We don't live in a perfect world, but individual liberty and personal responsibility, crucial to free enterprise, have the force to make lives better for everyone. Breaking down barriers to entrepreneurship, which generates jobs, is one of the most important economic moral imperatives.
The recession identified blame and exposed the greed and corruption of those who benefitted from the housing bubble, who received big bonuses on Wall Street and the corporations bailed out by the rest of us, but Brooks reminds us that the same free enterprise that can run amok can also make us more socially responsible.
America remains a generous nation; charitable donations add up to about $300 billion annually, with 75 percent of that contributed by ordinary men and women. No other nation comes close to matching those numbers. Those who believe in, and work in, the free enterprise system give considerably more than those who don't.
While illegal immigration gets our attention, we ignore the destructive immigration policy that expels talented foreign students who earn degrees here and then are sent home when their visas expire. Recent research concludes that for every immigrant we educate in science, technology and mathematics or engineering, the nation can expect the return of two new jobs for other Americans.
Brooks offers hard proposals from a moral base, such as entitlement reductions, major changes in Social Security, including raising the age of eligibility, means-testing and changing the formula for raising benefits based on wage inflation. If debt is a moral issue at the individual level, it is also one at the national level, because debt steals from future generations.
"The Road to Freedom" may be more Bible than blueprint for economic reform, but it can start a necessary debate over changing the way we discuss economic reform. Liberals want more stimulus, higher taxes and still more borrowing. Conservatives want tax reform, less government spending and fewer obstacles to entrepreneurs. Conservatives have the facts and data, but they must add the moral dimension. We "grow" the economy, or we "grow" the bureaucracy. It's as simple as that.
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