Arthur Brooks nails it in this video. Data-driven arguments on behalf of free-market capitalism will not prevail over moral arguments that appeal to “fairness” and the plight of those the market leaves behind. In the marketplace of ideas, for the vast majority of people, “It’s immoral” will defeat “It works” every time.
This is a particular danger for Romney, as he approaches the debates. Romney leans toward the economic argument for free enterprise while Obama leans toward the moral argument for redistribution. One of Romney’s best lines from his convention speech was that Obama is focused on redistributing today’s prosperity while Romney is focused on creating tomorrow’s. But Romney is a data-driven leader, and I hope he understands the importance of making the moral argument, and making it personal and relatable.
To be clear: everyone in the current debate accepts the need for safety nets and some regulations, as well as the need for certain measures to improve equality of opportunity. This is not a battle from the extremes. But it is a clash of very different visions of the society for which we ought to aim. And different visions of how to get there.
I want to hear Romney put together the three strands of conservatism in social issues, economic issues and foreign affairs. My own view is that the American populace has never been more ignorant than it is today of the economic case and the moral case for the free enterprise system. Romney needs to educate even as he inspires, much as Reagan did. So I want to hear a full-orbed vision of American renewal, from the cultural grassroots — where the economic virtues such as diligence and industry, integrity and self-reliance, must be nourished, and where the basic social institutions of family and community must be strengthened; to the economy — where the government needs to restrain its out-of-control spending and give the market a stable and unobstructed space for creativity and industry; to the international arena, where a strong defense and the promotion of free markets serves the American economy even as it creates the conditions for peace and prosperity around the globe. If Romney can show his mastery of the data even as he provides an animating, overarching vision for American culture and American society, making the moral as well as the economic case, then I think he wins the debates.
But for every “fat cat” there are thousands of men and women who just want purposeful work that provides for their families. When the government becomes too intrusive, when its footprint upon the marketplace becomes too large, then incentives turn awry, people are rewarded for ill and punished for good, and inevitably we feed into the mentality that it’s better to receive than to achieve. This is not the way to human flourishing. The best way to lift the most people out of poverty is to increase opportunity, and the best way to personal satisfaction is to expand the free market for earned achievement.
Enjoy the video: