The Great Leveler


In the end, everybody gets roughly the same amount of space.


I was sometimes very happy with Senator Arlen Specter (D and R and D-Pennsylvania), but, much more often, quite displeased.  And, while I’ve admired his serious involvement with the fight against world hunger over the past couple of decades, I opposed Senator George McGovern (D-South Dakota) when he ran for the presidency and strongly disagreed with him on many issues.


But the news that Senator Specter died the other day of cancer, and that Senator McGovern is now in hospice care, and presumably dying, transcends political disagreement.  And it reminds us of what we all know, but sometimes almost forget:  Great power and fame and influence are, in the long term, no more effective than great wealth in saving us from age, disease, and death.


As Samuel Johnson once said, the prospect of the hangman’s noose concentrates the mind wonderfully.


Years ago, I happened upon an old cemetery in Princeton, New Jersey.  So I decided to wander through it.  There, if I recall correctly, I found the grave of the famous preacher and theologian Jonathan Edwards, who had once presided over what later became Princeton University.  And there, too, I found, by sheer chance, the otherwise unremarkable grave of a former president of the United States.  Just there among all the others.  Not particularly elaborate.  I don’t even remember which one it was.  Late nineteenth-century, as I recall.


Food for thought.



  • logitech

    Since the only President I know from late-nineteenth century is Grover Cleveland I looked him up on Wikipedia and he died at Princeton, New Jersey, so it’s probably him.

    He’s considered by some libertarians to be one of the least-bad presidents. Wikipedia has this to say about him:

    “Cleveland was the leader of the pro-business Bourbon Democrats who opposed high tariffs, Free Silver, inflation, imperialism and subsidies to business, farmers or veterans. His battles for political reform and fiscal conservatism made him an icon for American conservatives of the era.[1] Cleveland won praise for his honesty, independence, integrity, and commitment to the principles of classical liberalism.[2] Cleveland relentlessly fought political corruption, patronage, and bossism. ”

    Of course not all fans of limited government were very happy with his presidency. The great Lysander Spooner wrote him a famous letter explaining natural law:

    • danpeterson

      Actually, Grover Cleveland is what I vaguely remembered, but I was in a hurry (almost late for a class) and wasn’t sure, so I left his name out. Thanks for checking.