The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update


November 19, 2013

Primus Mootry: Of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness


And so, the right to life means the right to be born. Clever people wish to debate such questions as when is an unborn child a person.

That may be a fair question, but it should not be confused with the words of the Constitution. Some other answer must be given.

The right to life also means the right not to be killed by anyone, including federal and state governments, for any reason. There is no wiggle room here. The so-called right-to-lifers who also favor the death penalty also must think the Ten Commandments are the “Ten Suggestions.”

The right to liberty is tied, I think, to certain constitutionally guaranteed freedoms. Those freedoms include freedom of religion; freedom of the press; freedom to peaceably assemble; freedom from unreasonable search and seizure; and rights such as habeas corpus.

Even though we are still struggling with these ideas, I believe we are light years ahead of most democratic societies in these matters.

One observation here. There is a necessary tension between ideas of liberty and freedom and the human desire for security. In a world where many think there is a terrorist on every airplane, in every school, and in other public places, we would do well to remember the words of Benjamin Franklin: “Those who would surrender liberty for security deserve neither.”

As to the pursuit of happiness, it seems to me that there are certain pre-conditions to making this promise real. The first is a system of universal health care (not Obamacare). How can anyone pursue happiness if, by circumstance of birth or other reasons, they are malnourished, sickly, or otherwise physically or mentally disabled?

It’s impossible.

Second, it is impossible to pursue happiness without a decent education. In this regard, in my judgment, a robust system of public education is indispensable to the aims of a truly free society. Contrary to the philosophy of educationist free-marketers, only fully public schools can achieve this vital function. As someone once said, “the common (public) school is the greatest invention known to man.”

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