What is the right to pursue happiness

"Only the English strive for happiness"

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Vienna - A few months before he fell around the neck of a beaten carriage horse in syphilitic delirium and wept bitterly in Turin, Friedrich Nietzsche had a beautiful sentence in his Twilight of the Idols written: "Man does not strive for happiness, only the Englishman does it."

Especially the English in America, one would like to add. A good hundred years before the publication of Nietzsche's late work, he had declared his independence from the British Crown and had established for himself that "life, freedom and the pursuit of happiness" were inalienable rights of man and the citizens of the United States of America.

Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, two of the founding fathers of the USA, came up with the formula after simply omitting a passage in the Virginia Declaration of Rights, namely the reference to the right to property. Nevertheless, the pursuit of happiness, the basis of the "American Dream", has since been interpreted in the United States primarily in an economic and individualistic way - the self-realization of every single American as social and material advancement. The pursuit of happiness for society as a whole, welfare, takes a back seat.

National goal

The pursuit of happiness as a national goal later spread across all continents: it appears in the constitutions of Japan, South Korea, Haiti and Namibia, as does the pursuit of "gross national happiness" in the 2008 constitution of Bhutan.

In Brazil, too, there is currently a debate about whether the pursuit of happiness should be included in the constitution as a fundamental right. The proponent of the idea, Senator Cristovam Buarque, is of the opinion that only the search for happiness is able to complete the social rights of the citizens enshrined in the Basic Law. Education, health, security - "these social rights are the terrain, bliss is the way".

It is noteworthy in this context, however, that none of the states mentioned, in which happiness is defined as a national goal in the constitution, appears in the top ten of a country happiness ranking compiled by the University of Rotterdam. Costa Rica, Denmark and Iceland lead the way. Austria barely makes it into the top ten blissful states.

But at least: Even among the ten most unhappy countries worldwide identified in the study, the happy countries do not appear. (Christoph Prantner, DER STANDARD, print edition, June 22, 2011)