As you may recall from recent blogs, when Jefferson stole the phrase “pursuit of happiness” from John Locke, he substituted “happiness” for Locke’s “property.” Jefferson agreed with the Greek philosophers that happiness comes from “being good and doing good.” The purpose of government, said Jefferson, is to promote happiness, ergo “the good.”
America is currently a very, very unhappy place. Assuming Jefferson and Aristotle were correct, our unhappiness is the result of not having pursued what is truly “good.”
Americans tend to equate happiness with wealth. Poverty does cause unhappiness, but it’s been shown that those having a comfortable material existence are no less happy than are the wealthy. Scandinavians have taken this to heart. Their system guarantees a comfortable material existence for most people.
Supposedly, our democratic government was created to benefit all of us, to give all of us an equal chance to build secure, happy lives. Its mechanisms and structures were designed to keep abuses by the powerful in check. The powerful, however, long adept at gaming the system, have transformed democracy into plutocracy. Posing as champions of freedom, they have duped people into misconceptions that secure votes for their preferred candidates. One such idea is that any degree of “socialism” is tantamount to communism and will lead to the loss of our rights and freedom. As if they care a fig for our rights. Their only concern is that they may have to ante up to the tax man and scrape by on few million less.
It’s true a genuinely fair, safe, society can’t exist without some reasonable infringements on individual “freedom.” (Making masks optional or allowing teenagers to parade around town bearing weapons of war are a couple of “rights” I think we could do without.) But in all the important ways, citizens of “socialist” democracies are every bit as free as we are while enjoying the benefits of a society that puts into action the fairness and equality we trumpet to the heavens. Then ignore. The result? Scandinavians are tops on the happiness scale while we are pretty far down on the list.
Contrary to popular belief, these “socialist” states are not really socialist. They are free market capitalist, like us. The difference is that taxes are used for the benefit of the people. Government answers to the people, not business. As a result, the people trust the government and willingly hand over their taxes. Clearly the investment has paid off well.
Americans, even before we gained independence, (heck, we’re told that’s why we fought for it) always resented taxes. This goes double for the wealthy who have allied with the GOP to drastically lower taxes on themselves and eliminate controls and oversight on their industries. Meanwhile, programs intended to better the lives of the masses generally go begging.
During and after the Great Depression we went through a period when some “socialist” policies, such as Social Security and Medicare, came about. That process came to a screeching halt just around the time Viet Nam was ramping up. Arguably, our current culture war was conceived in the cauldron of that absurd war. Since then Congress has come to resemble an arm of Big Business and the presidency a dictatorship.
The divisiveness sown by Trump et al. is not new. They are merely intensifying the divide and conquer strategy the wealthy have been exploiting since Nixon’s administration. Often in defense of global big business interests, our taxes are squandered on endless foreign wars. At home, we battle each other. On many levels, that plays into the hands of the greedy. In such a climate, the prospects for developing a fair system like the Scandinavian model is bleak. Even more bleak is the possibility we will soon become a happy nation.
Corrupted by greed, our system of government is failing in its intended purpose: to ensure our right to happiness. The propaganda of the greedy has sucked many of us into supporting the very policies that are making them richer and us unhappier. One way the oligarchs manipulate voters is to sound their alarm. “Lord protect us. Those commie, left-wing Democrats are going to establish evil socialism, take away our God given rights and dismantle democracy!” Relax Lord. You need not trouble Yourself. For decades, the Republicans have been destroying democracy perfectly well without divine intervention.