Books: The Common Sense of the Subject

Thomas Jefferson’s famous 1825 letter to Richard Henry Lee explained that the Declaration of Independence was intended to express “the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent. . . an expression of the American mind.” Common sense today is increasingly uncommon, especially when it comes to understanding what the Founders meant by “equality.” (Or maybe the left understands exactly what the Founders meant by equality, which is why the left trashes the American Founding while delimiting the idea of equality completely.)

This is preface to making note of Robert Curry’s very kind review of a certain new book at Fox News yesterday. Worth reading the whole thing (especially the embarrassing bit about becoming “a member of the Hayward network,” of course), but this is the key bit:

It turns out that our “experiment in self-government” runs on ideas that need to be broadly understood, felt, lived and secured—not just by eggheads—but by “We the People.”

Ideas—be they good or bad—have consequences. Egalitarianism of the leveling, rob Peter to pay Paul, “You did not build that” variety, and an Establishment of know-better Washington Mandarins are causally connected. Change the meaning of equality—America’s moral, cultural and political lodestar—and you change the purposes of government. Egalitarianism and the Administrative State are locked at the hip.

Common Sense coverBob’s nice review offers me the chance to return the favor by suggesting that anyone who wants to get a solid primer on the Founders’ ideas—the common sense of the subject—will find it in Bob’s own book, Common Sense Nation: Unlocking the Forgotten Power of the American Idea (also from Encounter Books, which, let’s face it, publishes all the best books these days). It’s a perfect complement to Patriotism Is Not Enough as it goes well beyond the things I merely introduce, recalling the importance, for example, of the Scottish Enlightenment in the formation of the Founders’ views. The two books ought to be presented as a pair on Amazon. If enough of you order them together, the Amazon algorithm will take over and we’ll be on our way to a boxed set! And then, maybe, an online course!