97 of 109 people found the following review helpful
on May 21, 2010
I agree with the previous reviewer, "...the right message at the right time." I don't label myself conservative or liberal (I lean libertarian) and generally do not purchase/read books that promote a "call to arms" to defend an ideology. However, I liked the simplicity of his message: "America faces a new culture war...free enterprise v.s. social democracy" and the author did a decent job defending his message.
As a non-partisan voter, it isn't all that hard to understand the behavior of our government has (and still is) been in direct conflict with what our nation has historically believed in--liberty. Washington has turned into a soap opera with partisan hacks on both sides screaming at each other. In the end, we end up with a government that punishes compromise and jams ideological legislation(?) (the majority of Americans don't want BTW) down their throats. In other words, the needs of the minority (30% of our nation) outweigh the needs of the majority (the "other" 70%). This book does a good job of identifying and defending this point.
In a small way, I feel lucky I got a review in before the ideological hacks jumped in to trash (or over-praise) this book. Liberal democrats will trash the book; Conservative republicans will over-praise it and insist everybody read it; but I'm willing to lay a wager most of these people will not have read the book. READ THE BOOK!!! Even if you don't agree with everything the author has to say, it's an interesting read.
59 of 68 people found the following review helpful
on May 19, 2010
This is a great book with the right message at the right time. It offers a very simple but powerful argument: we are engaged in a war between two competing visions of America's future. In one, we will continue to be a free enterprise nation. In the other, we will move toward government control, income redistribution, and statism. Which do you prefer?
Arthur Brooks shows that America will be forever changed if we don't stand up and take action now. Free enterprise is one of the values that has made this country great, and a small but vocal minority is undermining this core tenant. Brooks argues: "America needs leaders as committed as we are to expanding liberty, increasing individual opportunity, and defending free enterprise. In short, we need leaders committed to the source of our flourishing and the bedrock of our culture."
The book is very well written, sharp, and engaging from start to finish--likely one of 2010's best. It is a must read for anyone concerned about the direction our country is headed.
31 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on June 17, 2010
Brooks makes an excellent case that there really is a culture war and what the stakes are in that war. But then anyone who has observed our republic evolve away from the Constitution and toward big-money statism already understands that. One of the real insights Brooks brings to the table is the 30/70 split between the liberal elite that sees free enterprise as tyrannical and traditional Americans who see free enterprise as the only sensible way to assign value to work performed. One does wonder, however, how such a liberal elite could have grown to 30% of society under a system of free enterprise. My theory of how that happened later.
Despite the great value I credit to this book, there are some serious problems. The problems revolve around what the perceived goals of the book are. Brooks' goal is probably to bring about social change. The publisher's goal is probably to sell books. These goals are in conflict. The publisher probably chose the foreword by Newt Gingrich and the back cover featuring Richard Cheney. Those choices make sense if you want to sell the book to as many die-hard Republicans as you can. I am neither liberal nor a Democrat, but I had to grit my teeth to buy a book endorsed by Cheney; and I doubt that many of my liberal friends could get past a Gingrich foreword. So if Brooks wants liberals in the 30% coalition to read his book, he will be disappointed. Whether the liberals are in the academic elite or in the black inner city, they are not very receptive to conservative ideals--in fact neither is Cheney--and Gingrich is questionable, though both wear conservative halos. The gravity of the Cheney/Gingrich endorsement should not be underestimated. This will turn off liberals--and many moderates. And now for the clincher--a Karl Rove ad on the front cover. What could Basic Books have been thinking?
It may be possible to actually induce some of the 30s over into the 70s camp. But I don't think this book will do it. Even though all this social science happiness talk is made to order for the fluffy liberal mind, it also invites the 30 %ers to cherry pick and spin data from the many studies that actually or purportedly bear on this issue. I'm not suggesting that happiness is irrelevant or that the studies lack merit, just that it's soft and easy to contradict. Remember that liberal readers will become defensive long before they consider reality. The 30 %ers are far more ideology driven than the 70 %ers, so the happiness argument will strike a resonance with them, but I don't think it's enough. How about augmenting happiness with some hard data that's more difficult to reject and respin? For example, make the argument that political dollars must come from two sources--either by force from taxpayers or by borrowing. And we are in a position where borrowing for income redistribution does, or will soon, dominate that split. One can then present graphs and tables that show the trends and the consequences on the recipient group. This is an example of hard economic data that is under-represented in this book. One can also talk about multiplier effects that are more limited when the dollars come from government rather than from free enterprise.
