Over thirty years ago, when I first began seriously reading great thinkers, (I love essayists), I thought, “If these people are so smart, and so right, then how come what they say never comes in to ordinary day-to- day practice?” Since that time I’ve flirted back and forth between the great thinkers and the great common sense observers, from Twain to Will Rogers to George Carlin, trying to find that common link. For instance, in economics there is Adam Smith, and then there was the retailer Sol Weinstein, who said “People are stupid. They will line up to pay ninety-nine cents for a thing, but won’t even look twice at paying a dollar, because it cost too much. One is dollars, the others just pennies.”
It was Moses Sands that set me out searching for the common man link to the Constitution, namely that the Founders, and the great thinkers behind them, were searching for a formula that could be reduced to the simplest terms, and grasped and held close to the chest by the simplest of people, for only in that manner could they protect themselves from the natural tendencies of men with better minds and loftier ambitions. Moses called the linchpin “the House”, namely that it is the common desire of men and women worldwide, even Arabs, to want to be able to “build and own their own House, grow it, pass it on so that it can grow even more, and create reciprocal relations with their neighbors to insure the safety of each one’s House, and the security of the process.”
I can argue that was the clear implication of the Founders, but where is it really stated? Actually, as with all great “secret” writing, it is imbedded. That was revealed to me in a rather eerie way, in Ukraine, at a birthday party for a law professor in 1991. I was asked to make a toast, and in light of a dozen questions about the Constitution before the meal, I reached inside my jacket and pulled out my trusty little Cato Institute book, but turned to the back, to begin reading, with line by line translation, the Declaration. After stating, “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal..” (I didn’t know the words by heart at that time) I looked up to find that the fifteen or so people standing, glasses held high, were all crying, tears pouring down their face. Assuming they were drunk (I was the last of at least ten toasts) I finished, sat down and ate. After dinner many of them rushed up, “Mister, Mister, now we understand Constitution…”. But I was reading from the Declaration of Independence. “Yes, yes, but you see, even Ivan Ivanovich can pursue life, liberty and happiness without permission of state.”
So there you have it. I had found that link, what I call the Homer Simpson Clause to the Declaration. The operative word is indeed “self-evident” and those Ukrainians recognized it immediately. (Ivan is the Russian everyman for Homer Simpson.)
But just as quickly as I recognized this did I also see, almost like those demons that came rushing out of the Ark of Covenant in the first Indiana Jones film, the natural and ever-present enemies of anyone like Homer getting to make his own way in this, or any other world.
Sure enough, parallels abound, for just as the “self-evident clause” is a constant annoyance to constitutional scholars (Levites one and all), not to mention politicians, Marxists, snake oil salesmen, lawyers’ wives and other reformed whores, so it is with that nagging little bit of Good News in Luke (18: 16-17), where Christ said “Suffer the little children to come unto me…” then “who does not accept the Kingdom of God as a child, shall not enter it.”
The theologian’s worst nightmare. Think of all the people that little verse cuts out of their middleman’s share.
The more you know about Good in its simplest form, the easier it is to recognize Evil in its most complex.