Michael Medved reviews in the latest issue of Commentary magazine American Enterprise Institute president Arthur Brooks‘ new book, The Road To Freedom.

While it’s not yet posted online, here’s a key snippet from Medved’s article:

Brooks makes a gallant effort to deprive the left of its favorite F-word* (fairness) and to arm the right with a potent F-word all its own (freedom). Were it not for the attempt to reference Friedrich von Hayek’s 1944 masterpiece The Road to Serfdom in his title, Brooks might have called his book Freedom Is Fair, as he argues that government activism immorally punishes the hardworking and prosperous with burdens they don’t deserve while poisoning the indolent and dysfunctional with rewards they never earned. The wealthy and the middle class alike may suffer from growth-killing levels of taxation and regulation, but, he says, the poor fare worst of all through the resulting culture of dependency and helplessness.

The book’s most fascinating chapter highlights the devastating impact of “unearned success,” citing numerous studies that prove providing more money does little to make people happier unless they perceive that they deserve their new wealth. A famous 1978 project at the University of Michigan traced the long-term status of major lottery winners and found that as time passed, “they were actually worse off in happiness than before they had won.” As in his 2008 book Gross National Happiness, Brooks asks and answers a fundamental question: “If not money, then what do people really crave? The answer is earned success, the ability to create value with your life or in the lives of others. It does not come from a lottery check or an inheritance.” If this is true, then merely shoveling money to the poor won’t make them happy, and if they remain unhappy, the research strongly suggests they’ll remain poor. This logic also argues for the inevitable failure of governmental attempts to stimulate the economy through spending and borrowing, since even such temporary infusions of unearned cash will do little to alleviate the nation’s sour and sullen mood of the moment.

Brooks recently discussed his book in an interview for Carolina Journal Radio/CarolinaJournal.tv.

*Editor’s note: Medved is too kind to note a fact that’s clear to anyone forced to deal with left-of-center partisans on a regular basis: “Fairness” is not the left’s favorite F-word.