Speaking of free enterprise, that is a concept that does not hold much sway with the 30% coalition. Thus Brooks' statement on page 3, "This is a book about free enterprise ..." may not engage many 30 %ers. Brooks' free enterprise definition that followed is far too cryptic, and most liberals will identify the evil profit motive with all free enterprise. But that's not what Brooks means, and he needs to be much clearer about it. Free enterprise includes The Nature Conservancy as well as General Motors (Oops, I forgot GM is no longer free enterprise). Free enterprise includes all the organizations dedicated to climate change, labor rights, gay rights, battered women, GMO eradication, and your local museum of natural history in addition to all for-profit organizations. Free enterprise is any association of one or more people, freely organized with no government or other coercion, to provide some benefit to society, whether or not it's trying to make a profit along the way. If one wants to engage the 30 %ers, one must be diligent in not giving them opportunities to turn away. Allowing them to identify free enterprise with profit enterprise is not exercising diligence. Liberals will be looking for escape routes if they sense such a serious offense to their ideology.
I think Brooks should have made a special case of the PBS-ophiles in discussing the 30% coalition. To the average 30 %er, PBS/NPR epitomizes the goodness, open-mindedness, and forbearance that media can be when it's not being FOX. PBS has captured a special place in the 30-%er establishment by pandering to their ideology. And PBS is not totally free enterprise since it is 20% funded by the Federal Government.
"The Battle" may be the most expensive book I've ever purchased, on a per-word basis. And, Mr. Publisher, would it be possible to devolve back toward footnotes instead of endnotes? They are FAR more user friendly. And also, Mr. Publisher, graphs and tables really are NOT beyond the average reader. I see shelves full of popular economics books without a single graph and more shelves full of popular science books without a single equation. We aren't all as shallow as your Park Avenue studies make us out to be.
And now to my theory of how the 30% coalition evolved from maybe a 15% coalition. The simple, though incomplete, overview is--immigration. The immigration reform act of 1965 changed the way we accomplish and perceive immigration and was the pattern for all the immigration legislation since. The 15% coalition of the 60s also understood that immigrants are more liberal than conservative. The conservatives of the 60s realized that if you want to drive the cost of labor to rock bottom, you do it with immigrants--an ever-increasing supply of them. And an expanding population is not bad for GDP either. The politicians also got to add many ethnic and racial groups to whom they could pander with favors in so many creative ways. So who got to pay the costs of big immigration? The taxpayers for one. And the American citizens who accepted the population growth with pride, being taught from the cradle that the growth of cities, shopping centers, tract homes, and freeways somehow relates to a better life for them and their progeny. But the biggest payments of the costs of immigration were made by labor--mostly blue-collar labor. When's the last time you saw a black auto mechanic, or a black janitor, or a black gardener? We replaced them all with cheaper labor and sent the blacks to live in the inner cities. But that was only temporary since so many of them have moved on to prisons and cemeteries. That was all done by Big Money/Big Government enterprise, not by free enterprise. And it was spearheaded by the liberal elite. Who knows, though, if free enterprise would have done any better.
56 of 70 people found the following review helpful
This short book or collection of four essays with an introduction by Newt Gingrich is long on facts gleaned from various National Polls and Surveys. The four chapters are entitled "The 70-30 Nation:" "A Bill of Goods: The 30 Percent Coalition's Story of the Financial Crisis:" "Free Enterprise and the Pursuit of Happiness:" and the "Moral Case for Free Enterprise." The main text comprised 128 pages of the total 174 pages that include an excellent notes section and index.
The United States is in the midst of a cultural war. "It is a struggle between two competing visions of American's Future. In one, America will continue to be a unique and exceptional nation organized around the principles of free enterprise. In the other, America will move toward European-style statism grounded in expanding bureaucracies, increasing income redistribution, and government-controlled corporations. These competing visions are not reconcilable: We must choose."
Backed up by a large number of national polls, the author divides the two warring factions into groups of people with 70% favoring the side of "Free-Enterprise" and 30% favoring socialism, redistribution and a big brother government. He provides plenty of documentation to demonstrate this 70-30 division of sides. For example while most voters mistrust big government, big business, large corporations and Wall Street banks, "The 2010 Gallup Survey found that 95% of Americans have a positive image of small business. One doubts whether `motherhood' would even score so well."
