )…but the game goes on regardless of the weather (except for lightning, of course). I think most of the rugby guys wouldn’t be too pleased with the idea of playing in snow considering the extra exertion required to run!!!

Well, this comes down to a matter of opinion really…I see private property rights as an extremely important portion of liberty, and generally don’t see “sprawl” as a major issue (see it as worse to force people to crowd together).

Well…I imagine that I AM paying for the costs of cleaning up through the price of the item that I purchase (surely no businessman is going to eat a cost like that!). Well, I’m of the school of free-market environementalism…I believe that a company will put more effort into keeping property it owns clean (and obviously disposal costs would be irrelevant since it is indeed their property ownership).
Microwaves may be more efficient, but to be honest, I much prefer food cooked on the stove since it maintains flavor and juices more (actually, my favorite mode of preparation is the grill!). Still, as a college student, I understand the efficency of the microwave oven quite well ;).

Well, I suppose that being a disciple of the Austrian school of economics (yes, Mises is god!) would lead to a different point of view than following other schools of thought (Keynesian?). The nature of externalities makes them impossible to capture simply because they are excluded FROM the market (once again, goes back to my private property argument). I’m not relly quite sure of the impacts myself as I’m not a full-time economist, but being a libertarian generally entails a bit of knowledge of economics, I can only see it as positive, especially with the plant’s conscious effort to clean up.