Arthur Brooks, the still relatively new president of the American Enterprise Institute, has a remarkable piece in the Opinion section of the May 23 edition of The Washington Post, titled “America’s New Culture War: Free Enterprise vs. Government Control.”

He nails it. For starters:

“This is not the culture war of the 1990s. It is not a fight over guns, gays or abortion. Those old battles have been eclipsed by a new struggle between two competing visions of the country’s future. In one, America will continue to be an exceptional nation organized around the principles of free enterprise — limited government, a reliance on entrepreneurship and rewards determined by market forces. In the other, America will move toward European-style statism grounded in expanding bureaucracies, a managed economy and large-scale income redistribution. These visions are not reconcilable. We must choose.”

He rightly points out this didn’t start with the Obama Administration. We have been heading this way for a long time. But he notes 2008’s financial crisis and the bailouts as a tipping point.

Brooks contrasts the “tea party” protests here with those in Europe to illustrate the two competing visions.

“Just compare the protests in America with those in Europe. Here, we see tea partiers demonstrating against the government’s encroachment on the free enterprise system and protesting the fact that the state is spending too much money bailing out too many people. Why are people protesting in Greece? Because they want the government to give them even more. They are angry because their government — in the face of its worst economic and perhaps existential crisis in decades — won’t pay the lavish pensions to which they feel entitled. There’s no better example of the cultural difference between America and Europe today, yet it is toward European-style social democracy that the 30 percent coalition wants to move us.”

There is much more to commend in this article, especially Brooks’ explanation of “earned success” as what was meant in the Declaration of Independence by “the pursuit of happiness.” But he concludes by summarizing what those of us on the free enterprise side (which he calls “the 70 percent majority”) must do.

“To win, the 70 percent majority must come together around core principles: that the purpose of free enterprise is human flourishing, not materialism; that we stand for equality of opportunity, not equality of income; that we seek to stimulate true prosperity rather than simply treat poverty; and that we believe in principle over power.”

Amen.

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