- - Monday, September 23, 2019


“When Thomas Paine appealed to ‘common sense’ to make the case for American independence, it probably never crossed his mind that there would ever be a need to make the case for common sense itself, at least not in America,” writes Robert Curry, author of “Common Sense Nation: Unlocking the Forgotten Power of the American Idea” (Encounter Books, 2015), contributor to a variety of journals and a director of The Claremont Institute, in “Reclaiming Common Sense: Finding Truth in a Post-Truth World.”

Today, however, common sense falls under steady attack. “Deep thinkers have discarded it, elites have learned to disdain it,” and leftist politicians reject all manifestations of it as reflections of the deeply flawed nature of our economic system and theory of government. 

“Examples of the war on common sense are now everywhere in public life.” Mr. Curry points to the current unhinged national discussions about gender. “Not long ago, a boy in a tutu and a tiara who claimed he was a girl would still be regarded as a boy. Today, academic and cultural elites as well as government officials insist that ‘gender identity’ is more real than biology,” with at least one website claiming there are at least 63 existing genders. 

“The war on moral common sense has reached new heights of absurdity.” Mr. Curry points out that if we take common-sense steps to protect ourselves from Islamic terrorists, who demonstrably exist in the real world, “we are said to suffer a psychological condition called ‘Islamophobia,” which unlike other phobias — claustrophobia, for instance — “makes us victimizers rather than victims.” 

Also, when we attempt to secure our borders, “we are met by cries that ‘walls are immoral.’ Evidently the common-sense wisdom that good walls make good neighbors has been taken down by the masters of political correctness.”

“It would be inconceivable to the Founders,” writes Mr. Curry, that the common-sense realism that structured our nation, saw it through our formative years, and made it unique in the world could fall victim to such irrationality.”

But, as he points out, “a great deal of effort has gone into assailing it. Proponents of irrationalist doctrines that came on in wave after wave beginning in the nineteenth century — romanticism, Hegelianism, Marxism, progressivism, existentialism, postmodernism, and the like — have been pounding away at common sense for a very long time.”

For many years, “the foundation of an American college education was common sense.” But in the 1960s, the pounding of the irrationalists finally found a point of entry, and the rise of the New Leftists, whose victories seemed minimal at the time, resulted in “populating American campuses with politically radicalized professors.” 

Those professors, eventually tenured and assisted by radical (or frightened) administrators, have replaced education with “indoctrination in multiculturalism and an ever-changing array of politically correct doctrines that are inimical to the American foundational philosophy.” 

“‘The struggle against common sense is the beginning of speculative thinking,” wrote Herbert Marcuse, the philosopher who interpreted Marx for the New Leftists of the 1960s. And that Marxist/Marcusian struggle against common sense continues to motivate the leftists of today.

Unlike the American Revolution, which was successful by any measure, “the revolutions based on Marxist thinking failed, and failed spectacularly. The Soviet Union murdered its own people in the tens of millions and then collapsed, in part as the result of attempting the impossible: trying to run a country according to Marxist economic ideas.”

Moreover, this continues to be the case today in those countries — North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba — that still attempt to apply Marxian principles to the governance of their nations. But what no contemporary champion of those principles will admit is that “the failure of those ideas to work wherever they have been tried must mean that the ideas are wrong.”

Nevertheless, we find candidates competing for the presidential nomination in our own country campaigning on variations of those very principles. 

As Mr. Curry puts it, “Everyone knows, or rather everyone ought to know, that government is always and everywhere inefficient. It’s a common-sense observation, based on the normal experience of government. Yet for the Left, government is always and everywhere the solution.”

And that makes no sense at all, common or otherwise. 

• John R. Coyne Jr., a former White House speechwriter, is co-author of “Strictly Right: William F. Buckley Jr. and the American Conservative Movement” (Wiley).

• • •


By Robert Curry

With a foreword by Brian T. Kennedy 

Encounter Books, $19.99, 107 pages

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