Inside Brooks's 'The Battle'
Title: The Battle: How the Fight Between Free Enterprise and Big Government Will Shape America's Future
Author: Arthur C. Brooks
Publisher: Basic Books, 2010
ISBN-13: 978-0465019380, 192 pages
Review: The Battle
By Patrick Brigger, getAbstract
Nothing less than the future of America is at stake, says conservative public policy expert Arthur C. Brooks in his dissection of the nation's political and economic scene. Relying on surveys, polls and statistics (some almost up-to-the-minute, some quite dated), he posits a split in the U.S. between a 70 percent majority that supports free enterprise, limited government and less taxes, and a 30 percent minority made up of the "intellectual upper class" and its followers who cheer "social democracy," big government and soaking the rich. Brooks, head of the American Enterprise Institute, discusses the U.S.'s historical love of free enterprise. Along with the expected critiques of the liberal media and academia, he makes an accessible case that free enterprise's supporters should focus less on money and materialism as the reasons for their advocacy, and more on the morality and values of personal achievement and success in an opportunity-driven economy. getAbstract suggests his book--an extended editorial statement--to all sides of the political spectrum whether it confirms your opinions or acts a basis for worthwhile debate.
In the aftermath of the 2008-2009 economic crisis, the U.S. is at a crossroads. It must choose between "two competing visions of America's future." One is based on the free enterprise system, which relies on entrepreneurial spirit, ensures individual freedom and keeps government at bay. The other represents the creeping "European statism" of bloated government, nationalized companies and "increasing income distribution." The two systems cannot coexist; one side must emerge victorious in this new culture war.
From the time of the founding fathers, Americans have independently directed their "economic lives" through free enterprise. The system "respects private property, encourages industry, celebrates liberty, limits government and creates individual opportunity." People can work without constraints, reaping "rewards and consequences, positive and negative." This sets Americans apart from Europeans and their "social democracy": Europeans are less likely than Americans to value competition and to relate their success to their own labors. For example, though Germans are known to work hard, only 20 percent of Germans say they are likely to teach this value to their children. In contrast, Americans' DNA is probably stamped with the entrepreneurial gene, carried down by generations of immigrants "who tend to be entrepreneurial" and who come "from around the world," all intermarrying and advancing the "genetic mutation" of free enterprise.
The "70-30" split: A statistical background
In a January 2010 Gallup poll that gauged Americans' feelings about capitalism and socialism, 61 percent affirmed capitalism and disapproved of socialism. Older respondents were more negative about socialism, and gave free enterprise an 86 percent approval score. Most Americans reported that their taxes are too high, though they supported taxing the rich, just not at current rates. A 2009 poll found that 69 percent believed the maximum tax rate should be 20 percent or less. (The corporate rate now goes up to 39 percent.) Big corporations took a reputation hit during the economic crisis, yet a 2009 Pew Research survey found that 76 percent of Americans believed that U.S. business makes the nation great. Just more than half said unions harm the economy, while 95 percent supported small business. About half of the Pew respondents said government does more harm than good in advancing people's economic lives; 57 percent were worried about too much government regulation, and 69 percent preferred less government, fewer taxes and fewer services. Trust is an issue: Some 81 percent expressed either little or no faith in the federal government...
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