He then breaks down the two armies of thought. The people in the 30% coalition are "led by people who are smart, powerful and strategic. These are many of the people who make opinions, entertain us, inform us, and teach our kids in college...and work in intellectual industries such as law, education, journalism, and entertainment."
This intellectual elite is the leaders of the rest of the 30%ers. Those people are largely found in extremely liberal geographic locations such as San Francisco, Seattle, Washington and Boulder. Another strong part of the 30% is comprised of ethnics, especially blacks and Hispanics. Why this is so is demonstrated by the author with lots more poll, focus group and study data.
The real core of the 30%ers is young "adults under 30. This is not just a fifth of the adult population: It is the future of our country. And this group has exhibited a frightening openness to statism in the age of Obama."
"There are three long-term strategies to keep the young in the 30% coalition: pay off their debts, give them government jobs, and make sure they never have to pay for the services that the government provides." Obama intends to make government jobs, which already pay 73% more than the average private sector worker earns for the same job, even more attractive than private industry employment. Their college debts will be paid off if they work for the government and they will end up paying less in taxes of any kind because of more government worker tax-free perks.
The author also enjoys buttressing his thoughts by quoting the Founding Fathers such as in the following: "'The natural progress of things,' Thomas Jefferson warned, `is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.'" It's interesting to learn that these same problems existed centuries ago and that the founders of the United States tried to save future generations from repeating the mistakes of the past. Ben Franklin wondered if we'd be able to keep our freedom from government.
Obama and his fellow radicals are planning to tax the wealthy, except for the very politically connected, out of existence and then hide the other taxes that will be needed to help the new, perfect welfare state survive. The Left doesn't really know whether there will actually be enough income to support their Utopian State but that will a problem for the future, not now, when every crisis allows the government to take more control of every citizen and redistribute their wealth equally, except of course for the government leaders and public worker class and to add another nail in the coffin of the golden goose that was capitalism.
The author shines a spotlight on the five false claims of the Obama Narrative and as with vampires, the light vaporizes them. The five main claims are "Government was not the primary cause of the economic crisis:" (Actually the government has been the cause of most of this nation's economic crisis throughout its history.) "The government understands the crisis and knows how to fix it:" (Baloney) "Main Street Americans were nothing more than victims of the crisis:" (Except for the millions who took full advantage of the government's obviously stupid idea to give away trillions of dollars of other people's money) "The only way to save the economy is through massive government growth and deficit spending:" (Double down on the bad bet) and "The middle class will not pay for the stimulus package. Only the rich will." (Yes, there is free lunch and health care, etc.) The author methodically dismantles these false claims one by one. Both Republicans and Democrats are guilty of screwing things up with the best of intentions as well as their simple power grabs designed to further enrich and entrench themselves or their patrons. There is plenty of blame to go around, but as the author so clearly demonstrates a mere 30% of society is now enslaving the 70% majority.
It's particularly interesting how the author explains what happened in the recent financial crisis involving sub-prime mortgages. Basically that was Utopian social engineering gone terribly wrong--the government's attempt to provide mortgages to people with bad credit, no jobs and no real desire or ability to pay back a mortgage backfired. Contrary to what the government now claims, Wall Street bankers who bundled those worthless mortgages and took them off the hands of the quasi-governmental agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were actually considered saviors by the politicians who had set in motion the sub-prime mortgage fiasco. The government enabled Wall Street to make money by saving the government from it's own unsustainable, flawed socialistic policies. The risk was spread out around the entire world. It makes the reader curious as to whether Wall Street is again in the process of saving the very politicians who are pointing fingers at them and accusing them of being greedy? It makes the reader wonder about the accuracy of recent news reports that the government has been using Wall Street and Chicago Commodity Brokers to hold down the price of gold and silver in order to protect the world's paper money supply? Is Wall Street willingly playing the scapegoat while at the same time still collecting mountains of fees from the government for saving their as...Ur, paper assets?
What, if anything, can be done about the current crisis mindset that is allowing the 30% to set in motion policies that would never be permitted in the United States during normal economic conditions? There is hope, but the readers of this review will have to get the book and discover the solutions for themselves. That won't take too much time out of busy schedules because this pithy book is really only a one-day read. Even when a reader, like me, scratches and scribbles so many notes in the margins and between the lines of the book that it appears like a gang of graffiti artists had a messy ball point pen party inside this book's covers, the short time it takes to read the book is well worth the effort. It's nice to occasionally experience common sense enlightenment via true brevity.
