I Have decided to post my article from the Bracketyackon “Common Sense Conservatism,” it is still in its original format, which means not copied edited well. Please enjoy!
Common Sense: It Does Not Make Sense
By John Stang
Over the summer a stunning announcement was made to the world by the Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) when it announced that it was going to offer grilled chicken as a “healthier alternative” to its famously greasy fried chicken. This announcement made self proclaimed liberal comedian and host of Real Time, Bill Maher who humorously commented, “Its not the word fried I’m scared of, its Kentucky.”
This interesting line of reasoning can be applied to a bizarre counterculture movement called the teabaggers, who are against increased government spending, higher taxes, and further government “socialism” by President Obama. The movement is being lead by Fox News commentator Glenn Beck and former 2008 vice-presidential candidate and former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin. Recently, Palin published a book titled Going Rogue: An American Life, which outlined her political career and her vision of American politics, calling it “Common Sense Conservatism.” Glenn Beck, believing himself to be the crusader of the middle class and a modern day Thomas Paine, with his book Common Sense outlined a similar thesis.
The main idea of Common Sense Conservatism is that of its self explanatory name, which is to use common sense to solve political problems. Examples of such common sense ideas are not running a deficit in times of economic crisis, preventing government programs from expanding, and a not taxing the middle class. The common sense solutions being offered by the supporters of this movement are to tighten the nation’s fiscal belt, use grassroots solutions for localized development, and have the government leave them alone. Whenever a liberal is critical of these solutions, they will often reply, in a Jack Nicholson sort of way, that they cannot handle the truth about Conservatism’s values and the idea that the government bureaucratic structure might be a bad idea.
But in a Bill Maher sort of fashion, it is not Conservatism that critics attack; it’s the notion of common sense. While common sense sounds like a great solution to problems, fundamentally it fails in an academic setting. Remember last time a president used “gut” solutions to solve problems, the U.S. ended up in two wars, several Whitehouse scandals, and a small thing called a recession caused continued deregulation and bad tax cuts, something the “Common Sense Conservatives” want to continue.
The point is that common sense is not trusted in any other academic discipline. In science there is the scientific method and empirical research, in economics there is empirical data supported various models, and in sociology there are different levels of analysis. Whether people like it or not politics is a science, hence the Platonic name of “Political Science.” Common sense often derives solutions of misnomers and wrong information. Common sense scientific ideas, for instance, did lead to blood letting, Aristotle’s notion of the Universe revolved around love, and that there were only four elements, earth wind, air, and fire.
What is often ironic about this common sense movement is they claim that the government is incompetent to do anything and proposes alternative options to problems. Yet, this same group is the home of the birthers, the deathers, and some who believe that Obama is a Muslim. While I do not dispute the values of Conservatism, many of the solutions have strong merits and are needed for a robust political debate, this new movement of “common sense/teabagger” brand of Republicans will set the U.S. up for failure in the future and is dangerous. Alas, while I am not a fan of this movement, I am with New York Times columnist David Brooks, when I say that this movement will probably not go away, and despite the ideas of ignorance common sense tells me it will probably be around for a long, long time.