The Constitutional Right to the "Pursuit of Wealth"?


I have been receiving quite a few messages recently from what I can only term staunch ultra-conservatives, giving replies to my stands on "corporate rights" in the new America. In fact, I received one, in particular, just today which shows the success of the Reagan Era's greed and pettiness towards others better than I ever could.

The most telling and, quite frankly, the most frightening portion of the reader's message, was the final few sentences. This gentleman's complete misunderstanding of the Constitution, or worse his complete ignorance of that document, is astounding. This confusion, or deliberate delusion, is the basis on which the Republican Revolution is founded and what so many Americans feel legitimatizes the greed and nastiness which that revolution has as its bedrock.

Allow me to quote, word for word, the gentleman's final comments, "The mere fact of my birth gave me no special rights to any material privileges. I have to earn everything I want or need. I do NOT have the right to housing, medical treatment, education, a job, or even love and respect. I have to earn it all. The constitution only guarantees my right to the pursuit of wealth, not to wealth itself (not even minimum wage)."

Now, the copy of the Constitution, which I possess and revere, says absolutely nothing about "wealth", whatsoever. Nothing! The closest I can find are two passages from two separate documents, neither of which he has obviously ever truly understood in his rush to amass whatever wealth he feels he somehow deserves.

If the preamble to the Constitution is what he misunderstands, then here it is, in its entirety. "We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

If it was the Declaration of Independence which has caused such dire puzzlement, then here is the closest I could find in that document, "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."

In neither document, nor in any of those produced by the Continental Congresses nor the various works of the founding fathers nor in any of the many other writings from that time was "wealth" considered a subject worth fighting for or to create a separate "liberty" for. In fact, many of the original founding fathers spent their entire fortunes in the pursuit of liberty for all Americans, not just those who could afford it.

If the pursuit of wealth is all in this nation that one finds worth defending, then we have truly fallen a tremendous distance from the ideals upon which this nation was founded. If the right to live a life of greed is the only freedom we treasure, then Corporate America and the horrors and whores of the Reagan Revolution have succeeded in destroying the very soul of this once great and principled nation.

Personally, I believe that the best argument against the right to greed that has become the newest fad in American politics can be summarized in just these few words from the Constitution, "promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity".

General welfare does not indicate the importance of one person's perceived needs or desires over all others. Certainly, we have the right to try to gain whatever measure of wealth we legally and morally can. The problem, as I see it, is that the vast majority of true believers want to ignore morals and only worry about the bottom line. This attitude leads us directly away from the possibility of leaving much but scraps to posterity, let alone liberties.

In his message, he also attempts to defend the position that, since pension funds are invested in the stock market, that Wall Street must be appeased at all costs (I paraphrased, I assure you) but you long time readers know that I could not disagree with any position of that sort in a stronger way. Wall Street is simply the East Coast's version of Las Vegas and pensions have been saved and paid for many, many years without the subservience to greed that is so prevalent now.

In closing, I refuse to retreat one step from my oft stated position that business is secondary to individuals and their needs and their freedoms. Humanity can survive without business, as it did for millennia before the invention of stocks and bonds or the shameful Reagan era. I support any business which manufactures products necessary for human survival but refuse to bend my knee in worship to them. Corporations and Wall Street exists only because we, the American people, allow them to. It is time that the selfish few in America realizes that simple fact.

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Write me at:jcannon@anotherperspective.org

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Copyright 11/5/97