Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness
The Declaration of Independence captures the aspirations of the United States in this phrase:
“… 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.”
The famous phrase lists particular rights we want America to offer to all—security from physical harm and freedom to select actions that allow us to pursue happiness as each person decides.
- Life requires freedom from fear of deadly crimes and lack of medical care.
- Each year over a million people were victims of violent crimes while more than 500,000 bankruptcies are filed due to medical expenses that cannot be paid.
- Crimes, both street and white-collar, are signs of a broken relationship between the promise of America and the grim reality of many citizens’ opportunities.
- Liberty requires equal treatment under the law for all citizens.
- The different reaction to rioters at the Capitol compared to Black Lives Matter protestors reveals again that law enforcement agencies have a bias against people of color.
- How can we expect certain groups of people to follow laws that are enforced only against them?
- The Pursuit of Happiness requires fair opportunity for all to use their skills and talents to earn a good life. White-collar crimes and corporate misdeeds rob many of hard-earned gains.
- Many essential workers, as revealed in this pandemic, do not make livable wages. That is unfair and shows that the free market system needs to be further adjusted.
- These workers toil hard at jobs necessary for us to succeed as a nation, yet corporate executives pay as little as possible while they retain glorious wages for themselves.
- On the other hand, some white collar workers and bigwigs will do anything to raise their own income, including lying about products, misrepresenting financial facts, stealing from others as their neurotic, inflated sense of self-worth demands more than their industry brings them.
A More Perfect Union
To achieve a more perfect union, we need change the society in a few ways.
- Healthcare is driven by societal goals. Unfortunately, supply and demand does not properly price health care, because we value our lives as infinite (the price is vertical, whenever a service is available).
- As a society we already make decisions that limit how much we will spend to protect a life. For example, if we made all roads wider, the lessened congestion would lower fatal car crashes. But we don’t do that. We allocated a specific amount for roads, resigned to the fact that some will die in crashes because of economic limitations. That’s tradeoff occurs for all infrastructure projects.
- Nonetheless, once societal goals are determined, the free market can be used to motivate medical businesses to meet supply at the most favorable price. They would be able to make profits, but not monopolistic profits.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that the entire society is affected by failures in health care management. Healthcare must be a national priority. The patchwork quilt of employer-based plans fitfully supplemented by governmental programs and charitable efforts has made tracking cases and contacts as well as vaccination distribution great obstacles.
- Education must provide the basics for fair opportunity for all people, according to their birth talents and the efforts they make to apply them.
- This means K-12 education. Free college is a separate issue. Student preparation for jobs in trades and those requiring licenses should be coordinated with those businesses that benefit from employees with those skills.
- Nearly half of all high school students end their education at graduation. With so many high school requirements geared for college preparation, courses such as personal household management, civic rights and responsibilities, and methods of addressing interpersonal disagreements get short shrift.
- Crime will be lessened as more opportunity is available for those who otherwise would have chosen thievery and its follow-on crimes. Of course, all crime won’t vanish, but a major contributor would be eliminated.
- With fairer opportunity and better work skills preparation, more people will escape the conclusion that crime is their only path to prosperity.
- White-collar and corporate crimes result from a belief that people who commit them are better, are of more worth than society is willing to pay them. The relationship of individual success to societal responsibility has escaped them in their headlong rush to academic and corporate success.
- Social Contract. Class warfare greets proposals to fix problems, but have-nots want fair opportunity, not equal incomes, while haves want to retain the status quo. Secession of the Rich occurs, but it is an ostrich solution.
- As social creatures, we live among one another and rely on implicit rules as well as explicit laws. Crime is one sign that the social order is flawed. Its corollary is that fair opportunity is not broadly enough available. To fix things requires change. Change requires those who currently benefit from inequity to give some of their advantages. This conflict between the status quo and change will last as long as people are people.
- Election of government, which enforces societal values, must reflect the majority’s vote.
- The President of the United States is not elected by a majority of voters.
- The majority of the Senate is elected by less than 20% of the country’s voters.
- Gerrymandering is an open scandal. It results in some states sending more representatives of one party though the other party won more votes in the state.
Eight Essential Changes
- Universal healthcare
- Pragmatically, single payer negotiates prices with providers. Ideally, independent federal agency oversees medical delivery to all citizens.
- The entire nation (and business enterprises) benefits from the overall health of its citizens. Business enterprises benefit not just from a healthy workforce, but an operating supply chain and consumers free to shop and buy.
- Majority representation in United States federal government
- Pragmatically, presidential electors selected proportionally to state votes. Ideally, president elected by majority of citizen votes.
- We need more than a collection of equal states, each individually democratic, to run the federal government. We need the democratic principle to rule the entire United States government—President, Senate, and House.
- Education K-12 conferring a diploma and, optionally, a certificate
- Degree for personal development, social rights and responsibilities, and work skills. Certificate asserting college readiness.
- Dropouts (20%) are ill-served by high schools, as is society by their election to quit school. We must target the first two years of high school to more closely meet their needs—skills in fields they express interests in, information on lifestyle supported by their choices, civic rights and responsibilities.
- Economy. Full-time salary must support single person lifestyle
- The minimum of a livable wage must be offered for any full-time jobs.
- If the best job you can get pays only enough to support a single person—but you get married and have children—you should not expect your employer to increase your salary.
- Pay for occupations deemed essential should reflect their importance: higher than minimum wage and higher than minimum livable wage.
- Must have equal treatment of all residents under the law. If not, disbelief in the relationship between hard work, fair rules, and success are undercut. This leads to protests and finally, to those most frustrated, crime.
- Also, if fair opportunity and income isn’t offered, thievery, escape (drugs), and crime will flourish.
- Mass Media
- If government officials refuse to comply with legally-issued requests to answer questions under oath, they are forbidden to comment on those issues in social media.
- In the first years of high school, students should be taught critical thinking skills: evaluating news information, checking sources, distinguishing between facts and opinions, comparing perspectives, and disagreeing respectfully.
- No corporate funding of election campaign activities.
Outrageous Cost of Healthcare. Bankruptcy is too often the consequence.
Secession of the Rich. Reason why the richest despise taxes.
Education K-12 Minimum Requirements. Personal development, civic responsibility, and work skills.
Crime and Order. Successful society needs order to allow its members to flourish, not strait-jacket order, but order that aligns principles with actions.
Photograph. Smiling park ranger. Mary O’Neill, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Photograph. Statute of Liberty..Tania Fernandez. Unsplash.com
Photograph. Happy Family. Helgi Halldorsson from Reykjavik, Iceland, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons