The prominent economist and president of the American Enterprise Institute - the leading intellectual think tank on the right - offers a bold new vision for conservatism as a movement for social and economic justice.
In The Conservative Heart, Arthur C. Brooks contends that after years of focusing on economic growth and traditional social values, it is time for a new kind of conservatism - one that helps the vulnerable without mortgaging our children's future. In Brooks' daring vision, this conservative movement fights poverty, promotes equal opportunity, celebrates earned success, and values spiritual enlightenment. It is an inclusive movement with a positive agenda to help people lead happier, more hopeful, and more satisfied lives.
One of the country's leading scholars and policy thinkers, Brooks has considered these issues for decades. Drawing on years of research on the sources of happiness, he asserts that what people most need are four "institutions of meaning" - faith, family, community, and meaningful work. These are not only the foundations of personal well-being but also the necessary means for building a better nation.
Combining reporting, original research, and case studies, and free of vituperative politics, The Conservative Heart is an intelligent and compelling manifesto for renewal. Clear, well reasoned, and accessible, it is a welcome new strategy for disconsolate conservatives looking for fresh, actionable ideas to address the serious problems confronting us today and to reclaim our future, and it is for politically independent citizens who believe that neither political party addresses their needs or concerns.
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- Rebecca Rider
Citing many studies, the author gives us good reason to believe more income does not always bring more happiness.
The book then looks at a private charity program that selects released prison inmates and trains them in vocations and gets them jobs. The program sounds good, according to the book recidivism is 60% less in those selected for the program. It then claims government should do the same for the poor. To my knowledge conservatives have always opposed spending this kind of money on programs to help the poor.
The next part of the book is dedicated to the idea that the US should embrace an Indian method of labor and distance ourselves from "grandmother Europe" . This segment is teaming with anecdotes and the few studies cited seldom seem apropos.
Then there are some claims that the minimum wage is harmful eluding to, but not citing studies. The main claim is that a raising minimum wage will make the worst workers' unemployment rate go up. No consideration is given for effects on other groups of people, and an anecdote is given that a fast food worker can go from minimum wage entry to a living wage in 5 years; there was no discussion about how eliminating the minimum wage might impact this job nor any explanation of what constitutes that living wage.
The book ends with an entreaty to conservatives to claim compassion in their stances and engage with everyone and not to restrict themselves to conservative talking points.
The book claims to be amenable to non-conservatives, but I have some issues with that idea. Throughout the book it caricatures liberals including the claim that liberals only care about outcomes being equal no matter the effort. It also blames the rise in income inequality on Obama based only on the rise happening during his tenure without any acknowledgment that most of the levers of power were controlled by Republicans during that time nor any acknowledgement that the trend started before he took office. It also claims that Obama constantly belittled conservatives and blamed opposition on racism, this simply does not fit my experience.
I liked the general positive tone of this book, but take exception to the tactics of defining what your opponents believe and claiming that the current state is exactly what opponents wanted. It makes your arguments easier to make but that straw man is not a liberal.
- A. Haase