Honors U.S. Government
The Pursuit of Happiness
The pursuit of happiness is incomplete without justice and equality. If the pursuit is indeed an inalienable right, then all people should be able to experience the vital components of justice and equality on an individual, communal, and societal level.
Happiness without justice or equality is no happiness. A man can have no joy if he is never vindicated when wronged, or treated in the same way as his fellow human beings. If two men enter a party, and one is treated with deference and cordiality, while the other is regarded as a lowly servant, the latter man will certainly feel the difference. The sting of partiality will impede his happiness. Justice on the individual plane is the right to an even playing field. If one has a physical handicap, their just due would be to be able to navigate the world via handicap accessible modes of travel or attend schools which cater to their specific disability. Without such accommodations to make up for their disadvantages, such a persons path to happiness is full of obstacles. This definition of justice aligns with St. Thomas Aquinas’ philosophies, particularly those espoused in his Summa Theologica. He says that “justice is the same as rectitude”, though on the individual level justice is a concern between few people, or a “mutual dealing between two persons” (Aquinas Article 1 pg. 1, pg. 8). However, equality takes on a more Rawlsian definition. Individual equality is the equanimity that should exist between every man. Philosopher John Rawls, in his essay “Justice as Fairness”, holds that equality and justice are one in the same, and therefore equality “is about assuring the protection of equal access to liberties, rights, and opportunities…” (Rawls 1). One of Rawls biggest points is that every person should have an equal opportunity to become unequal; that is, “inequalities are acceptable if every person in society has a reasonable chance of obtaining the positions that lead to the inequalities” (Rawls 5). Justice combined with equality means that not only is every individual starting from the same position for the race, but each person has been provided with whatever is necessary to make each runner equal as competitors.
On the communal level, the same definitions apply, but are expanded to encompass a larger group of people. Justice for a community would be compensation for the areas in which it lacks. If one community suffers from under-representation in general society, it is the duty of justice to bring about better, if not equal, representation to ensure this groups happiness. Aquinas defines this type of justice as “distributive justice”, which “distributes common goods proportionately” (Aquinas Article 1 pg. 8). What community of people, on seeing that they are under-served or live life disproportionately worse than another, can be truly happy? It is up to justice to address their imbalance and tip the scales back to equity. In terms of equality groups of people are as deserving of equal protection of freedoms, rights, and opportunities as an individual is. As a community is made up of individuals, this is inherently true. Communities themselves and those living within them must receive a “fair distribution of each of the capacities needed ‘to be normal and fully cooperating members of society…’” (Rawls 3, 4). There are many marginalized groups in society, and for them to escape from oppression, they must be given their due justice and treated with equality.
Society is a much larger scale on which to measure justice and equality. Societies are typically made up of millions of people within a territory, country or continent. Justice in society means that all people within it, and every society on the world stage, receive their fair redress for whatever ways in which they are unequal. The need for justice as part of the pursuit of happiness is exemplified in the times one may see the jealousy and hurt in a child’s eyes when their sibling receives a better present. If the child’s parents are supposed to love both children the same, why did one receive a gift which far out-shined the others? Such a situation is an injustice, and the child would be unhappy about it until it was made up for. Justice in a society means that every person receives their due “common goods” from every other society (Aquinas Article 1 pg. 8). By the same token, equality means that every society should view and treat all other societies equally. Rawls advocates for equality within the “basic structures of society,” and “institutions and associations,” so that this principle can come into practice (Rawls 2). Most importantly, since individuals make up the whole of society, it is important to ensure justice and equality on every level of human life as a guarantee for the pursuit of happiness.
The pursuit of happiness is empty without both justice and equality. One or the other will not suffice. For the pursuit to truly be an inalienable right, a person's rights must be guaranteed in every aspect of life through justice and equality. Without these two pillars, the dream of happiness collapses.