If there was one overarching goal of the Marxist project, it was refashioning human nature. Whether religion or politics, the Marxists argued that an obsession with God and a belief in national identity had to be challenged and defeated.
An ideology based on the common man ultimately had little confidence in his beliefs. Marxists maintained they were endowed with an understanding others didn't possess. While Marxism is dead; this distaste for the opinion of the common man persists.
Instead of Marxism, it now takes the form of expert opinion or a "fraternity of experts," who are eager to regulate human behavior. These are the new progressives, many of them former Marxists, and many who believe that American patriotism should be subordinated to transnational loyalty. Some call these people "liberal internationalists," who rely on U.N. prerogatives and other international bodies for guidance.
On the home front, this fraternity of experts has answers for everything that ails us. If healthcare is a problem, the experts contend a government-engineered system must be put in place, rather than relying on the marketplace.
If global warming is a problem, government regulations should be imposed through a "limited carbon footprint" rather than through relying on educating people to deliver restraint. The expert always believes public choices are ignorant and therefore decisions must be imposed.
How can elites demonstrate their "superior" wisdom if they are restrained? How can experts flaunt their expertise if their plans for us are rejected?
The expert fraternity should probably be treated with suspicion. The very fact that it distrusts the common man should be cause to distrust it. So when the new big idea emerges from the tombs of government, beware: The expert who wants to regulate distrusts you and your ability to decide anything for yourself.
From the ashes of Marxism has emerged a class of elitists not unlike the former members of the Soviet Communist party. They knew what was best for the citizens of Russia, and the expert fraternity knows what is best for us.
Another recent example is the government-imposed minimum wage. It is not enough to argue that the market, which is the combined wisdom of the consumer, is sufficient to determine wages. The experts know better; they actually think they can determine the point at which wages meet labor needs.
Of course the United States is not alone in producing members of the expert fraternity. The French are expert at self-proclaimed experts. The European Union is also the exemplar of expert opinion, so confident in its assertions that it seeks to regulate everything from truck tonnage to the size of lawn mowers.
Further, the EU intends to eliminate national loyalty through the imposition of a transnational entity which does not represent the will of the people, but rather the experts (read: bureaucrats) residing in Brussels.
Former Democratic candidate for president John Edwards liked to lecture about two Americas: the privileged and the poor. But this quasi-Marxist theme does not describe the real two Americas: one, managed by experts who believe they possess superior knowledge that translates into engineered regulations, and the second, the accumulated wisdom of common sense embodied in the common man.
Directly related to the common man is common sense. Although the phrase "common sense" is used reflexively without any real consideration of its etymology, it is the expression of common customs, traditions, and manners — the backbone of society.
In this society, common sense refers to conduct grounded in sound judgment, free of emotion and ideological passion — and a basic tenet of American life. To the extent common sense is in short supply, the bonds to the past are being loosened, if not severed.
An attachment to common sense is like belief in common law — unwritten, customary norms that evolve over centuries — the countervailing force against political and social convulsions, the balance wheel in society.
For most of American history, political ideas were evaluated on a common sense barometer. However lofty the ideas, they were invariably tested against the common sense standard. It is, therefore, not surprising that common sense has served as a magnificent bulwark against revolution, and, until recently, revolutionary zeal of the kind that periodically afflicts France has not been a factor in American politics.
In thinking about the future, it is imperative that common sense embodying the national tradition, be retained as a guidepost for generations to come. If the cultural continuum is interrupted, society pays dearly in the form of moral confusion. Common sense is an instrument for preserving and promoting the moral principles on which the nation is founded — but it is not a goal in its own right.
Common sense is the north star of social intercourse; it is not however, the constellation of stars that comprise moral sentiment and religious tradition. Common sense is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for social order, a point made by George Washington in his Farewell Address.
A danger within our democratic republic is that citizens often believe that freedom of choice can be interpreted as complete freedom of action, that any act not condemned is thereby sanctioned. It is the combination of common sense, along with moral beliefs rooted in religion, that represents a counterweight to the natural temptation for expansive freedom as license.
If one accepts that human nature tends toward evil — what further evidence from history is needed to demonstrate this premise? — an emphasis on custom, accepted rules, tradition, and family are the moderating influences that create social equilibrium.
An ability to distinguish between good and evil — the hallmark of education for Thomas Jefferson — assumes an ability to apply common sense and moral judgment. But in a complex world of moral relativism and a natural inclination for ever-expanding freedom of expression, there is a social tension between consciousness and conscience.
Mankind has the ability to make choices — an opportunity for both reaching new horizons and a pitfall leading to degradation.
The book of Proverbs maintains "when there is no vision, a people perish," but that vision must be framed by morality, common sense, and traditional norms. National spirit may soar, but it helps if the citizen's view is planted firmly in the soil of experiences that are handed down from parent to child, and from teacher to student, as common sense.
Existentialists in our midst often fail to appreciate the experience of the past. They search in vain for a tabula rasa on which to imprint utopian goals. For them, history is merely a dream from which they will awaken. Fortunately for the nation, this position is restricted to universities and other warrens of received wisdom.
Common sense is being challenged today, but it is not easily expunged. Like folkways, it exists in stories told to children and the guidance offered by parents.
The United States has the capability and responsibility to preserve and transmit the moral principles that gave this new nation vitality by leading the individual and the public through the thickets of moral confusion and serving as a barrier against descending into an abyss.
This is not easily done, but with a subtle hand, conviction in our legacy, and the application of common sense, the past can be a gateway to an exalted vision of the future.
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