Common Sense

It’s “just common sense”, Government Minister says. Can there be anything more irritating than hearing that inane statement from someone in power?

Now, I admit the term “Common Sense” has been used to great effect in history. It can be said that it sparked the revolutionary war that created the States of America. Englishman Thomas Paine argued vigorously for American independence under the title Common Sense.

I don’t see modern-day politicians fired up with revolutionary fervour to fight the great evil of the coronavirus. Rather, I see a limp, lost and lazy second-hand car salesmen clinging to their jobs.

The notion of an attribute being “common” is like a schoolteacher trying too hard to be “down with the kids”. Soaking up what is though to be modern culture and showing off how in-touch they can be when in-fact the teacher is often way out of touch.

Populist politicians love nothing more than to see themselves as on the same wavelength as members of the public. If you look closely at their history and experience its often a million miles from normal. Their normal is an imagined one.

Real common sense is sound sensible judgement about everyday stuff. Naturally, we would all claim to have this quality.  However, to quote Voltaire: “Common sense is not so common.”

For something to be common it’s difficult to set a threshold. A knee-jerk reaction might be to say that something where half of people are expected to agree can be called a common belief.  Contrast that with the common things that are not so common. The Wren is one of Britain’s most common bird but how often do you see one?

Why I most object to a Minister deferring to “common sense” is the implication that considered thought, expert opinion and education are not needed. You could even ask what’s the purpose of a Minister if in the end response to COVID-19 is for the individual to make it up as the go along.

There are societies that hold the Laissez-faire way of doing things in high esteem. As a good Liberal, the sense in a policy of minimum governmental interference is clear to me. However, that doesn’t mean an abdication of responsibility when decisions have to be made. Opting for bland reassurance rather than decisive action will cost lives.

Populist politicians are the least suited to dealing with a crisis. They flit between chasing newspaper headlines and wallowing in uncertainty and indecision. When a situation turns bad, they blame the people that they were elected to serve.

Liberals are so much better because they know where to draw the line between minimum essential intervention and freedom. This is always a delicate balancing act. 

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