Thorner: Arthur Brooks’ Republican recipe to win minority support

July 20, 2013

ThornerBy Nancy Thorner – 

I recently participated in an Illinois Policy Institute conference call briefing with Arthur Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute.

Arthur C. Brooks has been the president of AEI since 2009, a non-partisan public policy think tank in Washington, D.C. committed to expanding liberty, increasing individual opportunity, and strengthening free enterprise. He also holds the Beth and Ravenel Curry Chair in Free Enterprise. Previously he was the Louis A. Bantle Professor of Business and Government Policy at Syracuse University. He is author of 10 books and hundreds of articles on topics ranging from the economics of the arts to military operations research.

Before pursuing his work in public policy, Brooks spent 12 years as a professional French hornist with the City Orchestra of Barcelona and other ensembles.

Jonathan Greenberg prefaced Brooks’ remarks as those which would indicate where this nation was heading as a country and how Republicans can fight the competition of ideas more effectively.

Arthur Brooks began his briefing with a rather interesting and what must have been a questionable remark for some by saying that he was more optimistic than he has been in a long time about the direction of this nation.

When speaking about his meet with Republicans at their Congressional retreat in the spring, he gave Republicans credit for having good ideas, coupled with a message telling how great ideas go no where if they don’t resonate with a large segment of the American people.   Brooks went on to indicate how things are pretty good for those in the top half, but not so good for those in the bottom half.  Republicans are not connecting with the latter.  Bottom half examples given were a 5th straight year of declining purchasing power and low high unemployment.

Obama’s claim that “Rich people have your stuff and I’m going to get it back for you,” is resonating, but this argument shouldn’t be a win for Obama.

This word of warning was then offered by Brooks:  When Republicans talk about money they lose; there is zero interest among the bottom half.

All too often the Republican message implies that people who aren’t working like getting stuff for free, but statistics prove otherwise.  Only 11% consider themselves as wards of the state.  The majority who have these benefits would prefer earning a living, but will accept benefits if handed to them.

Republican policies, continued Brooks, would have more resonance if they connected to an individual sense of loyalty and patriotism. Republicans must likewise tout programs that advance the dignity of every person and which show compassion.  An example given was this nation’s failing schools in minority neighborhoods where the opportunity exists to advance school choice with vouchers and the establishment of charter schools.

Arthur Brooks reminded listeners of the two sides of the debate (or argument) Republicans are dealing with, either of which would influence policy decisions:

  • Fight against government and government regulations or
  • Side with those who need help by creating opportunities for the betterment of life.

But here is this hitch:  It is how to develop policy that embraces the concepts of compassion and fairness?, realizing that not all policy can be formulated along these lines.

Democrats presently excel on the issues of showing compassion to the weak and poor and on the fairness issue.  For the Left is good at advancing the concept of compassion, which they have fine tuned to appeal to a group of vulnerable individuals who perceive government as a nanny state set up to care for their needs.  Obama, with his Democratic policies, has enabled people to live in fear that government assistance will be taken away from them.

According to Author Brooks, Republicans have a moral obligation to fight like warriors, not as warriors for money, but as warriors to assist people who need our help.  Brooks did admit that he has experienced some opposition through the advancement of his benevolent warrior concept.

As expressed by Mr. Brooks, the route toward achieving Republican policies that relate to the human condition of people can be achieved through embracing the free enterprise system in contrast to capitalism, which has gotten a bad rap through corruption and too much coziness resulting in big business cronyism.

In making his claim for the free enterprise system Brooks relied heavily on the work of psychology professor, Johathan Haidt, which shows that humans process moral judgments more quickly than rational ones.

As set forth by Brooks, the free enterprise system maps out a three-part moral case that appeals to all Americans, regardless of their economic status or ethnic background:

  • Free enterprise encourages true happiness based on earned success.
  • Free enterprise creates true fairness by rewarding merit.
  • Only free enterprise creates true fairness by rewarding merit.

As America’s Founders knew, free enterprise underpins the moral case for human freedom.  Economic freedom produces unimaginable material prosperity, but it’s also the only economic from that encourages individuals to freely pursue their destinies, develop the character of self-responsibility, and strengthen communities.

To gain more insight into the paradox of how vast majorities of Americans claim to support a free enterprise system based on limited government even though the size and scope of federal and state governments has steadily increased over the last century, read Aurthur Brooks’ first New New York Times bestseller released on May 8, 2012:  The Road to Freedom:  How to Win the Fight for Free Enterprise.

Brooks’ argument for how Americans can support free enterprise even though the size of government has increased over the years can be summed up in this way:  It is because advocates of limited government often rely on complex, date-driven arguments while progressives wrap their argument in moral language, appealing to American hearts rather than their heads.

Saturday, July 20, 2013 at 12:04 PM | Permalink


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