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Letters: The cost of pursuing happiness

November 04, 2013

Re "The key to a happy society," Column, Nov. 3

Well-being is more than feeling good about oneself, as Michael Hiltzik suggests. Personal happiness is hardly the most important measure of a satisfying life. What is the effect, for example, of being satisfied with our society and its values? How can we determine the price for treating one another well, for having faith in one another, or for being proud of our country and ourselves?

I once read about a woman from a Scandinavian country who said about homelessness in the United States, "If there were people living on the streets in my city, I would feel personally ashamed."

That is what it means to be a fulfilled citizen of a compassionate society. Unfortunately, it is a cliche now to say there are too many people in this country (many with jobs) who scramble every day to stay out of poverty, out of emergency rooms and off the streets.

But as long as they struggle, our own pursuit of happiness will be inevitably abbreviated.

Catherine R. Leach

Sherman Oaks

In concluding that "what we're really arguing about is how much to pay for" the pursuit of happiness, Hiltzik — like Benjamin Radcliff, the political scientist whose work he reviews — betrays his failure to understand the meaning of Thomas Jefferson's immortal words.

The Declaration of Independence was not a plea to the British crown to lift the American colonists from lives of struggle and hardship but a demand for freedom from government interference so they could pursue happiness for themselves.

Jefferson's fellow patriots paid for those rights — life, liberty and then the pursuit of happiness — in blood.

Alex Swanson

Los Angeles

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