The WallBuilders Show

The Original Pursuit of Happiness and Contemporary Struggles in School Choice on Foundations of Freedom Thursday

February 08, 2024 Tim Barton, David Barton & Rick Green
The WallBuilders Show
The Original Pursuit of Happiness and Contemporary Struggles in School Choice on Foundations of Freedom Thursday
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

On today’s Foundations of Freedom Thursday, we take the time to answer some listener questions- What is meant by “pursuit of happiness” in “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness?” What is the status of school choice in the current legislative landscape? And what is the controversy surrounding the 23rd amendment?

Unlock the deeper meaning of "the pursuit of happiness" as we share enlightening perspectives on how this cherished concept has morphed from a constitutional right to a modern quest for pleasure. Discover the stark contrast between the founders' vision of happiness and the self-centered interpretation that emerged in the 1960s, and learn why a return to biblical and constitutional principles is crucial for solving today's cultural challenges. This dialogue promises to enrich your understanding of America's historical foundation and its implications on our present and future.

Dive into the hot issue of school choice vouchers in Texas, where the battle for educational freedom rages on. Listen as we discuss the philosophical underpinnings of modern education. This is a critical conversation for anyone invested in the future of education and our children's right to quality education.

Wrap your head around the complex issue of Washington D.C. representation as we dissect the historical reasoning behind its unique status and the framers' intentions. Grapple with the challenges of governance and representation that have arisen and consider the broader impacts of constitutional amendments on the nation's capital.

This episode not only provides a deep dive into the legislative intricacies affecting D.C. but also invites you to participate in an ongoing dialogue on the Foundations of Freedom. Be part of the conversation that's shaping our understanding of America's past and steering its course towards a more informed future.

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Rick Green:

It's the intersection of faith and the culture. It's WallBuilders. Thanks for joining us today on the program. You found your way to a place where we take a biblical, historical and constitutional perspective on whatever the issue is. We don't shy away from any issues. We take whatever's happening in the culture. We hit a head on with that biblical, historical and constitutional perspective and we're glad that you're along for the ride and hopefully sharing it with your friends and family. You can be a force multiplier by taking this program and sending it out to your friends and family, folks in your church, your community, folks that need to hear this. They need to know a biblical perspective. They need to know what the Constitution says about how these things should work. They need to know the historical perspective on these things. Just like we all do, I learn something new here on the program almost every day. I'm thrilled to serve with these guys. David Barton is America's premier historian. He's the founder here at Wall Builders and it's a privilege to serve with him. Tim Barton, national speaker and pastor and president of Wall Builders. I'm Rick Green, America's Constitution coach and a former Texas legislator, and all three of us we're just excited to be able to take these issues. To open up the Bible and say what's it say about these things? To look into history and learn what worked, what didn't work. There are principles that produce good results. There are principles that produce bad results. There's nothing new under the sun. Everything's been tried, and so we can learn from history. We can learn from the Constitution and from the Bible, and that's what we do here at Wall Builders. So thank you for being a part of it and make sure that you're sharing it with your friends and family. And to find out more about us and the ministry and all that we do. It's all there at wallbuilders. com. That's wallbuilders. com. Wall Builders, of course, out Nehemiah, arise and rebuild the walls so that we may no longer be a reproach. We're doing that in America. We're rebuilding the walls, rebuilding the foundation America was built upon. Alright, David and Tim, let's jump into questions from the audience. We got Walt up first today on our Foundations of Freedom. Thursday. He said greetings! I've often wondered about the third inalienable right being pursuit of happiness. Unfortunately, that seems to be a fundamental mistake or a distraction in our American culture. Did the enemy of our souls suggest that wording? It looks like the results are becoming more apparent with each generation. When and how did our nation adopt such ideas? As, if it feels good, do it? Another hedonistic and ungodly language, wired, divorced, adultery and fornication so rampant, resulting in the murder of countless children because they are unwanted, inconvenient or an embarrassment? Listen to the testimonies on the bot radio program, unshackled, to understand the end of such deception leading to nothing but grief. Happiness depends on what is happening instead of what is right and moral in God's eyes. (That's, of course, what he's saying what the culture is saying.) Scripture is very clear about the result of such pursuits. Looking at the beatitudes, we do find quite a number of translations that use the word happy instead of blessed. I'll need to study the original language more carefully and ask some trusted scholars in order to draw a conclusion that would hold up in God's court. Some translations are altered just to obfuscate and ignore the truth. Well, enough said. Please let me know what you think. Blessings in Christ Jesus, Walt. Okay, guys, I know that's a long lead up, but definitely a question. A lot of people actually ask what does pursuit of happiness? I guess, the right way to ask this is what did it mean then? I know what Walt is saying it means today and what people interpret it to mean, but what did it mean then when they put it in the declaration?

