Nanny State Needs Dose of Common Sense

This piece appeared in The Advertiser, 6 January 2009

Australia is facing a number of immediate and future challenges. Yet the financial crisis, rising unemployment and climate change are most likely less damaging to our long-term interests than the death of plain old common sense.

In recent decades, what was painfully obvious to previous generations has been lost in a plethora of big government programs and politically correct babble.

The wisdom of the ages that includes such gems as “only buy a home you can afford” and “money you borrow always needs to be repaid” lent themselves to a prudent society.

Somehow they were replaced by “McMansions” and endless cycles of revolving consumer credit. But when the music stops and your debt becomes a millstone (due to some crisis caused by an absence of common sense), fear not, because the Government will shower you with other people’s money.

Of course, saving the Government’s largesse or paying your debts is not part of the deal. You’ll be instructed by Big Brother to spend, spend, spend in order to keep the party going.

But there are countless other examples of where we have suspended common sense in an attempt to appease the unquenchable hunger of those who seek to replace personal responsibility with collective guilt. The economic and social truisms that have sustained our society for generations have been eroded to such an extent that redressing the imbalance will prove extremely difficult.

While, after its first year, it appears certain the Rudd Government will not rise to the challenge of restoring common sense and personal responsibility, that role should ultimately be returned to the family unit. But families themselves are under threat.

Families were once at the front and centre of our society. Parents accepted responsibility for their children’s welfare and taught them right from wrong. Now, big government programs have sought to replace these traditional societal expectations of the family unit. There are no winners and losers in this brave new world. Every child wins a prize on sports day.

Consequentially, the family has been redefined by government, from the common sense ideal of a man and a woman who love each other and want to raise children together, to any two people who want to be together and claim their “right” to have children.

It’s saddening this apparent adult right often comes at a cost – that of the child’s long-term developmental need to have a mother and a father. Unfortunately, the delusions that are created by the absence of common sense are, like most sophistry, sustainable for a period. The human and societal implications are often not immediately apparent and this lends credence to the absurdity that has seen the decline of common sense in our decision-making.

The folly of this new direction becomes patently obvious in following decades amid cries that “the government should do something about it”. Is it any coincidence that many of the problems we demand government do something about – such as substance abuse, homelessness and youth violence – coincide with the diminishing role of family life in shaping our future generations in favour of government social engineering?

But the self-evident truths are decried by many in favour of there being an excuse for every problem and little personal responsibility for the solution.

Such mirages are not new. Throughout the ages, common sense has been suspended and replaced by various fads, manias and foolishness. But in this new age, it is no longer the individual who is held accountable. Responsibility is collectivised across society by an ever-expanding role of government.

As we enter 2009, let’s remember that the best government, the most efficient and the least threatening government, is self-government. And self-government begins with a return to common sense.

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