Encinitas author recognized as Paolucci Book Award finalist
When a famous Hollywood actor says it’s an honor just to be nominated, it can often sound disingenuous.
But when Encinitas resident Robert Curry, who owned a Southern California business selling medical supplies to doctors before he retired and who describes himself as “just some guy who shops at Ralphs,” saw his book “Common Sense Nation: Unlocking the Forgotten Power of the American Idea” named one of five finalists for the Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s Paolucci Book Award, he truly was honored.
“To be recognized by them is huge, this is the most valuable book award for a book of this kind,” Curry said. “What’s happened is kind of amazing because I’m not a senator or a distinguished professor at the University of San Diego or something.”
The 2016 finalists for the Henry and Anne Paolucci Award — which bills itself as honoring the best conservative book of the year — included tomes by Senator Mike Lee, Charles C. W. Cooke (editor of the National Review Online and a frequent guest on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher), Ryan T. Anderson, and the eventual winner, “Russell Kirk: American Conservative” by Bradley J. Birzer, who holds the Russell Amos Kirk Chair in History at Hillsdale College.
Past winners of the award include noted journalist and author Richard Brookhiser, European Parliament Member Daniel Hannan and American legal scholar Philip Hamburger.
For Curry, 72, who has lived with his wife Lisa in Encinitas for 31 years, the honor of being a finalist was the second of two exciting and surprising developments since the 15-year project of writing “Common Sense Nation” came to an end. The first was getting published by the highly-regarded nonprofit Encounter Books in late November.
“It was kind of miraculous,” Curry explained. “Encounter is a prestigious publisher, they only publish important books by important people. I think this is the first time they’ve published a book by a person of no consequence.”
With Encounter behind him, Curry has done radio interviews and book events — including one with Victor Davis Hansen, one of America’s most recognized historians who wrote the book’s forward — and “Common Sense Nation” is being sold on Amazon and in bookstores, and is even in libraries.
Not bad for a guy whose only other published writing was some technical stuff in his working years. To write “Common Sense Nation,” Curry studied historical documents, read many other books and focused on researching the works by authors and philosophers that the founders were reading. Curry studied philosophy at UC Santa Barbara.
“I’ve always loved the founders and been fascinated by them,” said Curry, who retired in 2010. “And I’ve worked on this baby for 15 years. As soon as I got started on it, I started having so much fun. It was the most fun thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
He describes his book as simple and clear, good for the informed and the uniformed. The content, which is followed in the book by full texts of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, goes behind the Declaration and Constitution to look for the pattern of ideas that connect and explain them. Curry examines the ideas the founders had in mind when they were writing those documents by looking at what they were thinking, what they were reading and what they were talking about, at that time.
“Mine is a modest attempt to make it easier to understand the founders,” he said. “The founders had this crazy idea that we could rule ourselves. Well, how could the people rule? The founders placed their reliance on the common sense and the moral sense of ordinary people, the voters, to be able to make common sense choices about what we needed to do and what was right and wrong.
“That idea is what made the people capable of rule if, what was assigned to government wasn’t too expansive, if it was limited enough. (Issues like) what do we need to be safe and what do we need to have a thriving economy. But as government has gotten more complicated, taken on more things, it’s moved away from common sense and into expertise.”
Curry says he wrote the book after realizing two things: that young people haven’t been taught about the founding of our country and that the so-called experts, in his opinion, are very often wrong in their views about the founders. He’s gotten positive reactions from both of those groups — young people and experts, including the Director of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence (John C. Eastman) — saying they have learned a lot from the book.
“People have literally forgotten what the (American) idea was,” Curry continued. “What I am talking about in this book is something that everyone knew 165 years ago. What’s happened to us is, the period of time in which people understood the founders’ idea, the American idea, has kind of gone over the horizon. It’s kind of a strange thing.
“This book is for anybody, left, right, libertarian …this is really a book for the voters. I’d really love it if everyone read it before voting.”