Friday, November 11, 2011

Where is Common Sense?

Email from a friend on Thursday included a copy of a short essay I have seen a couple of times in the past, but one that deserves to be read again, even a third or fourth time. It seems to get better with time, and is something very few would describe as outdated. Personal opinion would have me say that the essay is even closer to the truth thirteen years after it first appeared in an Indiana newspaper.

The original version of “Common Sense” was written by Lori Borgman, a newspaper columnist for The Indianapolis Star. It was first published on March 15, 1998 in The Star and provoked such a huge, ongoing response, the essay has since been copied, modified, edited, forwarded and at this point even called ‘anonymous’ by unknowing readers. The version given below is not Borgman’s original, but a version recently reprinted in The London Times—with no byline unfortunately.


Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend who has been with us for many years—Common Sense. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as: Knowing when to come in out of the rain; Why the early bird gets the worm; Life isn’t always fair; and Maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6 year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student. Such regulations only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children. It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims. Common Sense took a beating when you couldn’t defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death, by his parents,
Truth and Trust, by his wife, Discretion, by his daughter, Responsibility, and by his son, Reason. He is survived by four stepbrothers: I Know My Rights, I Want It Now, Someone Else Is To Blame, and I’m A Victim.

Not many attended his funeral…so few realized he was gone.

For those interested in reading the original 1998 essay, it is available at, along with an archive of Borgman’s other work. My thanks to good friend K for reminding me of this still robust gem from writer Lori Borgman.


  1. Oh, yes, afraid this essay will never end up dated and refer to some other era. It will forever be apropos. Now political correctness and not standing up to the reasonable approach has reduced so many human interactions down to avoidance at all costs. Instead of paying her off, McDonald's should have countersued the hot coffee woman. Might have helped stop some frivolous lawsuits. Don't get me started.

  2. I remember reading this when it first came out. I thought it was timely then and it's even more so now.


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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America