About

The late Sir Roger Scruton (1944-2020) and CSS President and CEO Marion Smith speaking at 2016 CSS Event "Scruton: Why Are We Unwilling to Defend Western Civilization?" held at the Petőfi Irodalmi Múzeum in Budapest, Hungary.
Liberty. Prosperity. Beauty.

These ideas
change lives
everywhere.

The Common Sense Society (CSS) is an independent, non-partisan educational foundation active in the United States and Europe. CSS is funded exclusively by private and corporate donations and does not accept government grants or contracts. In recognition of our early achievements, CSS received the 2010 Templeton Freedom Award in social entrepreneurship, among an international pool of 132 nominated organizations. The Common Sense Society celebrates the Western heritage, wherein the ideas of liberty and equality have been asserted, tested, and proven over the course of three millennia. This same history reveals that mankind does not progress inevitably toward freedom or justice. Indeed, many attempts to ignore history, deny human nature, and engineer a utopian vision have initiated some of the most horrific episodes in human memory. Because ideas have consequences, CSS–The Netherlands continues the noble tradition of argumentation and debate by providing regular forums for the exchange of these ideas. We are not bystanders to the development of our civilization; we are participants in defining our future of sustainable freedom.

Why Common Sense?

The term “common sense” was chosen because the Society wishes to promote sensible and eloquent dialogue, and a free exchange of ideas within the political sphere, as opposed to either reactionary or ideologically charged public discourse. The notion of common sense finds its earliest formulation in ancient Greece. The Greek word έμπειρία connoted that which could be understood through experiencing life. Custom refined over time. The Romans likewise understood “sensus communis” to connote sensibility and humanity. The Christian tradition also presents a theological equivalent in the concept of “general” or “natural revelation” which understood the existence of morality and God to be self-evident in the material world. The most famous use of Common Sense occurred in 1776 when Thomas Paine, a British political theorist, published a pamphlet entitled Common Sense Addressed to the Inhabitants of America which set forth the case for American Independence from Great Britain. At the heart of his appeal was a belief that political ideals and practice must be joined. It was in this pivotal time where political ideals were being popularly acted upon to an extent not previously seen in history that Paine declared: “the cause of America is, in great measure, the cause of all mankind.”

We believe that modern political discourse and policy-making are greatly enhanced by an understanding of and engagement with political theory, philosophy, and historical experience. We seek to contribute to the intellectual development of our generation by providing a regular forum for rational discourse, cultural celebration, and civic engagement. Reason rooted in tradition. Leave our civilization better than we found it—or at least no worse.

 

Leadership

 

Marion Smith, President and CEO

Melvin Schut, Director of Common Sense Society—The Netherlands

 

Our Guiding Principles

Liberty

Liberty has at its foundation the inherent and equal rights possessed by every individual. These rights are best protected in a system of ordered liberty under the rule of law.

All individuals have the sacred freedom to voluntarily use their labor and leisure time in the manner of their choosing, which allows them to freely pursue their interests. Self-control and the ability to exercise one’s judgment allows people to make meaningful choices for personal and social benefit. Liberty without the capacity for governing oneself quickly gives way to tyranny. Common Sense Society helps future leaders explore the nature of liberty and its relationship to human equality, the rule of law, the market, social institutions, our cultural inheritance, and personal responsibility. This deep understanding of liberty will serve as a lens to understand and approach the circumstances and problems of our present day.

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Bronze statue of George Washington by Jean Antoine Houdon and view of Constantino Brumidi's "Apotheosis of Washington" in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.

Prosperity

Prosperity is the result of a system in which each individual is able to enjoy the fruits of his or her own labor. Securing an even brighter future through innovation, voluntary exchange, and market competition will require a renewed commitment to economic understanding, education, and the protection of private property. It is vital to understand the virtues and moral foundations that make market mechanisms, such as voluntary contracts, possible. This same system enables individuals to better their lives by providing for the needs of others.

Common Sense Society works to champion future entrepreneurs and policy makers who foster freedom and opportunity in their communities. CSS also celebrates the successes of ordinary men and women whose ingenuity, sacrifice, and diligence have contributed to the prosperity we now enjoy. They should be a source of inspiration, not objects of vilification.

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"Hudson River Waterfront, N.Y.C.", oil on canvas by Colin Campbell Cooper. Included in the view are the Woolworth and Singer buildings, then the first and second tallest buildings in the world.

Beauty

Encountering natural beauty in the world leaves us with a sense of wonder as we explore the variety and grandeur of the earth’s flora, wildlife, and oceans. We are similarly inspired by the enduring human works of exceptional art, music, and architecture. Such culture ennobles the often tragic human experience and gives meaning or relief to man’s temporal estate. It is in this sense, that Roger Scruton wrote, “through the pursuit of beauty we shape the world as a home.” It is no surprise to find beauty in its various forms at the cornerstone of civilizations across time as it can magnify the truth and goodness that gives ultimate meaning to our lives.

The best of human creativity lifts man’s thoughts and emotions upward and outward, beyond the baser and selfish instincts that seem to characterize so much of human history. Common Sense Society is committed to celebrating enduring art, literature, music, architecture, and the natural world through educational initiatives, curated Members excursions, live events, and more.

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"Still life with rotting fruit and nuts on a stone ledge", oil on panel by Dutch Master Abraham Mignon, designed to recall the brevity of life and the urgent need to focus on lasting matters rather than fleeting earthly pleasures.
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