America: The Common Sense Nation No More?

When America knew itself, we were the common sense nation.

Common sense was once at the center of public life in America.  The Founders put it there.  According to the American Idea, the American people are sovereign.  The Founders believed we the people are capable of political self-rule by virtue of our common sense and our common prudence.  Placing their reliance on the fact that we govern our own individual lives by common sense, the Founders put you and me in charge of the government.

Common sense seems to have gone missing from American public life.  It is more than overlooked; it is under attack.  For example, public discourse was recently focused on the governing elite's rejection of the commonsense understanding that there is a difference between males and females with respect to access to public bathrooms and showers and on the governing elite's rejection of the commonsense understanding of the difference between the rights of American citizens and the rights of illegal aliens.

Once upon a time, Americans would have agreed that federal legislation requiring Americans to buy government-approved health insurance requires a Constitutional amendment – and in those days, neither the amendment nor the legislation would have passed.  Today, Congress passes legislation and courts make rulings all the time that violate the letter and the spirit of the Constitution.  What this means is that we already live in an increasingly post-constitutional America. 

The efforts to undermine the American idea have put us on the road not just to a post-constitutional America, but to a post-American America.  Those who attack the Founders' vision have gained so much ground that they have moved on to attacking the foundation of the American Founding itself: common sense.  When Tom Paine wrote Common Sense, he relied on common sense to make the case for American independence.  I am certain that the idea never crossed his mind that some time in the future, there would be a need to defend common sense in America.  But such are the times in which we live.

If the challenge to common sense succeeds, who replaces the citizen as the sovereign, and what replaces common sense?  The answer to those questions is already clear – the sovereignty of the citizen is being replaced by rule by the gargantuan administrative state, and the common sense of the citizen is being replaced by the expertise of the bureaucrats who populate the administrative state.  The bureaucrats of the administrative state decide what we must do and what we cannot do.  When their mandates go against common sense – as when they force schools to allow students to use the bathrooms and showers of the opposite gender – common sense must yield.

But citizens still vote in America.  As sovereignty passes from the citizen relying on common sense to the bureaucrat relying on their supposed expertise, a new understanding of the role of the citizen as voter is required.  That role is also already clear.  The acceptable role for the voter is now as a new kind of consumer – a consumer of the political "narrative."  The administrative state and the members of the governing elite together shape and promote a narrative designed to provide the voters with a rationale for supporting what the bureaucrats and the elite have already decided on.  Not by coincidence, that narrative often seems designed mainly to overcome common sense. 

For example, everyone knows that government is always and everywhere inefficient.  It's just common sense, and the result of everyone's experience of government.  The one thing government is really good at is wasting money.  Yet "the narrative" from the political elite and the bureaucratic experts about Obamacare was that it was going to save money.  Estimates about how much lower insurance premiums would be were surprisingly precise, especially considering the fact that we commonly say "it was close enough for government work" when government estimates of costs go wide of the mark.

In the same way, it is simple common sense that the governing elite's policy of importing huge numbers of refugees from the Middle East amounts to importing trouble and terrorism.

The only question before us is whether the common sense nation is only on the ropes or already down for the count.  We Americans have an opportunity to decide the answer to that question this year.  Remarkably, we have a candidate for president who offers commonsense solutions and who calls himself a "common sense conservative."  His opponent perfectly represents cronyism and political corruption as well as the weird "nuanced" globalist upside-down thinking about boys and girls and bathrooms, about the need to import even more trouble from the Islamic world, about how even more taxes and government spending will solve our economic problems, and on and on.

Here is my advice: get yourself and everyone in your circle of influence to Dinesh D'Souza's film Hillary's America, get yourself a copy of Common Sense Nation, and do everything you can to help elect Donald Trump.

Maybe we can turn this thing around.  It is worth a try.

Robert Curry is the author of Common Sense Nation: Unlocking the Forgotten Power of the American Idea from Encounter Books.  Common Sense Nation has been selected by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute as a finalist for the prestigious Paolucci Book Award for 2016.  You can preview the book here.

