A common sense conservative is an advocate of conservative politics who adopts the rhetoric of "common sense" to frame his arguments. The term is almost always used to apply to domestic and fiscal policy. See the term neoconservative for a related movement that mostly focuses on foreign policy initiatives.

"Common Sense" conservatives can be either quite right wing, or more moderate. They are usually spawned in opposition to the policies of liberal politicians and parties. Left-wing policy-makers, they argue, are mired in fantasy, striving for an unachievable utopian society. "Common Sense" conservatives believe that rather than governing based on what "should work," politicians should govern based on established precidents and norms, or as they might say "what has worked." This, they say is the "Common Sense" approach.

At times this rhetoric falls to claims of access to absolute truth or what is "self-evident". Obviously, what is "obvious" to one person is not necessarily obvious to another, which is what makes this ideology so controversial.

"Common Sense" conservative movements are mostly confined to the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, but have spread to Latin America and other regions with evangelical Christian movements which emphasize moral rules, rigid conformity, financial success, and retributive justice. In each country the political agenda is different, but it has economic themes in common:

  • tax cutting, often regardless of impact on infrastructure or services
  • unlimited support for neoliberalism, monetarism, capitalism and free trade as they are interpreted solely through neo-conservative views
  • privatization of as much of the infrastructure and services as possible on the assumption, often called market theology, that it is not only more efficient but more effective at providing such services
  • deliberate stirring of conflict among opposing groups to clear the way for their "reforms", which are often simple reactionary moves to eliminate prior regimes of regulation

Often, these objectives and strategies cross national boundaries. Margaret Thatcher can be said to have brought the above trends into the mainstream, but the subsequent application of these beliefs by Ronald Reagan in the US was much more ideologically rigid in character and led to much deeper hardship. A second generation of regional politicians, often using their slogan "Common Sense Revolution" (used in New Jersey, Ontario and Australia) that included Ontario Premier Mike Harris continued the trend in the 1990s - along with a very similarly-styled Texas Governor, George W. Bush.