The Case for Common Sense

The New Economic, Ecological, and Social Revolution



Our common sense tells us that something is fundamentally wrong in America - in spite of public proclamations to the contrary.  Our so-called free market economy and democratic society have degenerated into a corporate aristocracy, as historic ethical and social values have been systematically destroyed in the pursuit of unbridled self-interest.  Our current corporatist society quite simply is not sustainable.  It’s time for an economic, ecological, and social revolution!  We must restore harmony and balance among the individual, interpersonal, and spiritual to reclaim our quality of life.  We must reclaim our economy and our democracy to sustain prosperity and to restore equity and justice.  We must return to those principles that we know to be right and true.  We must return to common sense.


Contemporary society has its roots in the "age of enlightenment," characterized by an abiding faith in the power of scientific logic and human reasoning and in rejection of the intuitive and spiritual.  Science has yielded bounties of human comfort and material well-being.  However, our blind faith in the science of reason, and the systems of economics and government that it spawned, also has brought us to the precipice of our own extinction.  If we continue to destroy the integrity and productivity of the natural and human resources upon which we ultimately must depend, eventually we will destroy ourselves.  Our current society is not sustainable.  We must develop a new society, one that values the interpersonal and spiritual dimensions of life as highly as the individual.  We must develop a new economy, one that values the social and ecological dimensions of life, as highly as the personal.  We must be willing to reject the outdated concept of people as nothing more than complex "mechanisms" and embrace new ways of thinking of people as "living beings."


The transition from an exploitative to a sustainable human society might seem daunting, if not impossible, were it not for one simple fact.  We already have nearly everything we need to succeed.  People have the opportunity to change the future of human society.  We only lack the will to change - the willingness to rethink and the courage to revolt.  We will find the courage to challenge our oppressors and the wisdom to create a new vision for the future, when we realize that all we really need to do to win the revolution is rely on our common sense.


Our common sense is that innate sense of truth and fallacy, right and wrong, of good and bad, that comes to somewhere within us from somewhere beyond us – a sense that we all share in common, if we choose to call upon it.  Our common sense is not "conventional wisdom," not something that we have learned, but instead, is something that we know – instinctively, intuitively – if we will only listen to the voice within.  Our common sense once tempered our greed and our egotism – it compelled us to care for others and to care about nature.  But, we have sacrificed our common sense at the altar of science and reason and we are now reaping the rewards of social decay and ecological degradation.  All we need to do to win the war for a sustainable society is to learn again to rely on our common sense.


In this book, John Ikerd weaves the story of his own transformation – from a conservative, bottom-line, free-market economist to an open advocate of a new economics of sustainability – into his personal and professional philosophies of sustainable living.  He experienced the industrialization of agriculture, first hand, during his early years of work in private industry and his 30-plus years working with farmers, as an agricultural economist at four major state universities.  He experienced the ravages of an industrial mind-set on his personal life as he struggled with an addiction to work and to control – ultimately contributing to the destruction of his marriage and his health.  But, he is now beginning to experience the personal and professional victories that come from living a life of harmony and balance.  He relates his own personal agonies of defeat and thrills of victory to the ills of society and the necessity for fundamental change.


The book begins with an overview of the necessity for a common sense revolution and the basic strategies for achieving victory.  The first section, The Villain, describes the emergence of the age of reason, the industrialization of the American economy, the emergence of the corporate aristocracy that now controls both our government and economy – and the resulting ecological and social destruction.  The second section, The Vision, provides the conceptual framework for a sustainable society - the vision of a more rewarding personal and spiritual life, a government that serves the common good, and an economy capable of sustaining, rather than degrading, society.  The third and final section, The Victory, provides some practical, common sense strategies for personal, social, and spiritual development.  It pinpoints some political leverage-points, where small, doable steps can bring about fundamental changes in government, culminating in rewriting the Constitution to include the “Economic and Ecological Bills of Rights.”  It provides personal self-help strategies based on principles of living systems, and closes with a common sense concept of human spirituality.    


The book reflects the author's own life and work.  Thus, it reflects the attitudes and opinions of one who grew up on a farm, with very modest means, and who lived his life as an agricultural economist among farmers and other economists who worked with farmers.  However, this is not a book about agriculture, nor is it just about economics.  It is a book about life - civilized human life on this planet with its finite natural resources.  It is a book about the current human condition, the lack of sustainability of our current economic and political systems, and what we have to do, individually and collectively both to live sustainably and to create a sustainable society.  This book calls for a new economic and social revolution – a return to common sense.