AEI's Arthur Brooks Helps Congressional Republicans Make Moral Case for Free Enterprise

AEI's Arthur Brooks Helps Congressional Republicans Make Moral Case for Free Enterprise

An overarching belief in the free enterprise system that has been one of the foundations of American exceptionalism has always been a unifying force for Republicans. But Republicans, particularly in Congress, have often engaged in fierce internecine warfare about the best tactics or messaging they could use to defend the free market system. 

Too often, Republicans in Congress have hurled statistics like fastballs without a grand strategy because they often cannot — perhaps rightfully so — comprehend how anyone can think the free market system is evil, like some on the left do. 

In his new book, The Road To FreedomAmerican Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks writes that the most effective way for Republicans to fight for the free enterprise against the left is to make an unabashed moral case for it.  

And while the public now has access to Brooks’ ideas in his book, Brooks has been — like a pitching coach teaching hurlers how to be pitchers — helping Republican leaders in Congress craft and shape their arguments so they can better defend the free enterprise system and take back the language of fairness and morality from liberals. 

Senators and Congressmen have Brooks on speed dial. Brooks has briefed Senators at private lunches, Congressmen at House retreats, and multiple top-level staffers about how to talk about the free market in moral — and more human — terms. 

And Brooks’ ideas have not only been well-received but directly infused into the political bloodstream.

In the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has directly used Brooks’ ideas to better craft his message and attacks against President Barack Obama and his policies. 

“Once we lose the connection between work and reward in this country, we lose what makes us distinctive in the world,” McConnell told Breitbart News. “Nobody lays this out as clearly and persuasively as Arthur, and a lot of my members are really warming up to the way he makes the case.”

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, one of the most influential Republicans of this generation on fiscal issues — who also came of age under the late Jack Kemp and thus knows how to speak about economic issues in an inclusive way — told Breitbart News that Brooks’ “latest contribution to this debate could not come at a more critical time.” 

“Arthur is one of the intellectual leaders of the modern conservative movement,” Ryan told Breitbart News. “He’s done more to advance the moral argument for free enterprise than just about anyone writing today. This is a debate we need to have, and I can engage in it confidently knowing that Arthur is out there supplying people with the facts, arguments, and moral reasoning we need to make our case.”

Paul Teller, Executive Director of the influential and fiercely conservative House Republican Study Committee (RSC), raved about how Brooks has helped make him a better staffer and made the RSC a better organization. 

“RSC Members and RSC staff are enormous fans of Arthur Brooks and how he is helping the larger Conservative Movement better convey to America our free enterprise principles and policy solutions,” Teller told Breitbart News. 

And House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, while introducing Brooks last week before his AEI Bradley Lecture, mentioned that Mr. Brooks’ life is proof that his theory about how people are happier when they earn their success as opposed to learning helplessness not only works but is true. 

Cantor said he frames the argument between free enterprise and statism as a choice between earned success and learned helplessness when he is “out across the country talking to folks who are having a tough time and don’t quite filter all of the noise coming out of Washington.”

Cantor also says he and other Republicans in Congress constantly reach out to Brooks for advice on how to better talk about policies favorable to the free enterprise system. 

“We’re gonna call on him so much he is not going to know what him,” Cantor said of Brooks. 

Before President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address this year, Brooks met with leaders in Congress to discuss how Republicans should not give ground to Democrats on the issue of fairness. His ideas were immediately implemented. 

In the House, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) responded to Obama’s State of the Union address by drawing directly from Brooks’ themes. Jordan responded by saying, “scattered throughout tonight’s speech was the ridiculous idea that America isn’t fair because successful people get to keep too much of the money they earn.”

In the Senate, McConnell responded to Obama’s State of the Union address in a Brooksian manner. As The Hill recognized, “‘Instead of lecturing the American people about his idea of fairness he should spend a little more time thinking about what most Americans think is fair,’ said McConnell in an apparent reference to the theme of ‘fairness’ President Obama emphasized in his State of the Union (SOTU) address.”

Ryan, who has gone to AEI to announce his last two budgets, recently wrote about the concept of the fairness of the free enterprise system in a recent Facebook note

The President’s budget is not just a failure of math, but it also fails the fundamental test of fairness. There is nothing fair about taking more from working families because politicians in Washington refuse to restrain their spending appetite. There is nothing fair about burying our children under a mountain of debt because a politician has decided the next election is more important than the next generation. There is nothing fair about crony politics that enrich the powerful, and empty promises that betray the powerless.

Ryan has continually spoken about how unfair the left’s fiscal policies are and few can speak about the morality of the free enterprise system better than he. 

