by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute suggests in a new National Review article that a key reason for conservatives’ recent electoral frustration stems from the fact that “President Obama won because his philosophy is in tune with what has become the conventional wisdom.” Brooks says those who love freedom should pursue the goal of replacing that ill-informed conventional wisdom with three truths.
First, we need a fairer economy. While some redistribution will always be necessary to pay for a functioning government, fairness comes only from demanding that people earn what they possess, rewarding merit, and creating opportunity. So we must encourage the public to understand the fair society as one that militantly rejects cronyism, looks for ways to increase opportunity, and completely repudiates the notion that there is something inherently wrong with being rich. Redistribution should be undertaken with regret and apology, not self-righteous bureaucratic arrogance. Envy should be shameful.
Second, an entitlement society will ruin our country. And not just economically, but morally. An entitlement society necessitates coercive redistribution from our neighbors and our children. It steals our future and makes America undesirable for the world’s strivers. Further, it compromises a safety net meant only for the indigent and the most vulnerable, as middle-class citizens and corporations come to rely on it as well. Unearned government transfers must not be a form of income that is morally equivalent to paychecks.
Third, we do not tolerate a government that dispenses discrimination and picks winners. A good government enforces property rights and upholds the rule of law. When it intervenes in markets, it does so to establish a basic safety net for the poorest Americans, to create equal opportunity (for example, in education), and to sort out market failures when it can do so cost-effectively. The government should be the source of law and justice — not of favors, power, wealth, or prestige.