David Barton:

Yeah, Rick, you hit the point already, it's then versus now, because the pursuit of happiness then is not the pursuit of happiness now. The self-gratification culture that has really grown since the 1960s particularly, has caused a reinterpretation of that phrase. One way to understand the meaning of that phrase is go back to the guys who were involved in writing that document, and there were a number of founding fathers that would often use the phrase life, liberty and property, and the declaration shows us life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. So how is property the pursuit of happiness? Because for them, to be able to acquire, to own, and to enjoy your own property was happiness. The king didn't own it, you did. The king couldn't take it from you, it was yours. You could pass it on to your kids, and so for them, happiness wasn't necessarily an emotion, it was a contented state of mind that comes from being able to enjoy the rights that God gave you. It was not a self-gratification concept, and so I think the best way to understand that today is don't read it as pursuit of happiness, the way we've defined it since the 1960s. Read it as the ability to own, to acquire and to enjoy your own property, and then you'll have a pretty good concept and I agree with Walt. There's too much self-centeredness. But that's new. I mean, that goes all the way back to the beginning of time. That's human nature, and so that's why so much of the teaching of Jesus tells us to deny ourselves, to take up our cross, to follow Him. It's all about losing the self-gratification culture, which is what the enemy wants, because when you're focusing yourself, you lose perspective. You'll do things that are not riding God's kingdom. So best way to understand this is consider it as property, not as happiness.

Tim Barton:

And to add some thoughts onto this and maybe give a little deeper context in this. If Thomas Jefferson would have written life, liberty and the pursuit of being gay, people might go oh my gosh, was he talking about being gay today? No, what did gay mean back then? Gay meant happy, right, you might be joyful, you're gay about something. Well, words have been distorted, they have been hijacked over time. They might mean something different now. So to look at something now and think, man, did they really blow that back then? Dad, you already pointed out, you have to go back and judge and measure that in context, some of the context of pursuit of happiness. Dad, as you mentioned, live, liberty, property was the adage. That was what was really known and it's because the king was really saying that people didn't have those rights, that the king could enslave who he wanted. He get imprisoned who he wanted. You don't have the right to life or liberty or even your own property. Because under kings the king owned everything and he would grant land to his lords and nobles as favors to them, as kind of a privilege to them, but the king could take it back at any time he wanted. So nobody really owned private property. And Jefferson, recognizing what John Locke, so many people had written about with life, liberty and property, those three phrases, Jefferson put a little kind of sophisticated language spin on it, and some people, I happen to be one of them, I agree with this thought is there's an idea that maybe Jefferson, instead of taking what was a very common phrase life, liberty and property and I'm saying life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, it could have been because for many slave owners they would have said their slaves were their property. So for Jefferson to say it's a life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, the idea that you're going to enslave someone else is not what this idea was about. That is not the pursuit of happiness, and so it was offering a clarifying idea to the phrase they already knew. Most Americans at that time would have known life, liberty, property. So when Jefferson's life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, we're clarifying what that pursuit of happiness is. It's not the right to own slaves, but it's a right to own your own property where you can be your own boss, you can enjoy the fruits of your own increase without having to give it all to the king or to some lord or noble that can take it from you. So certainly it's a different idea today than it was in their mind. And, as, dad, you already very well explained, our generation has really begun to embrace so much of the hedonism and just selfish gratification and we can look and say that modern culture, they are so selfish and just pursuing their lusts than their pleasures. But if you read the Bible, this is not a new thing that our modern culture is doing, but it's a very different idea from what the foundational culture of America has been. Even though there's been a kind of rollercoaster of good and bad in this nation's history, there was an underpinning moral code that people knew there's right and wrong and there's morals beyond just your subjective feeling and emotions. And today we've gone the wrong direction that I can see why someone might read the pursuit of happiness at that. That's a really negative term and impression, but certainly it's not what it was at that time and that's not the way we should read or think about anything from a historic standpoint.

