But the original document, the Declaration of Colonial Rights, didn’t mention “the pursuit of Happiness.” It mentioned “property” — as in, “Life, Liberty and Property.”
Political philosopher John Locke is credited with coining this phrase in 1689 when he wrote an essay about “life, liberty … and the possession of outward things.”
Although the Declaration of Independence traded “property” for “happiness,” the follow-up forms focus on ownership. The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments guarantee that as long as you don’t break the law, you won’t lose your “life, liberty or property.”
Our neighbors to the north agree. The Canadian Bill of Rights, written in 1960, guarantees “life, liberty and … enjoyment of property,” although the Canadian Charter of Rights, written in 1982, dropped the “property” reference.
Property = Freedom
Why the focus on property? We can assume John Locke wasn’t flipping houses or trying to get his kitchen remodel showcased on HGTV.
The focus on property goes beyond buying Birkenstocks and iPads. The founders realized that “property” — the right to be an owner — is virtually synonymous with freedom. If you own things, you’re free; if you’re forced to borrow, you’re not. Perhaps that’s why they say possession is 9/10ths of the law.
Imagine you live in a society where you lack the right to own property: Perhaps you’re a woman in a tribal, patriarchal society in which inheritance is passed only from fathers to sons. Without the right to own possessions, you’d have to ask your father or husband for permission to do everything: to buy clothes, to go to the doctor, to take a class. You couldn’t open a bank account. You couldn’t leave an abusive relationship.
Without property — without possession — you’d be stuck.
How Can I Become Free?
People who come out of debt often describe themselves as “free.” They’re no longer living on borrowed money. They own their possessions.
But even people with zero debt are forced to work — often long hours at jobs they despise — to cover their basic living expenses. Without a job, they’d slide right back into debt.
That’s why I often write about how the only way to be free is to become the master of your time. If you work because you choose to, you’re free. If you work because you need to, you’re not.
Financial Freedom: the freedom to never be forced to work for money. You might choose to work for pleasure or fulfillment, but you’re never forced to work for money.
Ultimately, this isn’t a blog about money. This is a blog about freedom. To become free, you must:
- Define freedom for yourself
- Create a goal
- Develop a specific plan
- Measure your progress
In the coming months, I’ll be putting together material to help people develop a path to freedom. My material will be based on three principals: everything I say must be specific, actionable and measurable. Stay tuned.
UPDATE: Here are some of my best posts related to creating freedom:
Photo courtesy PreparednessPro.