Brazil May Entitle Citizens to “Happiness”

Legislators in Brazil are considering to add the “pursuit of happiness” as a right to their country’s constitution. The Senate is expected to endorse the proposal after which the lower chamber will vote on it.

Article 6 of the Brazilian constitution already guarantees “social rights”, including education, food, health, housing, leisure (!) and work. So why add happiness?

The Associated Press cites former education minister and Labor Party Senator Cristóvão Buarque who is one of the bill’s sponsors. He believes that legally guaranteeing citizens’ right to pursue happiness is essential to helping ordinary people hold their government accountable.

Or, as Mauro Motoryn, director of the Happier Movement, a nongovernmental organization that is supporting the legislation, put it: “With the constitutional amendment, we want to provoke discussion, to seek approval for the creation of conditions in which social rights are upheld.”

The only way government can ensure “social rights” is by forcing others to provide them. Education, food, health care, housing, leisure — these all have to be created or provided. People are not by nature entitled to commodities and services. The only proper rights are individual rights — life, liberty and the right to pursue happiness.

The right to life is the source of all rights. The right to own and acquire property is their only implementation.

The right to pursue happiness is not an entitlement to happiness as property rights are not a guarantee of property. In a free society, no man is entitled to the work or property of others. Every man is entitled to the sweat of his own brow.

The government that negates basic, quintessential individual rights in favor of entitlements, no matter how vital they may seem, is an immoral institution that does not protect its citizens but deprives them of what is rightfully and inalienably theirs.

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