What is common sense?

Just what is common sense? That is a word being thrown around a lot lately. But what is it really? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as “sound and prudent judgement based on a simple perception of the situation or facts”. Well that’s clear as mud. So what is it really? One person will say that is is common sense that the government needs to step in and take care of the poor and needy while the next person will say that it is common sense that the government needs to get out of the way so people can take care of themselves. Two opposite ideas both being sold as common sense. They can’t both be right. The problem with the idea of common sense is that everybody thinks they have it. Maybe we should save the idea of common sense for things like don’t put your hand in the fire or put more clothes on when it is cold out or be careful because coffee is hot. Well, maybe scratch that last one, apparently that one isn’t common sense, just ask McDonald’s. So how should we use the term common sense. I am all for the idea that we need a lot more common sense in Washington but we need to define what and why something is common sense. What is common sense changes as a society changes. 200 years ago the majority of Americans would have said that common sense would be for the government to get out of the way. Those Americans absolutely didn’t want the federal government getting involved in anything like that. It was not there job. It seems to me that we need to decide what is or isn’t the federal governments job before we start using the term common sense. Remember the dictionary said a perception of the situation or facts. Everybody’s perception of the facts differs. If you look at our founding fathers words and the ratification debates in the thirteen original states about what the federal government role was going to be then a good argument can be made about what one version of common sense should be. If you look at what history has been taught the last hundred years a good argument can be made for the other version of common sense. So what do we do? We have to learn our history. Our true history and make a decision about what version of common sense to use. We have to learn the ideas behind our founding documents. What they do and don’t mean. If we want to try and find a new way to run our country than what our founding fathers had in mind then let’s have that debate but first we have to know what’s wrong with the one we have. In order to do that we have to know just what the original ideas were. I can’t say it enough that the government we have today is nowhere near the one this country started out with. So before you tell me what common sense is you had better have a reason for your use of that word.

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