Common sense conservative

From Academic Kids

A common sense conservative is an advocate of conservative politics who adopts the rhetoric of "common sense" to frame his arguments. The term is almost always used to apply to domestic and fiscal policy. See the term neoconservative for a related movement that mostly focuses on foreign policy initiatives.

"Common sense" conservatives can be either quite right wing, or more moderate. They are usually spawned in opposition to the policies of liberal politicians and parties. Left-wing policy-makers, they argue, are mired in fantasy, striving for an unachievable utopian society. "Common sense" conservatives believe that rather than governing based on what "should work," politicians should govern based on established precedents and norms, or as they might say "what has worked." This, they say, is the "common sense" approach.

At times this rhetoric falls to claims of access to absolute truth or what is "self-evident". Obviously, what is "obvious" to one person is not necessarily obvious to another, which is what makes this ideology so controversial.

"Common sense" conservative movements are mostly confined to the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, but have spread to Latin America and other regions with evangelical Christian movements which emphasize moral rules, rigid conformity, financial success, and retributive justice. In each country the political agenda is different, but it has economic themes in common:

  • tax cuts to promote economic growth, sometimes at the expense of public infrastructure or government services
  • support for neoliberalism, monetarism, capitalism and free trade
  • privatization of some infrastructure and government services on the belief (described by critics as a market theology) that the private sector is not only more efficient but more effective at providing such services
  • streamlining government and reducing regulation, usually in an effort to reduce barriers to business

Critics have accused "common sense" conservatives of deliberately stirring conflict among opposing groups to clear the way for their reforms, which they say are often simple reactionary moves to eliminate prior regimes of regulation.

Often, these objectives and strategies cross national boundaries. Margaret Thatcher can be said to have brought the above trends into the mainstream, but the subsequent application of these beliefs by Ronald Reagan in the US was much more ideologically rigid in character. A second generation of regional politicians such as Ontario Premier Mike Harris, often using the slogan "Common Sense Revolution" (used in New Jersey, Ontario and Australia), continued the trend in the 1990s, though without most of the social conservatism.

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