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Friday Five: Arthur Brooks on Conservative Messaging, Human Flourishing, and More

On Fridays, we bring you the best of our blog and the best of the web. This week’s roundup includes a moral critique of conservative political strategy, a discussion of free markets and consumerism, and more. 1. Solving Problems Apart from the Law: Nicholas Freiling reminds us of the days when society’s problems were solved by innovative individuals rather than coercive government.

One cost associated with government’s growth is the American people’s diminished ability to solve problems on their own—without the aid of government. Most Americans today cannot conceive of a world where things like education, food safety and road-building are left to the free market. Instead, they have come to associate societal problems with government failures. Instead of seeking voluntary, peaceful solutions, most believe that the right government policy is the only way to alleviate undesirable features of American life.

2. Republicans and Their Faulty Moral Arithmetic: AEI President Arthur Brooks criticizes Republicans for surrendering an immensely popular argument—care for the vulnerable—to progressives, while focusing on materialistic concerns instead.

The irony is maddening. America’s poor people have been saddled with generations of disastrous progressive policy results, from welfare-induced dependency to failing schools that continue to trap millions of children. Meanwhile, the record of free enterprise in improving the lives of the poor both here and abroad is spectacular. According to Columbia University economist Xavier Sala-i-Martin, the percentage of people in the world living on a dollar a day or less—a traditional poverty measure—has fallen by 80% since 1970. This is the greatest antipoverty achievement in world history. That achievement is not the result of philanthropy or foreign aid. It occurred because billions of souls have been able to pull themselves out of poverty thanks to global free trade, property rights, the rule of law and entrepreneurship.

3. What’s So Great about Economic Freedom?: Anthony Davies, professor at Duquesne University, describes why a society’s health is usually highly correlated with economic freedom. 4. Human Flourishing: Seeking More for the Oppressed: The Christian mission must include the pursuit of human flourishing as well as evangelism, but how is that mission best carried out? Anthony Bradley of the Acton Institute argues that freedom is an essential condition for human flourishing.

Being made in the image and likeness of God means that each person should be given freedom, “in decision making and behavior,” as a “necessary operating condition for the pursuit and achievement of human flourishing,” observes Younkins. This decision-making freedom is also how men and women mature in the moral virtue. It is on this point that a mere focus on “justice” or “peace” fails to do the heavily lifting necessary to think long-term about a society that is truly just and free.

5. Does Free Enterprise Lead to an Ugly Consumerist Culture?: Jay Richards of the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics challenges the common critique that capitalism goes hand in hand with consumerism.

Free markets may allow for an ugly consumerist culture, but the cause of this culture is not our economic system – it’s our sinful nature and a misguided worldview that celebrates ugliness instead of beauty and truth.

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