A common thread throughout is course the idea of risk. Why would the Founders want risk to be a part of the American experience?
A working definition of risk is, ?The possibility of suffering harm or loss; danger. A factor, thing, element, or course involving uncertain danger; a hazard.?
In the Declaration of Independence, when Jefferson presents the idea of the Natural Rights, ?life, liberty and pursuit of happiness? he is implying risk. Let?s look closely at the word, ?pursuit.? Does ?pursuit? guarantee anyone happiness? Is happiness the promise that Jefferson is referring to? No. He is referring to the right to pursue happiness. The choice of the word pursuit infers that ?you? may or may not achieve happiness. What Jefferson is telling us is that government will get out of the way in order for you to pursue happiness. But there is no promise of happiness. There is a risk that you will, or will not achieve happiness. Notice that there is no inference of what happiness is ? since it differs for each person.
Before we go too much further let?s look at some other examples where risk is inferred.
We also learn about the role of religion in American society. As we learned, for numerous reasons Jefferson did not want the State to use faith as a social glue to bind us together. Instead Jefferson allowed faith to compete in the market place of ideas. The church had to offer something of value in order to survive.
In America we vote three ways;
a.) with our feet,
b.) with our dollars and
c.) in the voting booth.
Since church budgets were not going to be subsidized by the Federal Government, a church needed to provide a good that Americans were willing to ?vote for? with their dollars and presence. Today over 43% of American citizens attend regular worship services. This number actually rose in 2014. This is among the highest averages in the world. Among the lowest are the Scandinavian countries such as Norway and Denmark where only 3% of the population attend religious services each week. Perhaps Jefferson was correct when he allowed religious organization accept the risk for their own existence.
In another example, in Week Two we read that ?All men are created equal.? We learned that our equality is not financial, intellectual or physical. Generally speaking our equality is defined in three ways;
– Equal in our humanness.
o Some say this another way in that we are equal before God.
– We are each equal before the law, and
– We each have ?equality of opportunity.?
It is the word, ?opportunity? we want to focus on. Does the word, opportunity, issue a promise? Yes. You are promised an equal opportunity.
For what purpose are we promised equality of opportunity? We are each given equal access to the opportunity to pursue happiness.
Once again, notice that opportunity is not a promise of achievement. You have the opportunity but whether you accomplish this or not is up to you. Once again we see that risk is inferred. Why?
Risk means that result is determined by your choices; the path you choose, the actions you take, and the preparation you invest in. This is a core value of the American experience: risk motivates success.
How so? Ask yourself these questions,
a.) ?Who is the person you will always be able to rely on?
b.) Who is the person that knows what is best for you and will act in your best interest every time??
You are! No matter how long you live ? there will never be another person that is more invested in your success than you are. Therefore if you have the risk ? you are most motivated to succeed.
In our Economic system risk plays a prominent role. From this belief comes numerous ideals, such as, if you accept the risk and succeed, you have earned the right to reap the rewards. On the same hand, if you fail, you have earned the lessons of failure so that future attempts might result in success. In this week?s reading, ?The Entrepreneur as American Hero? author Walter Williams demonstrates how successful businesses exist to fill a market demand. He writes that ?In a free society, income is earned through pleasing and serving one’s fellow man. ?
Finally, individual success often results in increased opportunities for others to also be successful in their pursuit of happiness. For example, a successful business might result in the creation of jobs. As an employee I am able to feed my family, take vacations and save towards retirement: I have the opportunity to pursue my form of happiness because I have a job. The belief is that when you embark in the pursuit of happiness you are best motivated to succeed.