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Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, Version 4.0 (Paragon Issues in Philosophy) Paperback – September 1, 2009
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Congress is in a position much like the programmers of a computer operating system that seek to increase the functionality of the system and to ward off attacks from viruses. However, not only have they passed laws that take away from the citizen's abilities to pursue life, liberty, and happiness, they have also introduced various viruses that threaten the existence of the entire system. This book describes how we can eliminate these viruses infecting the system and update the U.S. government to "version 4.0," allowing U.S. citizens to pursue life, liberty, and happiness, thereby producing a solid foundation for a strong and durable society in which all can freely prosper.
From the Publisher
Praise for the Book
"Smart, balanced, and wonderfully readable, Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness Version 4.0 is the perfect antidote to the malaise that seems to be encompassing vast segments of American society. Mired in two wars, and experiencing the most severe economic contraction since the depression, the United States seems to have lost its way. To many, the basic principles and beliefs that made the United States a great country are no longer applicable in today's world. Gordon Anderson brings much needed balance to the debate over the changes that must occur if the United States is to regain its footing. In doing so, he touches on a series of fundamental issues that have too often been the subject of unhelpful polemics. No axe to grind - just a world-class researcher providing insights to some of the most vexing issues of the day. A fascinating perspective developed with care and judgment."
--Robert Looney, Professor, Naval Postgraduate School
"This book does a wonderful job explaining how our evolving political-economic system has moved in a direction not intended by the framers of the U.S. Constitution. The primary undermining of our political system is attributed to several factors: judicial activism, erosion of checks and balances, a tendency for our Federal government and institutions in general to become more centralized, deviating from the goal of subsidiarity, and the deleterious economic impact caused by rent-seeking lobbyists."
--Gary Quinlivan, Dean, Alex G. McKenna School of Business, Economics, and Government, St. Vincent College
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Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness 4.0 is not about the problem of bullying. However, if you understand the book, you will realize why the government can't just make problems disappear by passing laws against them. Our nation is currently in the grips of a huge financial crisis and not only hasn't the government solved it, it has enabled it. And a larger future crisis will not be averted unless there is a serious change in the way our government works.
Gordon Anderson's book is a wonderful explanation of the nature and purpose of government. It is based on a true understanding of human nature and the applicaiton of solid logic. Alternating between analogies with computer operating systems and with our bodies' nervous system, he explains is simple terms the brilliance of the system of government that was established by our Founding Fathers (FF), and how this system resulted in the most successful nation in history. Our FFs understood that the job of a government is to encourage and protect the individual's rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, as this is also the formula for the success of the nation as a whole.
Anderson explains the wonderful system established by our Constitution and Bill of Rights. However, our FFs weren't perfect and all-knowing. Unfortunately, they failed to conclusively resolve some fundamental issues, such as slavery, and this neglect came to haunt us later in a war that took 630,000 lives. Another major failure was to create the same kind of separation between government and economics as they did with religion and information. Anderson shows how this failure has led to our current ecomonic woes.
He argues that just like a computer operating system needs to be updated to counter viruses and to deal with an the evolution of computer technology, our government operating system needs to be updated to deal with the growing complexity and new problems of modern life. While our politicians should have been updating the operating system in accordance with the philosophy underlying our Constitution, they have done the opposite: they have been abandoning that philosophy. Not only does Anderson explain how our nation's current problems arose from that abandonment, he provides us with an intelligent, logical set of updates to the original system that can set us on the right course to solving our problems.
You don't need to agree with everything Anderson proposes, but his book is neverthelss an incredibly important read. I can only imagine how much better our nation will be if it were a required textbook for all college students. We would end up with a population that truly understands the nature of good government and is able to generate laws that solve problems rather than pushing them to spiral out of control. If we don't properly update our government operating system, our nation is doomed to the same kind of collapse that has befallen the great civilizations that preceeeded ours.
I especially love the reflection questions at the end of each chapter. Its style fits for a textbook and I would highly recommend this as such for an advanced high school political science class.
The America we live in today is a far cry from the America envisioned by the founders. And this difference is not just technological, it is also structural. Dr. Anderson takes us from the simple, restrictive constitution ratified by the United States in 1788 to the open-ended document we have today, where 9 men (and/or women) in black robes can find constitutional authority for virtually any federal activity while glibly ignoring constitutional restrictions whose intent was never in doubt. He then goes on to suggest a strategy for implementing the changes he sees necessary to restore individual freedom.
This book is written from a libertarian point of view, which is probably the view held by most of the founders, and the author suggests how we might get the country back to its roots. He does a particularly good job of providing background on and critiquing some of the post civil war constitutional amendments and how they have changed the character of the country. There is also an extensive discussion on the expansion of taxes, both federal and local, that have stifled us economically and given us the welfare/warfare state.
I would recommend this book to anyone who has only been exposed to high school or even lower-level college history texts. You will find that the American history you were taught has a back-story that is far darker and more complex than the pablum served up in contemporary text books. You'll find yourself wondering if "Honest Abe" really deserves to be on Mount Rushmore.
I would also like to make a comment unrelated to the book’s content. I liked the format of this book. As I grow older I seem to have less time for everything, perhaps because the world is moving faster, or more likely because I’m moving slower. This is a book than can be “browsed”. It doesn’t need a 30 page chapter to develop and deliver a point. The author delivers his background information, thoughts and opinions in vignettes that are relatively comprehensive. You can open this book to almost any page, read a few paragraphs and find some interesting historical reference or gain some insight into our current political condition without the need to grind through page after page of background to gain a complete thought.
I generally agree with him on domestic issues, but things get sticky when it comes to the Civil War, which Anderson argues, was primarily motivated by economics. The author also gives very little mention of foreign policy, which is a challenge to his generally libertarian arguments. What does the author think about the US's 20th Century wars as well as our current wars?
Overall a good, very readable, and thought-provoking book.