Several hundred Mackinac Center supporters across Michigan were entertained and enthused by two bestselling authors in June and July.
Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, spoke about his new book, “The Road to Freedom: How to Win the Fight for Free Enterprise,” June 12 in Grand Rapids and June 20 in Birmingham. The two talks drew a combined 350 people. More than 160 people were in Traverse City to hear syndicated columnist and National Review Online Editor Jonah Goldberg discuss his latest work, “The Tyranny of Clichés: How Liberals Cheat in the War
In his talks, Brooks stressed the need for conservatives to make the moral case in support of free markets.
“You’ve got 10 seconds for people to figure out what you’re about,” he said. “You have to explain to people who disagree with you that you care about the same things and then examine what really works.”
Brooks said supporters of free enterprise are always ready and willing to back up their points with data, but that makes it too easy for those left-of-center to say we only care about money.
“We have all the facts, but that’s not the way we’re going to win souls,” he said.
Brooks noted that recent public opinion polls point to an alarming set of trends. Some 70 percent of Americans believe the free market is the best economic system, and roughly the same number of people believe government is too big. But that hasn’t translated into a similar rejection of the country turning into what Brooks called a “European-style social democracy.”
Brooks noted that in 1938, when AEI was founded, government consumed 15 percent of GDP. Today it’s 36 percent, and estimates say it will be 50 percent by 2038.
“Take me back to the good old days,” he joked.
Goldberg had a similar message for his audience, albeit delivered with a more acerbic wit.
“Liberals like to say that violence never solved anything,” he noted. “Actually it solves all kinds of problems, especially violent problems.”
As with all of the examples in his book, Goldberg said the one above is used so that liberals can gain the “moral high ground” as a way to rig an argument before having the argument.
“The point is, everyone is ideological,” he said. “But at least conservatives and libertarians are honest about it. When liberals lie about it, it manifests itself in the way these clichés show.”
Goldberg explained that liberals try to paint themselves as “fact finders” who believe they are above political motivation. As an example, he pointed to a World Health Organization study that said the U.S. has the 37th best health care system in the world. But two-thirds of the score was based on “financial fairness,” rather than health outcomes.
“Redistribution of wealth is a fine standard for liberals,” he laughed. “And it’s in a study. It has to be true. It’s in a binder. But if financial fairness is what you judge things by, then some community college must be the best university in the country.”
Goldberg noted that there is nothing wrong with being ideological. It’s simply a checklist of priorities that people apply to many parts of their lives when making decisions.
“We’re all dedicated to causes,” Goldberg said in closing. “Our families, our jobs, our churches and synagogues. Just don’t be defined by government. Government can’t give you meaning.”
Left to right: Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, speaks at the DeVos Place in Grand Rapids; Guests enjoy the meal at the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham; Author Jonah Goldberg entertains the audience at the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa in Traverse City.