When America knew itself, we were the common sense nation.

Common sense was once at the center of public life in America.  The Founders put it there.  According to the American Idea, the American people are sovereign.  The Founders believed we the people are capable of political self-rule by virtue of our common sense and our common prudence.  Placing their reliance on the fact that we govern our own individual lives by common sense, the Founders put you and me in charge of the government.

Common sense seems to have gone missing from American public life.  It is more than overlooked; it is under attack.  For example, public discourse was recently focused on the governing elite's rejection of the commonsense understanding that there is a difference between males and females with respect to access to public bathrooms and showers and on the governing elite's rejection of the commonsense understanding of the difference between the rights of American citizens and the rights of illegal aliens.

Once upon a time, Americans would have agreed that federal legislation requiring Americans to buy government-approved health insurance requires a Constitutional amendment – and in those days, neither the amendment nor the legislation would have passed.  Today, Congress passes legislation and courts make rulings all the time that violate the letter and the spirit of the Constitution.  What this means is that we already live in an increasingly post-constitutional America. 

The efforts to undermine the American idea have put us on the road not just to a post-constitutional America, but to a post-American America.  Those who attack the Founders' vision have gained so much ground that they have moved on to attacking the foundation of the American Founding itself: common sense.  When Tom Paine wrote Common Sense, he relied on common sense to make the case for American independence.  I am certain that the idea never crossed his mind that some time in the future, there would be a need to defend common sense in America.  But such are the times in which we live.

If the challenge to common sense succeeds, who replaces the citizen as the sovereign, and what replaces common sense?  The answer to those questions is already clear – the sovereignty of the citizen is being replaced by rule by the gargantuan administrative state, and the common sense of the citizen is being replaced by the expertise of the bureaucrats who populate the administrative state.  The bureaucrats of the administrative state decide what we must do and what we cannot do.  When their mandates go against common sense – as when they force schools to allow students to use the bathrooms and showers of the opposite gender – common sense must yield.

But citizens still vote in America.  As sovereignty passes from the citizen relying on common sense to the bureaucrat relying on their supposed expertise, a new understanding of the role of the citizen as voter is required.  That role is also already clear.  The acceptable role for the voter is now as a new kind of consumer – a consumer of the political "narrative."  The administrative state and the members of the governing elite together shape and promote a narrative designed to provide the voters with a rationale for supporting what the bureaucrats and the elite have already decided on.  Not by coincidence, that narrative often seems designed mainly to overcome common sense. 

For example, everyone knows that government is always and everywhere inefficient.  It's just common sense, and the result of everyone's experience of government.  The one thing government is really good at is wasting money.  Yet "the narrative" from the political elite and the bureaucratic experts about Obamacare was that it was going to save money.  Estimates about how much lower insurance premiums would be were surprisingly precise, especially considering the fact that we commonly say "it was close enough for government work" when government estimates of costs go wide of the mark.

In the same way, it is simple common sense that the governing elite's policy of importing huge numbers of refugees from the Middle East amounts to importing trouble and terrorism.

The only question before us is whether the common sense nation is only on the ropes or already down for the count.  We Americans have an opportunity to decide the answer to that question this year.  Remarkably, we have a candidate for president who offers commonsense solutions and who calls himself a "common sense conservative."  His opponent perfectly represents cronyism and political corruption as well as the weird "nuanced" globalist upside-down thinking about boys and girls and bathrooms, about the need to import even more trouble from the Islamic world, about how even more taxes and government spending will solve our economic problems, and on and on.

Here is my advice: get yourself and everyone in your circle of influence to Dinesh D'Souza's film Hillary's America, get yourself a copy of Common Sense Nation, and do everything you can to help elect Donald Trump.

Maybe we can turn this thing around.  It is worth a try.

Robert Curry is the author of Common Sense Nation: Unlocking the Forgotten Power of the American Idea from Encounter Books.  Common Sense Nation has been selected by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute as a finalist for the prestigious Paolucci Book Award for 2016.  You can preview the book here.