The Right to Happiness


While the Declaration of Independence of the United States does include the pursuit of happiness among the “inalienable rights” granted to men, it is not in our constitution. Perhaps this would make a big difference if happiness were a right in the US. Apparently other nations, not just Brazil, believe that it should be. Japan, South Korea and Bhuttan think they should have it. Britain is working on it. And now Brazil.

Brazil Considers Adding ‘Happiness’ To Constitution

MARCO SIBAJA 02/ 2/11 07:20 AM   AP

BRASILIA, Brazil — In a nation known for its jubilant spirit, massive parties and seemingly intrinsic ability to celebrate anything under the sun, is a constitutional amendment really required to protect the pursuit of happiness?

Several lawmakers think so, and a bill to amend Brazil’s Constitution to make the search for happiness an inalienable right is widely expected to be approved soon by the Senate, which reconvened Tuesday. The bill would then go to the lower house.

The debate comes a month before Brazil’s Carnival, a raucous festival replete with tens of thousands half-naked men and women that Rio officials call the largest party on Earth. But supporters say the happiness bill is a serious undertaking despite the revelry, meant to address Brazil’s stark economic and social inequalities.

“In Brazil, we’ve had economic growth without the social growth hoped for,” said Mauro Motoryn, the director of the Happier Movement, a non-governmental organization backing the legislation. “With the constitutional amendment, we want to provoke discussion, to seek approval for the creation of conditions in which social rights are upheld.”

Similar explorations of officially finding happiness have been pushed by other governments. Both Japan and South Korea include the right to happiness in their constitutions, and earlier this month, the British government detailed plans to begin a $3 million project to measure citizens’ well being.

In the early 1970s, the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan pioneered the idea of maintaining a “happiness index.” Well before that, the 1776 U.S. Declaration of Independence made its often-noted stand for “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

The bill before Brazil’s Congress would insert the phrase “pursuit of happiness” into Article 6 of the constitution, which states that education, health, food, work, housing, leisure and security – among other issues – are the social rights of all citizens.

Cristovam Buarque, a senator and former minister of education who is the bill’s sponsor in the Senate, said adding the “pursuit of happiness” was essential to helping ordinary people begin holding to account a government that has long been accused of not providing basic services to the poor.

While Brazil is on track to becoming the world’s fifth largest economy by the time its hosts the 2016 Olympics, it’s lagging public education system, poor roads and railways and crime-ridden slums threaten further advances.

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One Comment

  1. Posted February 3, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I saw this and thought it was quite interesting. I wonder how this will work if it passes. I’ve always thought the individual pursuit of happiness is difficult to define. I am curious to see how this law is applied.

One Trackback

  1. […] Right to Happiness? Who’ll foot the bill for your joy? Which is not identical with the right to the pursuit of happiness. Pass this article on to at least one person. That's an order! […]

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