Olivia Brough, broughol@muohio.edu

This election comes down to deciding the role of government, which ultimately affects what kind of economy and liberty we will have. Government having a big role in Americans’ lives results in a “collective liberty” while our traditional limited government does not interfere in individuals’ lives or liberty.

One of the questions in the first presidential debate was the role of government. Romney explained his view on the role of government using the language of the Declaration of Independence. He spoke of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

“We also believe,” he said, “in maintaining for individuals, the right to pursue their dreams, and not to have government substitute itself for the rights of free individuals. And what we’re seeing right now is, in my view, a trickle-down government approach which has government thinking it can do a better job than free people pursuing their dreams, and it’s not working.”

Romney is correct in asserting that individuals can think, decide and create things better than government can ever do. That is why limited government, inalienable rights and the free market are so valuable to liberty.

But just as liberty can be defined differently, so can the phrase “pursuit of happiness.” The key word in the phrase is “pursuit.” The Constitution set up the environment for the pursuit of happiness to occur because it limits government from interfering in an individual’s life. But happiness is not a guaranteed outcome.

So how does one pursue happiness? Happiness is satisfaction, which is different than contentment. Satisfaction comes from earned success as a result of one’s actions. For example, one is satisfied and happy after hours of studying resulted in earning an A on an exam, rather than just being content with the professor handing out an A.

Happiness can be pursued when inalienable rights are protected and rule of law is established. That should be the extent of government involvement regarding the pursuit of happiness. For example, a basketball game requires referees (rule of law), but the players should be free to reach their potential, each striving for points, cooperating for mutual points, and using their skills.

Nothing is worse than when a player’s skills are not being utilized. And no win is truly satisfactory if the referee colludes and favors one player or team over another. And certainly it would be ridiculous to make tall people play on their knees or to redistribute points in order to equalize outcomes. No one would keep playing.

Our generation is going to have a difficult time with our pursuit of happiness. The anemic economy staggers along under a veil of uncertainty, fear and strain as the government continues to interfere in it. If we can find a job, it may not be one in our field of study, and our skills may not be utilized. We may be content with a source of income, but not happy or satisfied with our work.

It has been said that our future has been “mortgaged” as the government continues to spend money it does not have. But what does that mean? How does our national debt affect us?

When it comes to dealing with our national debt, the government has four options. It can raise taxes, borrow and print money, cut spending or grow the economy to increase tax revenue. Currently, the government is borrowing and thus printing money, which devalues the dollar, and threatening to raise taxes, which would hurt economic growth.

“More money,” Economist Lawrence Kudlow writes in The Investor’s Business Daily, “doesn’t necessarily mean more growth. More Fed-money won’t increase the rewards for risk, entrepreneurship, business hiring, and hard work. Keeping more of what you earn after-tax is the true spark of economic growth. Not the Fed. […] So at the end of the day, Obama’s economic program of tax, spend and regulate has been a dismal failure.”

Four more years of ‘Obamanomics’ will affect our generation’s pursuit of happiness as it consigns us to a future of declining incomes and rising living costs. But this bleak future does not have to be. It is not too late to change our direction in regards to reducing our national debt. There is a path for a real economic recovery. As Romney plans to do, we need to grow the economy and cut spending, ensuring future wealth creation and the pursuit of happiness for our generation.