A trivia item from the book: "Tea" in the Tea Party Movement stands for "Taxed Enough Already."
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on July 12, 2010
Throughout my childhood I was taught to live honestly, work hard, and pursue my dreams. It always seemed pretty generic. After all, it's sort of the American disposition, which is probably why I never thought to question it.
That is, until I went to college.
From the start of my freshman year, I was bombarded by claims that capitalism was "immoral" and that the pursuit of happiness was selfish, materialistic, and possibly evil. Life was no longer about honing your free will or achieving your dreams, but about outsourcing such "burdens" to the benevolent State.
I had always believed that free enterprise was just and moral simply because it made sense. But here I was, surrounded by smart people, being asked to defend my political beliefs on moral grounds. I didn't necessarily think I was wrong, but I felt stunned, overwhelmed, and confused.
I found myself in the middle of a moral struggle.
It is this type of struggle that Arthur Brooks hopes to capture in his new book, The Battle: How the Fight Between Free Enterprise and Big Government will Shape America's Future.
Although such struggles have been going on since the beginning of time, Brooks sees a distinct battle over free enterprise taking place at the forefront of our current political discourse. Now is the time, Brooks believes, for the free enterprise movement to face its enemy ("big government") head on.
Brooks, who is president of the American Enterprise Institute, is no stranger to discussions of morality and public policy. His previous two books (Who Really Cares? and Gross National Happiness) closely examine such issues with specific focuses on charity and happiness, but this time around, Brooks is not interested in mere social analysis. Above all, The Battle is a call to action.
Brooks begins by diagnosing the country, which he believes is in the middle of an aggressive culture war over the fate of the free enterprise system. Although he claims that the movement retains a vast majority of the American people (approximately 70 percent), Brooks is convinced that the remaining 30 percent have gained the moral high ground and have thus been able to seize the reins of policymaking.
Brooks then moves on to a dissection of the (very) recent financial crisis -- a particularly good specimen for showing how capitalism can be wrongly accused (especially on moral grounds). Brooks walks the reader through what he calls the "Obama narrative" of the crisis, pointing out each distortion and fallacy along the way (and there are plenty).
Brooks believes that through a mix of misplaced good intentions, lust for power, and good old-fashioned hypocrisy, the free enterprise movement has abandoned its principles and is thus ceding victory to the statists.
A return to our core principles and a renewed ability to articulate them effectively.
The second half of the book is devoted to detailing a strategy for this, much of which focuses on simply getting our arguments right.
For example, statists love to claim that free enterprise promotes a materialistic culture, but our common rebuttals usually involve discussing economics rather than morality. As Brooks describes it, "We talk about growth rates, inflation, and investment while the 30 percent coalition walks off with the claims to happiness and fairness." The irony, of course, is that it is the statists who are the materialists. It is they who believe that the fairness of a society can be gauged by looking at mere material inequality.
Brooks goes down the line, examining each moral tenet of statism while illuminating the disastrous implications found therein. In the end, his criticism comes down to a fundamental analysis of which system allows us to pursue happiness more fully.
Discussions of what promotes or determines "happiness" can certainly be tricky, but this is Brooks' strong suit. He counters all the right arguments with all the right data (and he is a master of empirical data), arguing that although our political systems cannot guarantee happiness itself, they can facilitate earned success. And it is earned success, Brooks tells us, that helps us discover optimism, meaning, and control over our lives.
The book closes with a chapter on the morality of free enterprise, in which Brooks carefully clarifies what he means by "core principles." He offers four distinct beliefs we should stick to, all of which stem from the root notion that "the purpose of free enterprise is human flourishing" (as opposed to achieving material wealth).
For some, The Battle will be too basic -- too political, too pointed, too brief. For others, The Battle will be too philosophical -- too concerned with morality, argumentation, and implications. This is probably a risk that Brooks knew he was taking, primarily because it points to the fundamental problem he is addressing.
We have become far too lopsided in our political discourse. We either like things short and punchy or long and drawn out. The moral arguments are there (and have been since Adam Smith or even King Solomon), but so often we just want to know the facts plain and straightforward. We want answers for ourselves, but we care little about persuading others.
