Good Government

Sharing the Heart: Part 2

September 28, 2015

Jonathan Small

This is the second part in a series reviewing Arthur Brooks' new book, "The Conservative Heart." – Editor

As I continue to read Dr. Arthur Brooks’ book The Conservative Heart, I am immediately struck by something that is highlighted in the first chapter, “America’s Pursuit of Happiness.” You may be thinking, “Why would an economist, a former liberal, begin his book by talking about happiness?” But as you read that first chapter you immediately understand why Dr. Brooks gives attention to the topic of happiness. It’s not a new theme for Dr. Brooks; for several years he has been trying to encourage all of us—right, left, and middle—to consider its profound impact on humans and therefore on public policy.

“The Declaration of Independence defines the very center of the American experiment—the coin of the realm—as none other than the pursuit of happiness,” Dr. Brooks writes. But what is true happiness and why should we care?

Remember, people with perspectives based in a belief in free markets and limited government ultimately care about people being able to reach their full potential and live a full life. Because of this we must be concerned about the opportunity to achieve happiness “being foreclosed to too many.”

Dr. Brooks also reminds us that if we are going to ever have the hope of sharing the great track record of free markets and the empowerment it can bring, “we must be happy warriors.”

Now as you can imagine, an entire book could be dedicated to the topic of “happiness.” Indeed, Dr. Brooks has written such a book, Gross National Happiness. But if we want to address the dissatisfaction that so many Americans feel and help them start down the path of empowerment, we must begin to note and embrace what Dr. Brooks’ points out as the “happiness portfolio”—faith, family, community, and meaningful work.

Everyone is seeking happiness, regardless of their stage of life, and can be tempted to try to find that happiness by materialism or “loving things and using people.” But as we know from philosophers, great literature, and even the Bible, the pursuit of things yields dissatisfaction. Dr. Brooks encourages us instead to “love people and use things”—for our own sake and for the sake of being able to encourage others to get off the “hedonistic cycle.”

At the end of chapter one he writes:

First, we should concentrate each day on the happiness portfolio: faith, family, community, and earned success through meaningful work. Teach it to those around you, and fight against the barriers to these things.

Second, resist the worldly formula of misery, which is to use people and love things. Instead, remember your core values and live by the true formula: Love people and use things.

Third, celebrate the free enterprise system, which creates abundance for the most people—especially the poor. But always remember that love of money is the root of all evil, and that the ideal life requires abundance without attachment.

As you can tell, 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.