Two weeks ago, Arthur C. Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute, visited the Newsmaker lunch hosted by The American Spectator and Americans for Tax Reform to discuss his new book, The Road to Freedom: How to Win the Fight for Free Enterprise.

Brooks talked about the need for conservatives to put arguments into moral rather than statistical terms in order to win the fight for free enterprise.

As he said in his book,

But let's not forget the main point of this book: that free enterprise is a matter of the heart even more than the head. Whether we're discussing taxation or Medicare, deficits or jobs, public policy should first and foremost be an expression of values. As free enterprise advocates, we can take comfort in knowing the facts and data are on our side, but we must first show that the moral arguments are on our side as well if we want to prevail.

Brooks outlined the three main moral arguments that need to be made in defense of the free enterprise system. According to Brooks, free enterprise is the best system for American citizens to achieve "earned success" rather than learned helplessness. It is the fairest system to give individuals the opportunity to succeed and fail in the economic arena. It is the only system that allows the poor to lift themselves off the bottom rungs of the economic ladder. Brooks claims that if conservatives do not start framing their economic arguments around these three moral arguments, they cannot expect to prevail in the future.

Both over lunch and also in his book, Brooks discussed how studies have shown the average age of unhappiness in a man's life is forty-five years old. This is the age when men look back on their lives and try to figure out what is missing. And what is this missing component that is linked back to happiness? Earned success according to Arthur Brooks. He defines earned success the ability to create value in your life and/or in the lives of others. It is derived from a self-acknowledgement of one's own merit and hard work. Earned success is synonymous with what our Founding Fathers coined as "the pursuit of happiness". The opposite of this Brooks maintains is learned helplessness, which equates to punishment and reward not being linked to merit. Learned hopelessness is institutionalized and personified in the concept of a welfare state. In short, government gives people rewards that they did not earn. The learned helplessness in a welfare state does not improve the happiness of people and worse, it promotes helplessness. Brooks believes that the American free enterprise system is the best and only system to promote earned success rather than learned helplessness.

Brooks then went on to discuss what the American public's definition of fairness is: redistributive fairness or meritocratic fairness? Studies in his newest book have shown that the majority of Americans define fairness as being based on meritocracy. Over lunch, Brooks discussed how President Obama is trying to frame the economic argument in terms of redistributive fairness. That is, in order to make the economy fair, government is trying to lower the top rather than raising the bottom to obtain economic sameness. To achieve economic sameness, government decides how much of people's money to take and how it is to be redistributed. To Brooks, that this is not only unfair, but goes against earned success and the American ideas of meritocracy. Brooks made the argument that a moral or fair economic system must reward merit instead of redistributing resources to obtain greater income equality. Therefore, free enterprise is in reality the fairest system for promoting equal opportunity

In his book, Brooks cites that since 1970, eighty percent of the world's worst poverty has been eradicated. He credits this to free enterprise and discussed at lunch how the free enterprise system has lifted up the poor by creating a fair market system; that in turn has allowed entrepreneurs the chance to earn success and keep the rewards. Brooks believes that entrepreneurship is crippled when big government puts in place numerous regulations and high taxes that discourage the incentive for individuals to innovate. Statism, he claims, hurts both entrepreneurship and private charity. The American free enterprise system is the best way to promote these two objectives and thereby dramatically reduce, and potentially eradicate poverty.  In Brooks’ opinion, being a good Samaritan is to support free enterprise.

As politicians continue to weaken the key principles of free enterprise, the future of the system is in jeopardy. Brooks' newest book offers a practical guide on how we can defend the time-honored system by shifting the focus away from empirical data and towards the moral justifications of free enterprise.