Rick Green:

Yeah, I used to, I remember in our Constitutional Alive series, when we were going through the Declaration of Independence, I really had this question. It was like I was trying to figure out why. You know, why did Jefferson change what Locke had said? And everybody had always quoted him as life, liberty and property. And I found this essay on human understandings from Locke that has a bunch, you know, it's got several sections specifically on pursuit of happiness and I think that's where Jefferson likely got it and it's been a long. We recorded that, you know 10 years ago or so. I can't remember the details of it, but I do remember it very much impressed me when I was reading it that it was exactly what you guys are saying, that it was not the pursuit of feeling good or having good, a good emotional feeling in the moment. It was literally pursuing your purpose, pursuing what God had called you to, and that it wasn't the guarantee of happiness, it wasn't the redistribution of happiness, it was that pursuit and that you were always pursuing, you know, more doing of good. And he even had several paragraphs I remember about, it was to do good and not to just have things and that sort of thing. So, yeah, I think it's a great question. I'm glad Walt asked it and definitely, I've kind of been flippant about it the last few years. I'll just say you know it's not redistribution, it's not the guarantee of happiness, and I think going back to, what is the happiness that Locke was referring to and why did Jefferson choose to copy that out of the Essay on Human Understandings? I think it's probably this is a great time for us to begin to teach that as well. So, great question, walt. Thank you for letting us talk about that today. Guys, great answers, and this is the type of stuff I love getting from our listeners. Who was it last time somebody asked you about the origin of the words for pursuit of happiness? Walt, thanks for being a listener. Thanks for sending it in. Okay, next one's coming from Texas. This is Jeremy in Henderson, Texas. He said hey, WallBuilders, the debate is raging here in Texas about school vouchers. I was wanting to know your thoughts on the current state of the bills and the debates. Thanks for all you do, Jeremy, Henderson, Texas. Okay, guys, you know we could spend all day on this one. We all three love this topic because we love competition for enterprise and we think people should be educated and learn the things that make for a good society. So we all support school choice. But what about just kind of the current debate here in Texas? And then you guys may know off the top of your head a little bit more about other states. I mean, I know a lot of states have passed it in the last couple of years so it's definitely a growing movement. I know I've seen really positive polling in Texas where most Texans are for it and a lot of political fights going on over it. I think we had what? Three special sessions last year where Governor Abbott was trying to get it done. But how would you guys summarize the debate here in Texas and in general in the country on school choice?

David Barton:

