The Corner

Happiness, Ctd.

Another email: “In this context, it might be worth quoting John Adams’ ‘Thoughts on Government.’ Keep in mind that Gordon Wood calls ‘Thoughts on Government’ ‘the most influential work guiding the framers of the new republics.’ Adams explicitly connected happiness with virtue:

“‘We ought to consider what is the end of government, before we determine which is the best form. Upon this point all speculative politicians will agree, that the happiness of society is the end of government, as all divines and moral philosophers will agree that the happiness of the individual is the end of man. From this principle it will follow, that the form of government which communicates ease, comfort, security, or, in one word, happiness, to the greatest number of persons, and in the greatest degree, is the best.

“‘All sober inquirers after truth, ancient and modern, pagan and Christian, have declared that the happiness of man, as well as his dignity, consists in virtue. Confucius, Zoroaster, Socrates, Mahomet, not to mention authorities really sacred, have agreed in this. If there is a form of government, then, whose principle and foundation is virtue, will not every sober man acknowledge it better calculated to promote the general happiness than any other form?’

“An etext can be found here: http://www.founding.com/library/lbody.cfm?id=139&parent=54

“The bit I quote is at the beginning.

“It has been a couple of years since I read it, but wouldn’t we find a

similar opinion in Smith’s ‘Theory of Moral Sentiments’?”

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg View, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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