Arthur Brooks is president of the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute. Writing in the Washington Post, Brooks builds his analysis on a Pew poll answer to the question, “do you think people are better off in a free-market economy, even though there may be severe ups and downs from time to time, or don't you think so?"
Since 70% of responders said “yes,” Brooks believes the current “culture war" is between the 70% who believe in the free enterprise system, and the 30% “statists” who believe government should guide the economy, in line with Barack Obama’s views. Obama said, shortly before he became president, that:
If nothing is done, this recession could linger for years. Only government can provide the short-term boost necessary to lift us from a recession this deep and severe. Only government can break the cycle that is crippling our economy.
In other words, "statists" favor European-style social democracy, or as we found out earlier from a Gallup survey, socialism pure and simple, a word viewed favorably by 36% of Americans.
The “culture war” that currently consumes America is, of course, more like 50%/50% than 70%/30% (as Brooks argues) or 58%/36% (36% being the share that views socialism favorably). To over-simplify, unmarried women, blacks, Hispanics, and un-named others are Democrats, however positive they may be about “free enterprise.”
And to an important degree, Brooks is wrong to identify “earned success” only with the free enterprise system. This blog has strived to paint a portrait of the establishment, the elite, who dominate the Democrats’ “government party.” They are a meritocracy much like the products of elite European universities who run governments in Europe, nothing if not champions of “earned success.” Ostensibly, they “redistribute tribute in popular ways,” in their words, "help the victims," just as the “new class” tried to do in the U.S.S.R., and as China’s bureaucracy seeks to do today. But of course, elites are doing so to retain control of their “kleptocracy.”
That, in fact, may be the difference for Brooks. Except in those limited cases, such as the civil rights struggle, where government indeed does good, the elite’s “earned success” pays off more for the elite member, less for society, in contrast to the private sector, where “earned success” produces jobs and income for others along with wealth for the entrepreneur.
If government is, as we argue, a “kleptocracy,” why would society ever choose “statists” over “free enterprisers”? One recalls Ronald Reagan's nine most terrifying words in the English language: "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help."