Ben Eltham | Common Sense is in the Eye of the Beholder

It’s the start of another new year and another new Ben Eltham article. First up Ben Eltham takes a close look at the use of the word ‘common sense’ to justify certain political agendas. What do politicians really mean when they say that a certain policy or idea is ‘common sense’? Common sense implies a certain basic level of accepted beliefs. But who defines what these beliefs are?

Is it common sense to ensure there are no incentives for desperate people to risk their lives coming to Australia by boat? Or does the real common sense lie in recognising that asylum seekers pose no threat, and could be humanely and cheaply processed once they arrive? Is it common sense for Australia to enjoy cheap energy by exploiting our natural bounty of mineral resources? Or is it common sense to stop burning coal altogether, given that we’re cooking the planet? Is it common sense to balance the books and make sure the budget is in surplus? Or does it make more sense to borrow a little bit of money to invest in nation-building projects for Australia’s future?

That’s the trouble with common sense. One person’s common sense is another’s suicidal madness.

Common sense is a proxy, in a way, of all the things that seem self-evident in your own worldview. Much like beauty, it’s in the eye of the beholder.  Unfortunately, those with a different view aren’t likely to agree.

This article originally appeared on ABC’s The Drum here.

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