What Brooks accomplishes with The Battle is a successful fusion of the two: A practical battle plan for persuading others toward a proper cultural outlook.
If I were a college freshman today, I would be grappling for a book that was this profound while being this precise. If I were a college professor, I'd be shaking in my boots.
--Originally published on [...]
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on June 21, 2010
Arthur C. Brooks' new book "The Battle" is a compelling and compact book about the social dynamics of America's current struggle between the culture of free enterprise and the culture of big government.
Brooks' premise is that America is a 70/30 nation: a clear majority of Americans belive that the role of government is more about ensuring equal opportunity to pursue happiness than it is about government ensuring equal economic outcomes. However, it is the elites and their followers who occupy the positions of political power and who are furthering the bi-partisan rise and rise of goverment power, bureaucracy, taxation, spending, regulation and entitlements.
Brooks fleshes out the makeup and outlook of the 70/30 nation, and along the way elaborates on the idea of "earned success." Meaning and control over one's life are critical to one's sense of satisfaction with work and to one's overall happiness. By itself, money does not guarantee happiness; it is only an indicator of "earned success." In fact, Brooks insightfully describes how it is the big government/welfare statist mentality that is thoroughly materialistic, misguidedly aiming for expanded government spending programs to "spread the wealth" and thereby create a more "just" society.
Free enterprise is a core component of human liberty. But that kind of freedom is incompatible with the kind of social democracy advocated by the "30" segment. In the book, Brooks deftly describes the welfare statists strategies' for expanding their base to ensure permanent expansion of government's role in the economy.
"The Battle" is not an overtly political or partisan book. It is not "anti-Obama." The book makes clear that Republican Congresses and the Bush Administration were responsible for the significantly expanding bureaucracy and welfare entitlements, and the TARP program and GM bailouts began under the prior administration. Rather, the book speaks to larger themes about free enterprise and goverment power and calls on Americans to recognize the urgent need to defend the free market as the best means to ensuring human flourishing.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 14, 2010
In his new book, The Battle, Arthur Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute, posits that America is facing a new cultural war. Unlike previous culture wars, however, this one is not being waged over hot-button issues like God, guns, gays, or abortion but, rather, focuses exclusively on free enterprise. At stake in this battle, Brooks believes, is America's future and soul. He quickly sets the stage:
"...it is a struggle between two competing visions of America's future. In one, America will continue to be a unique and exceptional nation organized around the principles of free enterprise. In the other, America will move toward European-style statism grounded in expanding bureaucracies, increasing income redistribution, and government-controlled corporations. These competing visions are not reconcilable: We must choose."
So Brooks believes America is great due to its predisposition towards free enterprise, but how does he define free enterprise? He writes:
"Free enterprise is the system of values and laws that respects private property, encourages industry, celebrates liberty, limits government, and creates individual opportunity. Under free enterprise, people can pursue their own ends - and they reap the rewards and consequences, positive and negative, of their own actions."
After setting the battle's stage and defining his terms, Brooks sets about showing the popular divide in America over this issue. In poll after poll, from various polling firms and over a period of several years, America has showed about a 70% - 30% disposition favoring free enterprise over a progressive, redistributive big government.
Brooks divides the thirty percent coalition, those who favor big government, into two groups: leaders and followers. The leaders are the intellectual upper class, "those in the top 5 percent of the population in income, who hold graduate degrees, and work in intellectual industries such as law, education, journalism, and entertainment."
The followers in the thirty percent coalition are a more diverse group. Brooks points out that there are "geographic enclaves" such as San Francisco, California and Seattle, Washington. There are also differences in ethnic populations. While nearly seventy percent of Americans support free enterprise, Brooks points out that this percentage hovers around sixty percent for blacks and Hispanics. The most worrisome group in the thirty percent coalition is not geographic or ethnic though: it is young people. Those under 30 are far more likely than their elders to harbor positive feelings toward socialism or, even, favor it over capitalism.
The mystery remains, however, how a country that allegedly favors economic freedom over big government managed to elect a liberal president and Congress. Brooks believes the country panicked. Faced with an economic crisis in 2008, the country blinked and elected Democrats because liberals came up with a convincing narrative of what had happened, while Republicans did little more than running around panicking in the streets.
