The road from Arthur Brooks to Glenn Beck.
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Only 31 percent chose (a), which is the foundational view of the liberal/left. Over twice as many, 63 percent, chose (b), which is a classic formulation of the conservative, libertarian, free market philosophy. And this was at the height of the reign and popularity of Obama’s liberal/left regime.
Brooks also recounts that in March 2009 the Pew Research Center asked Americans: “Generally, do you think people are better off in a free market economy, even though there may be severe ups and downs from time to time, or don’t you think so?” Brooks reports that 70 percent agreed they were better off in a free market economy. Only 20 percent disagreed. And this was at the depths of the financial crisis, when the American people lost trillions in financial wealth, in their homes and in the stock and bond markets. Brooks adds:
Free enterprise is even more popular than [the terms] capitalism and free markets. In the same Gallup poll mentioned above [January 2010], a stunning 86 percent have a positive image of free enterprise. Only 10 percent have a negative image. Similarly, 84 percent have a positive image of entrepreneurs, while just 10 percent see them negatively.
On taxes, Brooks reports a spring 2009 poll finding that “69 percent of Americans think the top federal tax rate should be 20 percent or lower. Even 62 percent of Democrats think this.” A 2009 Pew Values Survey found that “76 percent of Americans believe the strength of this country is mostly based on the strength of American business…. In 2010, Gallup found that 66 percent of American believe that when big business earns a profit it helps the economy, while just 18 percent think it hurts the economy.” Also, “51 percent of Americans believe unions hurt rather than help the nation’s economy.”
On government, Brooks reports a survey which asked, “Overall, would you prefer larger government with more services and higher taxes, or smaller government with fewer services and lower taxes.” An overwhelming majority of 69 percent of Americans preferred smaller government, while only 21 percent favored larger government. Moreover, emerging Republican Congressional majorities take note, 63 percent of Americans favor cuts in government spending, with only 14 percent against.
The Moral Foundations of Liberty
But the more fundamental point that Brooks makes is that to win the battle for the future of America, advocates for the 70% majority need to do a better job of advancing their cause. They cannot concede that the left best represents fairness and the true interests of the poor, while focusing only on economic growth and materialistic concerns. They need to go back to the moral foundations for liberty and free enterprise, and explain that free markets best promote true fairness, equality, and human happiness, and the true interests of the poor and working people.
Brooks explains, “The main issue in the new American culture war between free enterprise and statism is not material riches — it is human flourishing. This is a battle about nothing less than our ability to pursue happiness,” which means freedom. But, Brooks adds, “Rarely do we use the aspirational themes necessary to make the moral case for free people and free markets that we know in our hearts is right.”
Brooks argues that it is the 30 percent coalition that advances the cold, mechanistic, crassly materialistic view. Just give the poor money, and they will be happy, as will everybody else that matters when we give them money too taken from the rich to attain greater income equality. He explains the moral foundations of the 70% view, saying:
By contrast, the 70 percent majority are New Age radicals. They have simple faith that ingenuity and hard work can and should be rewarded….They know that no amount of unearned money can ever heal the human heart. Money is fine, but it is something else entirely — something less tangible and more transcendental — that really brings satisfaction. The 70 percent majority understands that the secret to human flourishing is not money but earned success in life.
People flourish when they earn their own success. It’s not the money per se, which is merely a measure — not a source — of this earned success. More than any other system, free enterprise enables people to earn success and thereby achieve happiness.
Brooks goes on to explain exactly what is meant by “earned success”:
Earned success means the ability to create value honestly — not by winning the lottery, not by inheriting a fortune, not by picking up a welfare check. It doesn’t even mean making money itself. Earned success is the creation of value in our lives or in the lives of others. Earned success is the stuff of entrepreneurs who seek explosive value through innovation, hard work, and passion. But it isn’t just related to commerce. Earned success is also what parents experience when their children do wonderful things, what social innovators feel when they change lives, and what artists feel when they create something of beauty.
The point, in other words, is “The big problem is not that unhappy people have less money than others. It is that they have less earned success. Your mother was right: Money can’t buy happiness.” But the crassly materialistic, redistributionist left misses this point.
Brooks explains the implications of this for public policy:
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?