The book is called “The Battle: How the Fight Between Free Enterprise and Big Government Will Shape America’s Future”.
The Battle then goes beyond money to note that, “The main issue in the new American culture struggle between free enterprise and statism is not material riches—it is human flourishing.” Brooks notes that “the 30 percent coalition charges the majority with money-grubbing selfishness” but is itself “fundamentally materialistic.” Leftists “believe that it should make no difference whether income comes from redistribution and government edict or from enterprise and excellence as judged by the free market. This is an ideology driven by raw materialism.”
Brooks emphasizes the differences in worldview: “In contrast, the 70 percent majority maintains a worldview that is primarily nonmaterialistic. It understands money as just a proxy measure of true prosperity and personal fulfillment. It emphasizes creativity, meaning, optimism, and control in one’s own life and seeks to escape from under the heavy hand of the state. . . . When we reduce the idea of work to nothing more than a means of economic support, we strip it of its transcendental meaning in our lives.” Brooks argues that productive work is crucial to happiness: “Americans prefer to find meaning in their jobs rather than through their after-work pursuits.”
[…]That leads to a political plank for the present: Since the 30 percenters “have concealed the central pillar of their ideology—income equality—under a misleading definition of fairness,” the rest of us should “expose this fact and reclaim the language of fairness for the free enterprise system.” It’s vital to make distinctions: “Legal equality, political equality, religious equality—almost all Americans would agree that these values are vital to our nation. But equality of income? That’s a fundamentally different kind of equality.” We want fair trials but not a right to be declared innocent. We want all people to have the right to vote but not “the right to see their chosen candidate elected to office.”
Brooks notes that the 30 percent coalition’s use of the word “fairness” is duplicitous: “It implies that equality of outcome is a core American principle, when in fact what Americans believe in is equality of opportunity and the potential to earn success.” He is right to insist that the 70 percent coalition cannot cede to the minority the fairness issue and merely argue for free enterprise on the basis of economic efficiency: “Fairness should not be a 30 percent trump card but rather their Achilles’ heel. Equality of income is not fair.” A fair system rewards hard work and excellent performance, and gives people on the bottom a chance to rise not by bringing down the top but by striving for excellence.
I heard Arthur Brooks being interviewed about the book on Dennis Prager’s show. And I read a chapter by Brooks in that “Indivisible” booklet put out by the Heritage Foundation. So he is a recognized conservative.
Muddling linked to some must-read and must-listen interviews that I will be looking at tonight (Monday). If they are good, I’ll link to them for Tuesday.