From guest author Greg Davis:
What is the single most important word in all our founding documents? It’s a question I’ve thought about several times over the last four years. It was a little over four years ago that I was on a plane ride coming back from a 2008 Mitt Romney rally in Boston, seated next to MRC’s own Paul Johnson. Over the course of a long plane ride our conversation spanned many topics, but one topic in particular has remained with me.
We were discussing differences between Europe and America, and in trying to boil America down to its essence, we reflected on these timeless words from the Declaration of Independence: “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.” It was on this occasion that I began to appreciate the lasting importance of what may be the most significant word in framing the responsibilities of the American government: pursuit.
This one sentence in the Declaration of Independence establishes that our rights are endowed by a Creator and not granted by governments, kings, or militaries, as has so often been the case throughout history. It clarifies that going forward, the American government would be responsible only to protect and to ‘..secure these rights’ that had already been granted by God.
Consider for moment how different that mandate would be without the word pursuit; “..that among these [rights] are Life, Liberty and … Happiness.” What would our country look like today if our elected officials spent the last 200+ years believing that they were responsible for granting our happiness instead of defending our pursuit of it? Maybe we should look at France. I will never be mistaken for an expert in French history, but consider briefly the French motto: liberté, égalité, fraternité, or liberty, equality, fraternity. Equality can be interpreted many ways, but even the casual observer can see that often French economic policies go beyond creating equal opportunities, and try instead to create equal outcomes by using over-protective labor laws and wealth redistribution practices (such as their maximum 35 hour work week and recent 75% tax imposed on the very wealthy). It should be noted that in spite of these efforts, and perhaps because of them, since 1984, French unemployment has been below 8 percent for only 16 months and they now comprise a mere 2% of global GDP, while the US comprises approximately 23%. The United States ranked 6th in per capital GDP in between 2010 and 2011, while France ranked 24th.
And this is where I believe a key difference lies between our two presidential candidates. I believe Barack Obama thinks he knows what’s best for me and thinks he knows what my happiness should look like. He wants to try and guaranty that equality, or happiness, largely by taking from others to redistribute to me. He also has mandated what happiness looks like to employers, who he wants to force to pay for employees’ contraceptives even if in violation of their conscience. I believe Mitt Romney, on the other hand, will protect my pursuit of happiness and defend the principles upon which our nation was founded.
When asked at the first presidential debate by Jim Lehrer how he viewed the role and mission of the federal government, Mitt responded:
Look behind us [on the wall]. The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. The role of government is to promote and protect the principles of those documents. First, life and liberty. We have a responsibility to protect the lives and liberties of our people, and that means a military second to none…
Second, in that line that says we are endowed by our creator with our rights, I believe we must maintain our commitment to religious tolerance and freedom in this country. That statement also says that we are endowed by our creator with the right to pursue happiness as we choose. We’re a nation that believes that we’re all children of the same god and we care for those that have difficulties, those that are elderly and have problems and challenges, those that are disabled. We care for them. And we — we look for discovery and innovation, all these things desired out of the American heart to provide the pursuit of happiness for our citizens. But we also believe in maintaining for individuals the right to pursue their dreams and not to have the government substitute itself for the rights of free individuals. And what we’re seeing right now is, in my view, a trickle-down government approach, which has government thinking it can do a better job than free people pursuing their dreams. And it’s not working.
He took the words right out of my mouth. Defending the rights of the American people to pursue their own happiness has catapulted this nation into an unprecedented position in world history as both an economic superpower and a bastion of freedom. Mitt understands that, while our current president does not, which is why I look forward to Tuesday when I can cast my ballot for Mitt Romney.