The Democrats, Brooks asserts, built a narrative based on five myths, which he spends an entire chapter debunking:
1) Government was not the primary cause of the economic crisis. This myth ignores the huge role Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac played in the liberals attempt at social engineering.
2) The government understands the crisis and knows how to fix it. This is patently false. The economy is amazingly complex. Few economic experts, especially those in government, predicted the crisis of 2008. Ultimately, Obama did little more than attempt to desperately spend the country's way out of the crisis while throwing in a few more failed attempts at social engineering (e.g. Cash for Clunkers) on the side.
3) Main Street Americans were nothing more than victims of the crisis. While liberals maintain that average Americans were "merely victims of avaricious bankers and predatory mortgage lenders," Brooks recognizes that "many borrowers, far from being victims, were often too ready to take loans they shouldn't have, chasing the lure of easy profits on rising home prices." Liberals preach victimhood; conservatives understand responsibility.
4) The only way to save the economy is through massive government growth and deficit spending. Brooks calls this claim "expensive and false. First, recessions can and do end without stimulus." He continues:
"... attempts to shore up the economy with massive public spending have done little to improve matters and served primarily to chain future generations with debt. At a cost of more than $2,500 per American, the stimulus package has spectacularly overpromised and underdelivered."
5) The middle class will not pay for the stimulus package. Only the rich will. Brooks asserts, "This claim is implausible. There wouldn't be nearly enough money from simply taxing the rich." He demonstrates that it is essentially impossible for the rich alone to cover this burden.
The second half of the book is dedicated to Brooks' understanding of the moral case for free enterprise. He explains that while the 30 percent liberal coalition makes its arguments known in moral terms, the 70 percent majority does a poor job of countering these types of arguments:
"Too often, when we debate economic policy, we sound unabashedly materialistic. We talk about growth rates, inflation and investment while the 30 percent coalition walks off with the claims to happiness and fairness. Rarely do we use the aspirational themes necessary to make the moral case for free people and free markets that we know in our hearts are right."
Brooks believes that it is not enough to simply oppose the liberals' values and ideals. In order to win this battle, free enterprise proponents need to rally around a positive set of principles that clarify the importance of this struggle spelled out as moral purpose:
"These are not just about differences over how to organize an economy and maximize the production of goods and services. They are matters of a higher level - about the moral superiority of the free enterprise system over the forces of statism and redistributionism. These principles should remind us what really matters and keep us from getting stuck in the old arguments over money."
Brooks outlines five such principles:
1) The purpose of free enterprise is human flourishing, not materialism. Brooks writes, "People flourishwhen they earn their own success. It's not money per se, which is merely a measure - not a source - of this earned success." Brooks believes there are three reasons why earned success delivers happiness: optimism, meaning, and control over our lives.
Optimism: Social scientific surveys prove, Brooks explains, that optimistic people are happy people. When people believe they can improve their lot in life, they tend to work harder toward success and state they are much happier in life. This is true no matter if the people are rich or poor, educated or uneducated.
Meaning: An important source of meaning in life for Americans is found in their chosen professions and career fields. Brooks writes, "Free enterprise enables us to find meaningful work through free markets that match our skills and passions."
Control: Brooks uses a simple axiom to convey this truth: "We all want control over our lives. Free enterprise gives us this control; statism takes it away." Free enterprise respects the individual's right and need to choose his own destiny and pursue his own interests. Big government tends to interfere in the lives of private citizens and make decisions on the individual's behalf (e.g. government mandated health insurance).
2) We stand for equality of opportunity, not equality of income. Brooks explains that while the 30 percent coalition uses words like "fairness" to justify their redistributive principles, most Americans believe everyone should get a chance to succeed - or fail - based on the merits of their own decisions and actions. Brooks states this difference of opinion leads to a fundamentally different way of viewing the role of government. He writes, "The majority believes government should protect the returns for hard work and merit. The 30 percent coalition effectively wants the government to penalize success."
3) We seek to stimulate true prosperity, not treat poverty. Using a few case studies, Brooks demonstrates that we must focus on prosperity, not poverty, if we want to transform poor economic communities into prosperous ones. He writes, "By concentrating on poverty alleviation (and on governments), traditional aid has often been unresponsive to the needs of people and dismissive of a private sector that is the real means to delivering economic growth and development."