One can also see Brooks’ influence in the RSC’s map of foreign holders of America’s debt and a chart the group created on wasteful spending. The RSC is becoming even more influential, and Brooks has met with many RSC members and staff to help them talk about and present their policies in the most effective way possible. 

And in the Senate, an institution not known for swiftness, Brooks’ ideas and language have quickly caught on. 

McConnell, who noted that though Americans may like President Obama personally, “more and more of them are beginning to realize that his policies represent a grave threat to the American Dream.” He told Breitbart News that many in the Senate who met with Brooks earlier in the year thought his ideas were “right on target.”  

McConnell has also recommended Republican Senators draw from Brooks’ themes and ideas, and this has been clear when examining how Republican Senators have argued on behalf of the free market. 

In an April 16 Senate floor speech, McConnell, during the debate over the “Buffett Rule,” said, “I think most people have heard enough about this President’s notion of fairness to know it doesn’t match up with theirs. 

“To most people, what’s fair about America is that they can earn their success and expect to be rewarded for it. Nobody ever crossed an ocean or a desert to come here for the government health care. People come here because they think that everybody here has a shot at something more than that.”

Sen Jon Kyl (R-Ariz) directly cited Brooks — and his book, The Battle — in a floor speech earlier this year that was called “Earned Success.” 

In that speech, Kyl said:

President Obama has ignited a national debate about the meaning of fairness and American values. Rather, it is what American Enterprise Institute president Arthur Brooks calls “earned success.” People are happiest when they have earned their income, whatever the level. When the government tries to take all the trouble out of life by taking care of our every need, it makes earned success that much harder to achieve.

So, if earned success is the path to happiness, public policies should be geared toward promoting opportunity and freedom for everyone. No economic system does more to promote earned success and freedom than free-market capitalism.

Kyl then spoke about how the government is being unfair when it “picks winners and losers in the marketplace,” “rewards certain companies or industries for ideological reasons while effectively punishing and demonizing others,” and “plays venture capitalist and gives a taxpayer-funded $545-million-dollar loan guarantee to a doomed company like Solyndra.”

Kyl asked, “Is it fair that after the first three years of the Obama Administration, the poor are poorer, the poverty rate is rising, the middle class is losing income, and 5.5 million fewer Americans have jobs today than in 2007?”

In an opinion piece he penned, Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) adopted much of Brooks’ themes, writing, “…President Obama thinks it’s fair that three years of his policies have left us with more people on food stamps, more people in poverty, lower home values, higher gas prices and higher unemployment.”

Barrasso continued and wrote that the “the American people strongly disagree” because, “to the vast majority, fair means an equal opportunity to pursue their dreams” and they also “recognize that no man and no government can provide a guarantee of success.”

“To President Obama, fair requires nothing less than a totally equal outcome,” Barrasso wrote. “The waves of immigrants who came to our shores over generations did so for freedom and for a chance to succeed. They did not come here to be taken care of, or to have every decision made for them by the government. That’s what many of them left behind.”

And when it was his turn to deliver the Republican address to the nation on two weekends ago, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) gave an anecdote about how he saved $8,000 and started his own construction company when he was 25 years old. He said he “worked hard, and my business expanded,” and “our country’s free enterprise system gave me the opportunity to earn success and live the American dream.”

Corker continued: 

But I fear our country is moving to a place where politicians have lost sight of the value of earned success. Growing the private sector, not government, will ensure that we remain the strongest country in the world. Preserving the principles that have made this country great is the struggle of this generation–free enterprise, personal liberty and a society where everyone has the tools and the opportunity to earn success.

Nothing makes people happier than earning success. Our Founding Fathers understood this and considered the “pursuit of happiness” to be a God-given right. Let’s put in place policies that will enable future generations to earn success. It’s the American Dream.

Because Brooks is not from inside the political machine, he may not be as aware as he should be of some conventional constraints, which allows him to see more creative solutions and opportunities in making effective arguments that others may not.

His past career as a musician does not hurt either, especially when Brooks sees a sense of lyricism in the free enterprise system he passionately defends. 

“What I really love is the lyrical elegance of free enterprise,” Brooks told Breitbart News. “There is pure poetry to it … people who think free enterprise is every man for himself is just clueless; it impels people to work together.”

As America chooses between going down the path of statism and the free enterprise system, Brooks has Congressional Republicans on the same page and singing the same tune about making the moral case for free enterprise against proponents of statism. The free enterprise system is the best system around for giving everyone a chance to earn success, which will only make it more difficult for liberals to lay claim to terms such as “fairness” and “morality.”