Well, while Jeremy is here in Texas, I'll point out the debate is raging, not just in Texas, it's raging all over the nation. In the last couple of years we've had multiple cases on school choice at the US Supreme Court. It's just that Texas this year tried to pick up and say, hey, we want to join the other states that have already done this. So it's a vigorous debate, very expensive debate. There's a lot that's going to come out about this debate in the current primary season here in Texas. So to kind of give a perspective on Texas and this goes for a lot of other states, too, I'll just say up front I think anyone who is not supporting school choice in Texas is supporting socialism. And let me say it this way socialism is government taking your choices away from you. We support a free market where that we have choices. We support a free market in religion. We don't want the government telling you our religion or your religion or my religion. We get to choose our religion. I don't want the government telling me what suits to wear, what clothes to wear. I don't want to tell me what color - I want a choice of all that. I want a choice of whether I want hamburgers or tacos or salads. I don't want the government telling me what my choices are. With education for some strange reason, conservatives are saying well, wait, we think the government should be in charge of education. No, there should be competition. And so far, of the 32 states that have entered into some form of school choice where they've allowed competition, the scores have improved in all 32 states and the programs have adapted. So getting government out of it always makes things better, and so that's my position right up front. It's Republicans in Texas that have stopped school choice, particularly 23 rural Republicans, who say, oh no, the choice would ruin our rural districts. Well, if you think your rural district is that good, why don't you let people choose and see if they want to keep it that way or if they'd rather have something else? And if people don't like even the wokeness that's in many rural districts, let them choose something. So it's boiled down to a number of groups have now arisen in Texas. Rick, as you said, not only could we not get this done in the normal session, there were three special sessions, and these 23 rural Republicans dug their heels in and joined with all the Democrats and said we're not going to have choice. So right now it's become an issue in the primaries in Texas. There are multiple groups that have joined together with tens of millions of dollars and they're going after these Republicans that won't allow school choice in Texas. I know even Governor Abbott has told he's got a pack of 17 million whether he's going after these guys. He's very vigorously endorsed opponents to many of these folks. Now the problem is that that won't necessarily make a difference in some districts. There are some districts that are very conservative. They are very rural and if those rural people don't make up the mind that we want choice, even our rural districts, that's likely to do a poor job. And, by the way, if you think your rural district is so good, for you, but why is it you don't want the kids in Houston and Dallas and San Antonio to have a choice? Why is it that because your district is good, you don't want any of the kids in the state to see? That doesn't even hold up. So right now that's the state of debate in Texas. We're coming up within about three weeks on starting early voting and you will see a lot of ads run over the next few weeks. There's a lot of money being poured into this and by the time of the primary this will be one of the chief issues in the primary. We've seen polling to suggest there are four issues in the primary in Texas that will transcend the entire state, not just district by district but the whole state and one of those is school choice. So that's kind of the update on school choice in Texas.

Rick Green:

Yeah, and I'll say guys, I mean that was, that was my number one issue when I ran for the legislature all those years ago and served, something I'm very passionate about. I'm really excited to see Governor Abbott going after the ones that have blocked school choice, and this really interesting coalition. In fact, I held an event the other night at our little historic hotel in Gonzalez, Texas, for the candidate in my old district in Gonzalez. That's very. He's a former member. He was actually served before I was in the house. He got elected really young, served for dozen years or so, then went off and did business, but very pro school choice always was, and running against an incumbent and I told him that night and the group, the crowd that was there, I was like this is really odd. There's a lot of people coming together that normally aren't on the same side and it's all for school choice. So this is the best the movement's ever done in Texas. It's the best chance we have to empower parents. And I think you're exactly right, David. It's not only that, you're for socialism from the standpoint of the monopoly on schools and all of that. It's literally for the Marxist agenda and the poison that gets poured into these kids and you're preventing the money from being at least siphoned off a little bit away from the left and these crazy, very leftist organizations that control that education. You're preventing that money from being moved away from the left and back to good education. And I know people have their reasons. They're worried about worst case scenarios and all kinds of stuff. They always worry about regulation following the money and always say, listen, the state could regulate you tomorrow. The way you keep the regulation from happening is you get good legislators selected and you stay on top of them. So anyway, I just I love this topic. I think it's a good one for people to talk about. I'm really glad that the question was asked and that we're seeing this progress in Texas and across the country. Gotta take a break, guys. We got more questions coming up. Stay with us. You're listening to Foundations of Freedom Thursday on the Wall Builder Show. Have you noticed the vacuum of leadership in America? We're looking around for leaders of principle to step up and too often no one is there. God is raising up a generation of young leaders with a passion for impacting the world around them. They're crying out for the mentorship and leadership training they need. Patriot Academy was created to meet that need. Patriot Academy graduates now serve in state capitals around America, in the halls of Congress and business, in the film industry, in the pulpit, in every area of the culture. They're leading effectively and impacting the world around them. Patriot Academy is now expanding across the nation and now's your chance to experience this life-changing week that trains champions to change the world. Visit www. patrioteachademy. com for dates and locations. Our core program is still for young leaders 16 to 25 years old, but we also now have a citizen track for adults. So visit the website today to learn more. Help us fill the void of leadership in America. Join us in training champions to change the world at www. patrioteachademy. com. Welcome back to The Wal Builders Show. It is Foundations of Freedom Thursday. We're taking questions from the audience. You can send yours in. If you'd like, send it to radio@ wallbuilderscom. Radio@ wallbuilderscom. All right, we got a question about the District of Columbia and the 23rd Amendment. Here we go. It's Becca and she said I'm a listener of Wall Builders and I would love for you to explain the 23rd Amendment and why it is so controversial right now. Guys, I don't know why the 23rd Amendment is controversial. It's DC having a vote in the Electoral College. Do you think that's definitely the one she meant?

