Ed Feulner
Conservatives, beware: You can have reams of information, piles of studies and folders of charts at your fingertips. And you can still lose the debate.

That’s because you’ve overlooked a crucial component: the moral case. And that, according to Arthur C. Brooks, can often make or break your argument.

Brooks, who started his career as a member of the Barcelona Symphony in Spain, is president of the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. In his latest book, “The Road To Freedom: How To Win The Fight For Free Enterprise,” Brooks offers a powerful defense of American values, and explains how we can save our country from financial ruin by returning to our free-market roots.

The numbers are daunting. “The Congressional Budget Office tells us that by 2038, government spending will be 50 percent of GDP,” he writes. “Americans will work from January 1 until June 30 each year just to pay for the government -- a government that a large majority of us believes has too much power, tries to do too much, and provides unsatisfactory services.”

But again, numbers aren’t enough. We need the moral case.

“Anyone who reads the words of the Founders,” Brooks writes, “cannot miss their keen emphasis on the morality of the systems they intended to create. Our ideas about free enterprise and liberty were born from a sense of what is right and what helps us to thrive as people, not from a monomaniacal obsession with what makes us rich.”

Historian Matthew Spalding echoes this theme in his book We Still Hold These Truths : “As the Founders saw it, the right to property was not simply an economic concept, and was much more than owning a bit of land. It was a first principle of liberty. The essence of liberty is the freedom to develop one’s talents, pursue opportunity, and generally take responsibility for one’s own life and well-being.”

Brooks calls that “earned success,” and he’s got plenty of social science research that shows people are happier when they have a chance to earn their success. That doesn’t mean equality of outcome, however. Some people are always going to do better than others, and Americans understand and accept that.

It does mean equality of opportunity . Government should protect property rights, encourage entrepreneurs and enforce reasonable regulations. Otherwise, it should stay out of the way and allow people the freedom to thrive, whether that means earning a lot of money, or volunteering for a charitable cause.

Ed Feulner

Dr. Edwin Feulner is Founder of The Heritage Foundation, a Townhall.com Gold Partner, and co-author of Getting America Right: The True Conservative Values Our Nation Needs Today .
 
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