The best advocates are often converts. So it is with Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute.
Brooks has an important forthcoming book, "The Road to Freedom," which I'll discuss in a minute, but it's worth pausing over the unusual career of Brooks himself because it says much about happiness, free enterprise and the unique American spirit that Brooks has spent the last decade attempting to save.
The son of two liberal college professors, Brooks writes that when he was growing up in Seattle, "No one in my world voted for Ronald Reagan. I had no friends or family who worked in business. I believed what most everybody in my world assumed to be true: that capitalism was a bit of a sham to benefit rich people, and the best way to get a better, fairer country was to raise taxes, increase government services, and redistribute more income."
Brooks became a professional musician, playing the French horn with the Annapolis Brass Quintet and with the Barcelona City Orchestra. He also taught music. But a musical career didn't fulfill him. "I (had) what some considered the best job possible, yet was unhappy. ... My friends in the orchestra thrived on what they were doing. ... They spent their vacations at classical music conventions and heatedly discussed the most esoteric details of the lacquer on their instruments..."
Like most Americans, Brooks wanted more from his career than a paycheck. He wanted to derive a deeper satisfaction. Because he had skipped college to "go pro," he began taking courses at night, eventually pocketing bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees in social science.
By valuing work so highly that he was willing to diligently study music and then even more sedulously to master social science, Brooks was living out America's promise of the "pursuit of happiness."
In his new book, Brooks argues that it is part of the American character to value work. "Americans work 50 percent more than the Italians, the French, and even the Germans." Why? Cosseted socialists in Europe would say it's because we're terrified of losing our jobs. But Brooks points to research showing that the more hours Americans work, the happier they report themselves to be. Only 11 percent of Americans say they wish they could spend a lot less time on their jobs.