David Barton:

Yes, that is the one she meant and it's been a big issue with statehood. And if you look at the license plates in Washington DC, Washington DC, you know they talk about how unfair it is that they're experiencing taxation without representation, because they're being taxed and they don't get a voice in it.

Rick Green:

You're saying it's not controversial because they get to vote in the race. It's controversial in that they want more. They want to now be a state.

David Barton:

Democrats are pretty much for statehood for DC, and there's a real problem with that. This goes back to the time the Constitution was written, back in 1787. They knew that wherever the federal government was going to be would be a draw and that there would be some jealousy among states if it was a state that held the federal government. And today you can really see that for sure. You don't have recessions in federal employees. In Washington DC there's about 2.3 million federal employees and the government can shut down, but they don't. They don't experience that shutdown. They seem to manage to have cost of living increases that a lot of other people don't get, a lot of businesses don't get, so they don't have the economic downturn per se. And on top of that, studies show that the average federal employee is paid about 70% more than a private employee in generally the same area. So the government pays them really well. And on top of that, if you're a federal employee, you essentially can't be fired. It almost takes an act of Congress to get you fired. So that's why Washington DC, I mean it is this great reservoir of money and economics and job security and et cetera. And why wouldn't all the other states want something like that if you were living in the other states. So from the very beginning, back in 1787, they said look, we're going to get a separate property, we're going to get the states of Maryland and Virginia to give us property that will not be a state, it will be Washington DC. That is where the federal government will be and that federal government is to represent all 50 of the states. If it was in a state, the other states would be jealous and feel like that is representing that state more because they live in that state and they work in that state and they're going to get preference to that state. And so that was the plan. So there was never statehood for DC. But what happened is in the 1961 period the 23rd Amendment was ratified. They said well, DC is not a state, but we will let it have a voice and choose in the president and the vice president. And so the several million that live there, they are allowed the same number of electoral votes as the smallest or least popular state in the United States. So you're going to take a Wyoming, you're going to take a Montana, they get three electoral votes. They get two senators, one congressman, they get three electoral votes. So the least popular states, the Constitution's amended to say that DC can have the same number of electoral votes as the least popular states, so at least they get some kind of a voice in the federal elections. But that's not where the debate stops. While DC is there and, by the way, the federal government it used to be under Thomas Jefferson and the founding fathers the federal government ran the local government in Washington DC because it was part of federal jurisdiction. And so in that case, that's when Thomas Jefferson, when Thomas Jefferson's the first president, have a full term in Washington DC. So Washington DC is a brand new city in 1801 when he takes over they've kind of built it in the previous 10 years. Now they're ready to move the Capitol there in the White House there, and he takes over and they said, okay, we need to have education for the kids of the federal employees here in DC, so let's set up a school system, and it's a Washington DC local school system. And interestingly enough, Thomas Jefferson, the president of the United States, was made president of the local school board in Washington DC. So that kind of shows you how that they really did think the city of Washington was really under the federal government as part of the federal jurisdiction. But now that we have thousands of agencies, you can't have the president be over all those agencies. So they have broken off some independence for Washington DC and they gave what was called the Local Residency Act, which allows Washington DC to have local governments, local elections. They can elect their mayor, they can make their own city council rules, but Congress, they have a committee in Congress that is able to veto any of the rules made by the city of Washington DC. So that's like when George W Bush came in he said look, we need school choice and Washington DC needs to have it, and we're going to have school choice in Washington DC. Well, the city of Washington DC didn't want that, but the federal government obviously controls Washington DC because that's the seat of the federal government. And so they came up with opportunity scholarships. I think it was 2,500 kids a year could have school choice in Washington DC, which is not many kids. But boy did the people fly to that list to be on that list. So that's the kind of stuff. The federal government still operates it. And that's where those who live in Washington DC and have been born in Washington DC and had their grandparents in Washington DC they claim, this is not fair. We're paying taxes and we're not a state. We don't have our own legislature, whatever. Well, there's a reason for that and if you understand history, that's what it is. So I really think what she's talking about. The 23rd Amendment is not necessarily the electoral votes, but the debate over Washington DC becoming a state, and that's a big Democrat issue, just like packing the courts is a big Democrat issue.