4) America can and should be a gift to the world. International poverty rates have drastically fallen in the past two decades as developing countries adopt a system of free trade and capitalism. Since World War II, America's military has played the role of "liberator and deliverer of free trade values." While acknowledging that America can and does make mistakes, Brooks believes, along with the vast majority of this country, a world without America's economic and military influence would be "poorer and less free."
5) What truly matters is principle, not political power. Brooks believes the lessons of the 2008 elections are clear: An American public punished an unprincipled Republican party which had "strayed too far from its free enterprise values." This wouldn't be an area of concern to Brooks, a political independent, except that the Democrats continue to throw away and ignore America's capitalist culture and heritage. In other words, Brooks does not care which political party is in power as long as they are "committed...to expanding liberty, increasing individual opportunity, and defending free enterprise."
Brooks concludes the book on a positive note: He believes "political turmoil" can lead to cultural renewal. While The Battle weighs in at less than 150 pages, it packs quite a punch for such a brief work. He manages to lay out a coherent narrative for how we got to the current crisis, in which our free enterprise culture is at risk, while also addressing why all is not yet lost. Along the way, he explains the moral imperative of free enterprise and how this system is the bedrock of America's unique and exceptional national character.
19 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on May 20, 2010
Arthur Brooks has returned with his best book to date. The Battle: How the Fight Between Free Enterprise And Big Government Will Shape America's Future is a brief and extremely readable book that will have a huge impact on the national debate. This is a must read for anyone closely watching the current ideological and political climate.
Brooks shows that there is a new culture war brewing in America, not about abortion or gay rights, but about free enterprise. He demonstrates that Americans favor free enterprise by a 70 to 30 majority, but the anti-capitalist minority led by President Obama and the liberal elite is rapidly dragging the country away from free enterprise and towards Socialism.
The implications are huge for America. Brooks uses extensive research and solid evidence to show that America's free enterprise system is not just about economic prosperity or getting rich. He proves that free enterprise is more importantly a moral issue that allows individuals the freedom to choose how to live their lives, care for their families, earn a living in their chosen field, give to the charities of their choice, and pursue happiness according to their own beliefs. Brooks shows that if America continues down the road to serfdom by replacing free enterprise with big government and social democracy, America will also be throwing its culture of free enterprise, individual responsibility, and equality of opportunity out the window. Americans will be less free, less prosperous, and less happy as a result.
The Battle not only identifies this crisis, but offers practical solutions and arguments so that Americans who cherish freedom can win every argument and defend our culture of free enterprise from those who want to turn America into a social democracy like France or Greece.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 19, 2010
President Obama wants to make the coming 2010 elections - and 2012 - elections, an election of policies of the past (Bush) against the policies of the future (Obama). The Battle shows why this is the wrong argument to have during these elections.
The right argument is the battle of socialism (Obama) vs free market capitlalism (anyone opposed to Obama). This is how the election must be defined.
The Battle logicaly and clearly lays out how Obama is on a mission to make the USA a socialist country like Greece and France, 2 failed economies. While Obama insists he is not a socialist, he persues socialist policies, appoints socialists to key positions in government, and sets up program after program to redistribute wealth from producers to non-producers and The Battle sheds light on all these actions.
The Battle clearly lays out the arguments why Obama's socialist policies MUST be defeted and how to defeat them. This is a must read for anyonce concerned about the future of our great country.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on December 6, 2010
When I heard Arthur Brooks today on NPR in an extensive speech, I was impressed with his thought processes and arguments for a balanced approach of taxation, social responsibility, and free enterprise. I myself am a senior financial executive with an MBA from a top three school, and I am an entrepreneur and real believer in free enterprise. When I went to Amazon to purchase his book and I see it has a preface by Newt Gingrich and features Dick Cheney and Karl Rove closely associated with the book, I find it a complete turn-off. There is a huge difference between free enterprise and big business, with Cheney and Rove representing the later and not supportive of the former except insofar as a free enterprise argument will advance the interests of big business. Rove and Cheney are anti-competition, and in favor of monopolistic, employee-exploitive policies when it comes to big business, which is killing true free enterprise in America. I am quite surprised at these endorsements and find them a complete turn-off to reading this book. Perhaps Brooks should address the third dimension of Big Business as opposed to assuming the reference to free enterprise also encompasses Big Business, which in my opinion is almost worse than Big Government. Having worked for 2 Fortune 10 companies and many entrepreneurial organizations, I have firsthand experience as to the anti-free enterprise nature of big business.