The pursuit of happiness and the American regime.
The Declaration assumes that government has a duty to ensure that its citizens can pursue happiness, but it does not specify how or to what degree a government can or should exert influence over and take responsibility for happiness. The project for this dissertation is to consider American novelists as guides on the pursuit of happiness who with a critical eye can present the shortcomings of pursuing happiness in a liberal nation but also present alternatives and correctives compatible with liberalism. American novelists offer insights about the prospects for happiness in a liberal regime and the difficulties Americans face in attaining it. I examine works by four American novelists—Tom Wolfe, Walker Percy, Edith Wharton, and Nathaniel Hawthorne—in order to show how our novelists engage us in our understanding of and the pursuit of happiness. Through depicting characters pursuing happiness, our novelists show how our political and social order does or does not facilitate the pursuit of happiness and what individual decisions can contribute to or detract from happiness. In so doing, our novelists provide signposts and other markers to indicate what roads and pathways are or are not likely to contribute to happiness. The individual enjoys meaningful freedom to act on his own and in coordination with others for the sake of pursuing happiness. Our novelists point us toward each other as our greatest resource to help us and to guide us toward happiness.