What makes America an exceptional country? In his Wednesday evening Bradley Lecture, AEI president Arthur Brooks pointed to America’s dedication to free enterprise, particularly its emphasis on earned success, meritocratic fairness and opportunity for the poor and disadvantaged. Brooks warned, however, that American free enterprise is slowly disappearing before our eyes — and this is the fault not of the ideas, but of their defenders’ arguments.
Brooks argued that, though 70 percent of Americans claim to love free enterprise, they have been too willing to compromise its principles on individual policy issues, leading to a gradual but significant decline in America’s commitment to free enterprise and limited government. This is largely because free enterprise advocates have focused on data-driven arguments about efficiency to the exclusion of making the moral case for free enterprise. And only moral arguments, Brooks averred, can change minds and win the fight.
Drawing on brain science, social psychology, and econometric analysis, Brooks argued that free enterprise advocates may get only 30 seconds to make a moral case, and he stressed the need to seize opportunities to educate people about why free enterprise matters not just materially, but morally. Until free enterprise is defended in explicitly moral terms in ways that Americans can truly appreciate, the country will continue its slide into European-style social democracy.
American policy is at a crossroads. Though 70 percent of Americans claim to love American free enterprise, the size and scope of government continues to grow. This is not a result of Americans loving free enterprise nostalgically, as the Left asserts. Rather, America’s slide toward statism is a direct result of limited government advocates failing to make the moral case for free enterprise, leaving citizens with a choice between materialistic, data-driven arguments from the Right and the morally based but failing policies of the Left. Arthur Brooks will argue that humans are inherently moral beings and that the free enterprise system, more than any other system, aligns with the morals and values all of us hold dear.
This Bradley Lecture is based on Brooks’s new book, “The Road to Freedom: How to Win the Fight for Free Enterprise” (Basic Books, May 2012).
Eric Cantor, Majority Leader, U.S. House of Representatives
Arthur C. Brooks, AEI
Adjournment and Reception
Books will be available for purchase during the reception
Event Contact Information
For more information, please contact Lori Sanders at [email protected], 202.862.7172.
Media Contact Information
For media inquiries, please contact Véronique Rodman at [email protected], 202.862.4871.
Arthur C. Brooks is the president of AEI. Until January 1, 2009, he was the Louis A. Bantle Professor of Business and Government Policy at Syracuse University. He is the author of 10 books and many articles on topics ranging from the economics of the arts to applied mathematics. His most recent books include “The Battle: How the Fight Between Free Enterprise and Big Government Will Shape America’s Future” (Basic Books, May 2010), “Gross National Happiness” (Basic Books, 2008), “Social Entrepreneurship” (Prentice-Hall, 2008) and “Who Really Cares” (Basic Books, 2006). 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. Brooks’s most recent book, “The Road to Freedom,” was released on May 8, 2012.
Eric Cantor has represented Virginia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2001. In the wake of the 2010 midterm elections, Rep. Cantor was elected by his colleagues in the House to serve as majority leader for the 112th Congress. A former small businessman, he has emerged as a leading voice on the economy and job creation. He also serves as chairman of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare. As minority whip, he assembled a highly effective and energetic Republican whip team that served as the nerve center of the Republican Conference. In early 2009, the whip team coordinated the effort in which no Republicans voted for the nearly $1 trillion stimulus bill. Rep. Cantor authored the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006, which became law in late 2006. He also co-authored the New York Times bestselling book “Young Guns: A New Generation of Conservative Leaders” (2010).