Tim Barton:

Well, I think this is an interesting thought too, with some of these amendments and how they're being debated today, and even when you look at some of the amendments that were ratified concerning the constitution, the impact it's had, sometimes a very unintended side effect, whether it be the senators are being chosen by the state legislative bodies. There's several things that have happened along the way that have had unintended consequences, and I don't think it was necessarily a negative consequence to let DC have a voice, necessarily, in the electoral process and, to be really clear, we're talking about electoral college voice. They always had a voice when it came to being able to vote for a president, for elected officials. They always had that voice. So the argument that they don't have the ability to vote is totally ridiculous. They absolutely can vote, but they're arguing well, we don't have senators, we don't have congressmen, right, because you're not a state, you're a federal territory. If we start looking at some of the federal territories, well, yes, what other federal territories don't have US senators? There are multiple federal territories that do not have US senators because that is territory that is under control of the federal government. Those are not independent states and this is where there's some confusion. But, dad, as you pointed out, if people would go back and study a little bit of that history, they would not only understand how the system works, but also study enough history and you'll realize why the founding fathers brilliantly set these things up the way they did.

Rick Green:

All right, guys, I know we're gonna cut it close and you only have about 30 seconds to answer this question, but what if Congress actually took DC back over and cleaned it up? I know they're not gonna do it with a split Congress, but I mean, couldn't they do that Constitutionally? Say you know what? Sitting counsel's messed this up so bad? We're just gonna take it back over and call the shots and make our national capital city nice again.

David Barton:

They could, but they probably won't, because they made laws about DC that today you would have to pass a law. You actually have to pass a law, federal law, to overturn a ruling of the city, and so that would mean you're gonna have to get all the Democrats on board to go against that law. That's why we have the deadlock in the House and Senate we have right now, and that's why they don't get a lot of stuff overturned in DC, because it has to come through a law process rather than just an administrative process the way it used to be.

Rick Green:

Yeah, yeah. Well, if we could just do it Constitutionally instead of all the statutes they tend to pass on a regular basis. Anyway, all right, folks, out of time, send your questions in to radio@wallbuilders. com. We'll try to get to them next week. Thanks for listening to Foundations of Freedom. Thursday on the Wall Builders Show.

Faith and Culture
Pursuit of Happiness
School Choice Debate in Texas
Washington DC Representation
Looking Forward