Sharing the Heart
September 15, 2015
Over the next serveral weeks, Jonathan Small reviews Arthur Brooks' new book, "The Conservative Heart." – Editor
Like many of you, I have begun to read Dr. Arthur Brooks’ latest book, The Conservative Heart. I just finished the introduction and it is both challenging and encouraging.
For more than a decade I have worked to try to positively influence public policy. During my time in public policy, I have listened to the perspectives of many who would be considered ideologically left, center, and right. Few people, regardless of their ideological perspective, have been able to master the ability to convey conviction of principle, dedication to fact-based analysis, and genuine concern for those affected by policy proposals like Dr. Brooks. Dr. Brooks’ latest book is a must-read for anyone, regardless of their interest in politics, who wants to help their fellow Americans.
Dr. Brooks’ background and life story give him a unique credibility. You see, Dr. Brooks used to be, as he notes in the book’s introduction, “a musician, and a liberal bohemian one at that.” In the book he chronicles his “winding path to the right.” He points out that, at 28, while studying economics, it “blew my mind at every turn. I learned that market forces tend to win out even when we don’t want them to, and that good intentions are no guarantee of good results. I learned that we can’t change behavior just by passing a law against something we don’t like. I learned that people are complex and respond to different incentives, which is why so many social problems are not fixable through government programs. But most of all, I learned that American-style democratic capitalism was changing the world and helping billions of poor people to build their lives.”
In the book’s introduction alone, Dr. Brooks makes a compelling case for principled capitalism. Given capitalism’s unrivaled track record, why are conservatives, libertarians, and promoters of free markets losing? Dr. Brooks’ spot-on diagnosis is painful but necessary:
But if the American Dream is fading for millions under the current administration, why aren’t Americans turning to conservatives for better solutions? Simple: People don’t think conservatives care. One recent poll found that 56 percent of Americans say they believe the word compassionate describes the Republican Party “not at all well.” … Where did Americans get this idea? From their own ears, that’s where. When Americans listen to the right, they hear us talk endlessly about debt, deficits, taxes, spending, and fiscal responsibility—and conclude that all we care about is money.”
Keep in mind, this is the diagnosis of the president of one of the most respected and oldest center-right think tanks in America.
As I completed the introduction to The Conservative Heart, at times I felt like a patient that has to be told that they are obese through no one’s fault but their own. I kept asking myself the questions: For those of us who are committed to empowering all, what’s our tone and do we make sure first that people know we care? “When many people assess the political landscape,” Dr. Brooks says, “they see two choices: a heartless, pragmatic party on the right and an imprudent but compassionate party on the left. Americans are good people, so given that rotten choice, compassion almost always wins. That’s especially true in times of hardship. … Conservatives are in possession of the best solutions to the problems of poverty and economic mobility. Yet because we don’t speak in a way that reflects our hearts, many Americans simply don’t trust us and are unwilling to give us the chance to implement those solutions.”
Now for those of you who may be thoroughly depressed, take heart. Dr. Brooks and others are joining him to “unite conservative mind and heart behind a new social movement to restore the promise of America for every one of our citizens.” I have had the privilege to listen to Dr. Brooks present solutions to change things for the better and show how to present our solutions in a way that people will receive them. If you read the book you won’t be disappointed.
Dr. Brooks concludes the introduction better than I ever could, saying: “In short, The Conservative Heart is a book about human flourishing for freethinkers or all stripes. It is a book for everyone who feels a moral obligation to give every American a better shot at living a happy and meaningful life.”
You won’t want to miss OCPA’s upcoming Liberty Gala on October 21st in Tulsa, where Arthur Brooks will be our keynote speaker. I look forward to seeing you there.