Intellectual Common Sense

Courtesy of Paul Krugman, I took note of this editorial in the Wall Street Journal. Not being an economist, I'll let better minds (like, well, Paul Krugman) deal with the economic argument there. I do, however, want to explore a little the idea of what is or is not common sense.

There's a page on TVTropes (a website devoted to detailing common themes in fiction, for those of you who haven't heard of it) titled Reality Is Unrealistic. The title is pretty much self-explanatory; the page covers things that seem unrealistic usually because they faithfully depict a reality that goes against what's expected.

And really it's the biggest problem with the Wall Street Journal's editorial, beyond even any issues with its treatment of macroeconomics. The editorial explains that Americans, especially students, seem to hate economics because the theories produced by it defy common sense. Which leaves me asking... so what if they do?

I'm going to a good university (and spending a decent amount of money for the privilege), so perhaps I may be biased on the matter. But hasn't it already been a given that common sense is not all there is to know about the world? If I wanted to just uselessly throw away huge sums of money, there are easier ways to do that. Employers want to see college degrees when you go to get hired. There probably is some kind of point to all of this, no?

A true application of common sense would realize that. Would realize that there are some things for which common sense alone, unsupported by knowledge and training, cannot effectively deal with. This is the entire point of studying such things - to increase one's knowledge and learn where reality diverges from what might be expected. The Wall Street Journal had a great deal of fun bashing on Keynesian economics for diverging from common sense, but they might want to consider how much common sense it shows to discourage the use of intellect in general.

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