Common sense revolts at the idea

Word count: 289 words

Reading time: Just over 1 minute

I read widely, watch movies and listen to the radio. Here, catch an interesting piece of figurative language I’ve encountered recently.

Do you have much common sense? I’ve been thinking about this topic recently after I read the beginning of a book recommended to me by my son. (It was a library book and, sadly, the due date arrived before I had time to finish more than the first chapter.)

The book is called Free Culture and it explores intellectual property (AKA copyright) in the age of the Internet. Author Lawrence Lessig argues that never before in human history has the power to control so much of the creative process been concentrated in the hands of so few.

And where does common sense play a role? Well, Lessig tells the story of two North Carolina farmers, Thomas Lee and Tinie Causby, who in 1945 launched a court case against the government because low-flying military aircraft were killing some of their chickens. (Terrified by the sound, the chickens were killing themselves by running into barn walls.)

The farmers argued that their “property rights” stretched skyward, meaning that the US government was “tresspassing” on their land. A creative idea, but not one shared by Supreme Court Justice Douglas. He wrote:

[The] doctrine has no place in the modern world. The air is a public highway, as Congress has declared. Were that not true, every transcontinental flight would subject the operator to countless trespass suits. Common sense revolts at the idea. 

It delights me that a plainspoken judge would trouble himself to work some memorable personification into his writing. I can just see common sense carrying a picket sign, can’t you?

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