It is worth asking why the Declaration adds “the pursuit of happiness” to our rights, when it has already affirmed the right to liberty. Traditionally, liberty was used in the plural to refer to particular rights granted to particular individuals. Liberty as a general right to freedom was a new idea, so its meaning needed spelling out. The pursuit of happiness does this by indicating that the right to liberty includes at least a right to choose to pursue the ends one personally believes will make one happy, against others who might condemn those ends because they are contrary to their religious or moral beliefs.
Mr. Dionne ended by quoting Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg: “The chance to live a life of your choosing . . . is freedom in its richest sense.” The right to the pursuit of happiness gives us that chance; it doesn’t guarantee its outcome.
Jeffrey Reiman, Washington