Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute tells the Conservative Leadership Conference that the election is really about moral issues — not abortion or gay marriage, but the morality of earned success and learned helplessness.
The problem with the conservative movement: We’re getting all the numbers right, but we’re missing the point. We’re missing the moral arguments. We’re arguing about GDP and the tax curves. Obama talks of fairness. He wins.
The paradox of the American system: We love free enterprise. But we support entitlement policies and policy makers that get us into this mess.
Liberals really think we want more social democracy.
The conservative explanation: We just have to hit people with more statistics.
The true explanation, Brooks says: We love free enterprise, but not for financial reasons, but for moral reasons. No one offers us a moral alternative, however.
The way out of the paradox: to make the moral case for free enterprise.
Scientists tell us we’re more moral than rational, believe it or not.
He cites Jonathan Haidt and his experiments. Our moral experiences are too important, too vast, to be encompassed by our consciously rational minds.
The point: Morality is not a minor concern, but a central concern of our minds. We have trouble explaining our moral stands not because they are irrational, but because they are more profound and important that the merely rational, at least as it can be put into words.
Brooks: We have to begin with morality. That’s what catches our minds.
Our founders were moralists, not materialists. People wouldn’t suffer and die to cut the tea tax by a shilling. They would for freedom.
There are even studies that show that, by golly, money doesn’t make for happiness.
What really counts: Earned success. That’s what makes people happy. And studies back that up.
(Here’s a clip of Brooks giving a similar talk.)