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Life, liberty, and property

John LockeIn the 17th century, English philosopher John Locke wrote about freedom, life, liberty, property and the “pursuit of happiness.” The latter quoted from his 1693 Essay Concerning Human Understanding that “the highest perfection of intellectual nature lies in a careful and constant pursuit of true and solid happiness.” These were his concepts of inalienable rights.

But had Locke been alive today he would have thought that we live in total anarchy. With “liberty” he meant sticking to the rules that governed social class mobility and with “happiness” he meant gathering property and riches without being bothered by government.

In June 1776, George Mason reiterated the right to property in the Virgina Deceleration of Rights. But a few days later, on July 4th, Thomas Jefferson – penning the United States Deceleration of Independence – changed Locke’s original call for “life, liberty, and property” to: “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that 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.”

Locke died in 1704 – he never visited the United States.

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