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.

Common Sense Society (CSS) was founded as a debating forum in 2009 by a group of American and European university students. The group aimed to explore the ideas, cultures, and geography that have shaped our history in order to best contribute to a future that fosters human flourishing. In doing so, CSS became a celebration of the political, intellectual, and cultural inheritance which constitute our shared civilization.

This inheritance consists of a vast network of institutions, norms, shared history, customs, and moral philosophy, which CSS arranges into three issue areas of liberty, prosperity, and beauty. Today, CSS is an international network that promotes these timeless principles and the intermediary institutions that are indispensable to human flourishing and happiness.

With a community-centered model across North America and Europe, we educate 21st-century generations and inform public discourse. Our fellowship programs, curriculum resources, publications, public events, civic initiatives, and targeted national media campaigns illuminate the enduring ideas that have transformed the course of human history for the better. The ideals of liberty, prosperity, and beauty can change lives everywhere.

We are cultivating a future that draws on the best of the past—a future that is free, flourishing, thoughtful, and full of enduring meaning.

Our Guiding Principles

Our definitions of liberty, prosperity, and beauty are established on a firm philosophical foundation of human equality that respects the inherent rights of each individual. These guiding principles are a framework to approach the vast array of institutions—such as voluntary labor, religious liberty, freedom of speech, and property rights—which support a society in which individuals are free to flourish. Our understanding of these principles is a result of close study of our inherited Western civilization, lessons learned from history, along with observations of what contributes to a meaningful life.

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.

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

"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.

"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.

Fellowships

Each Common Sense Society fellowship offers the opportunity to study with leading thinkers in social, thoughtful atmospheres and to strengthen their professional relationships. Join us in exploring how these ideas change lives everywhere by applying for a Common Sense Society fellowship.

Danube Institute President John O'Sullivan speaking to students at a CSS event in 2013.
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