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Common Sense Notes and a Challenge

By Barry Chodak


Perhaps the strongest influence that led to the Declaration of Independence was a pamphlet written by Thomas Paine. His Common Sense, made a case for separation from Great Britain and, by percentage of the population, is the second most read work behind The Bible. Let’s see if his argument is still relevant today.


The Three Key Assumptions underlying his work:

-Concentrated power leads to a wealthy elite and a poor populus.

-Concentrating power leads to wars with other concentrated powers.

“In England a king hath little more to do than to make war and give away places; which in plain terms, is to impoverish the nation and set it together by the ears.”

-Hereditary succession - passing of power within an elite group - has each following generation more out of touch and less competent.

“Men who look upon themselves born to reign, and others to obey, soon grow insolent; selected from the rest of mankind their minds are early poisoned by importance; and the world they act in differs so materially from the world at large, that they have but little opportunity of knowing its true interests, and when they succeed to the government are frequently the most ignorant and unfit of any throughout the dominions.”

His Claims about Reconciliation and Timing – the key issues in 1776:

-Reconciliation has not worked in the past ergo it is unlikely to work in the future.

“…and tell me, whether you can hereafter love, honour, and faithfully serve the power that hath carried fire and sword into your land? If you cannot do all these, then are you only deceiving yourselves, and by your delay bringing ruin upon posterity.”

-If a severance is inevitable, better to cause it now than to wait for a better opportunity.

-Waiting only allows for some other actors to cause the severance and take control.


Determine if this applies to us today:

-test the assumptions against current happenings

-question the soundness of his claims


Like Paine, we can make comparisons to Nature.

-If the natural course argues for the concentration of power, we would see monocultures.

-Does nature argue for hereditary leaders or do good genes only get you to the next challenge?

As Paine notes, the application of these elements is a human creation.

"One of the strongest natural proofs of the folly of hereditary right in kings, is, that nature disapproves it, otherwise she would not so frequently turn it into ridicule by giving mankind an ass for a lion.”

Are we seeing a concentration of power in the world?

Are we seeing a concentration of power in the country?

Are we seeing an elite class operating like the minions of George III?

“…it opens a door to the foolish, the wicked, and the improper, it hath in it the nature of oppression.”

Where do Reconciliation and Timing come into play:

-Is either party working to break up the concentration of power?

-Are our current political parties furthering the promise of the Declaration of Independence?


If your answer in NO to both, your choice is to continue accepting business as usual or work to re-constitute the Republican party consistent with both Paine’s Common Sense and the Declaration of Independence. Sorry, Democrats, it’s too late for your party. And if today’s populist movement fails, then we can all consider a third-party option. The Whigs failed the test two centuries ago. Let’s see if today’s Republicans can learn from history.

“A government of our own is our natural right: And when a man seriously reflects on the precariousness of human affairs, he will become convinced, that it is infinitely wiser and safer, to form a constitution of our own in a cool deliberate manner, while we have it in our power, than to trust such an interesting event to time and chance.”

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