Common sense—The only permitted non-liberal concept

Americans are rightly proud of their tradition of common sense. They are gratefully aware that it has saved them time and again from various kinds of ideological irrationality and extremism, and, to a lessening extent, still does so today. But what is this common sense? It is nothing other than the non-conceptual application of conservative, or at least non-liberal, principles. Americans inchoately recognize that the only way to forestall liberalism’s inherent tendency to extremism is to abandon liberalism on those occasions when it threatens to “go too far.” But since liberalism, which is limitless in its demands, can provide no guidelines as to when it has “gone too far,” and since Americans have no legitimate political and moral concepts other than liberal concepts, an explicit abandonment of liberalism is neither possible nor permitted. Therefore the only way to prevent the disasters that liberalism is always threatening to inflict is by recourse to a conservative modus operandi that is strictly non-conceptual and non-ideological, and therefore non-threatening to liberalism. Americans call this modus operandi “common sense.”
Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 09, 2002 02:16 PM | Send

The great thing about “common sense” is that it provides a nonthreatening basis for perpetuating liberalism, which would otherwise immediately self-destruct. Liberalism is a self-contradictory parasite, so it has to have something substantive to hang onto. Mr. Auster’s notion that this extremely minimalist and plastic substance we call “common sense” is the accepted host rings true.

Posted by: Matt on October 9, 2002 4:30 PM

Also, “common sense” is a good example of the unprincipled exception. Principled exceptions to liberalism are not permitted, only unprincipled exceptions. And the main unprincipled exception to liberalism turns out to be conservatism itself. Conservatism remains “unprincipled” in this connection because no one is allowed to identify it AS conservatism, but only as “common sense.”

Thus the dominant liberalism maintains itself in existence by making unprincipled exceptions to itself, while conservatism survives within that same dominant liberalism by offering unprincipled resistance to it.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on January 11, 2003 3:46 PM
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