FAIR SHARE vs. PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS

I want a “Fair Share.”  Anything less would be—by the very definition of the term—less than “Fair.”  A society where some do not receive a “Fair Share” is—again by definition—not “Fair.”  It follows from the definition itself that, because all of us want both to be “Fair” and to receive a “Fair Share” that we should vote for candidates promising a “Fair Share” to everyone.

The Declaration of Independence, however, says nothing about a “Fair Share.”  The Founding Fathers did not include that in the list—along with Life and Liberty—of rights we have been endowed with by our Creator.  In fact, they believed governments were instituted among men only to guaranty a right to the “Pursuit of Happiness.”  Pursuit means to seek after something.  Whatever share we get is the result of the pursuit.  A government seeking to guaranty the outcomes of the pursuit is one whose fundamental principles will be opposite to one seeking only to provide an environment where free people can pursue happiness.

One great benefit of limiting government’s role to encouraging the pursuit—rather than guaranteeing a “Fair Share” of the results of that pursuit—is that people have very different ideas of what happiness is.  There are some gifted athletes who consider winning an Olympic medal the proper goal for their efforts.  With great sacrifice and skill some have attained that remarkable goal.  They have been permitted to pursue happiness as they chose.  If our national goal, however, is to insure that everyone has a “Fair Share” of what is good, then it would be the government’s obligation to step in and find some way to reallocate Olympic medals so that everyone got a “Fair Share” of them.

Even if one accepted that this all-controlling role for government was proper, it is obviously impossible to achieve.  Only if there were an almost infinite number of Olympic medals, great paying jobs, nice houses, good neighborhoods, excellent schools, competent doctors, cruise ships, nursing homes, etc. could everyone have a “Fair Share” of everything.  That is not true and never will be.  Social Security is a perfect example of government trying to provide a “Fair Share.”  Would anyone freely choose to live on the meager pensions provided by Social Security?  Even at such a minimal level, Social Security is going bankrupt.  So much for a government provided “Fair Share.”

The government has an important and essential role in our society.  But it cannot provide a “Fair Share” of the good life to everyone.  Much of the good life results from the choices we make—and demand the right to make—as individuals.  Many (not all, but many) of those suffering from an obviously skimpy share of the good life can trace the cause of that not back to governmental failure, but rather to family failure.  The institution best at promoting strong families is religion.  Yet, if anything, our government seems determined to short-change its role.

To digress briefly, we need to better identify the roles we expect from the various sectors of our culture.  Corporations, for example, have one purpose: to organize and combine capital, labor and management for the purpose of producing a profit.  Companies that fail to make a profit go out of business.  The purpose of corporations is not to help the poor or maintain people in unprofitable jobs.  In fact it can be argued that it is improper for corporations to be charitable.  Rather than some board of directors giving away the profits of the company to their favored charity, the board should distribute those profits as dividends to the shareholders and let them decide who should receive charity.  Another example: churches have a completely different role from government or corporations.  They are very good at providing charity.  But they would not be good at running a car company.  For a church to be running GM would ruin both the church and GM.  Asking government to fill the roles of both corporations and churches is like using a hammer to drive in a screw.

The point is, corporations, churches, the government and other institutions have different roles and capabilities.  To demand that government guarantee an equal outcome despite all of the disparate choices people make in life is not only completely outside the intended role of our government, it is also a role government is incapable of filling.  The role of the federal government is well defined in the U.S. Constitution.  There is not a word, or a suggestion of a theory, in that document that the federal government’s job is to insure we all get a “Fair Share.”  The proposal that the federal government should do so would require a basic transformation of our country—for the worst!

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