The notion that the gap between the rich and the non-rich largely reflects differences in effort and innate skill is a crucial premise of right-wing economic thought. Here, for instance, is how Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute and evangelist against any form of income distribution, puts it: In America we stand for equality.
Arthur Brooks is an interesting figure. Like pretty much all members of the conservative movement, he considers increasing the after-tax income of the affluent the highest policy priority. Most conservatives clearly believe that taxing the rich at (slightly) higher rates is unfair. But since most people think the rich should pay higher, not lower rates, they tend to concoct alternate rationales more in keeping with public opinion. We must cut the top tax rate because it will increase economic growth, perhaps so much that revenue will rise as a result.
Interesting concession today from AEI president Arthur Brooks: What is that governing philosophy? Here is an answer from the great economist and Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek: As regards the economy, the government should provide a minimum basic standard of living for citizens, and address market failures in cases where government action can do so cost effectively. That's all. We should acknowledge that markets are not perfect.
Jennifer Rubin has an interview with Arthur Brooks and Pete Wehner about their new book. It's a combination that seems to have been created for the express purpose of spurring me to write a blog item -- indeed, so much so that when I first saw it I wondered if it was some kind of trap to bait me -- and they don't disappoint. Here's one highly entertaining exchange: Public schools (if we are lucky) teach about democracy but students rarely get any instruction in economics, let alone a defense of free market capitalism.
Former Bush staffer Tevi Troy, continuing his campaign to burnish the intellectual credentials of the Republican Party, has a piece about the deep and wide intellectual curiosity of the House GOP: Another big reader is Paul Ryan, likely chairman of the Budget Committee. He is one of the many House GOP fans of The Battle: How the Fight between Free Enterprise and Big Government Will Shape America’s Future, by AEI president Arthur Brooks. In fact, he teamed up with Brooks to debate the New York Times’s David Brooks on the op-ed pages of the Times and the Wall Street Journal in September.
If you haven't gotten enough of me dissecting AEI President Arthur Brooks's "The Battle," there's one more bit I didn't include in the review but is a telling window into his argumentative style. The over-arching argument of the book, remember, is that President Obama represents an alien, anti-capitalist viewpoint held by just 30% of Americans. Here is Brooks applying his thesis to foreign policy: President Obama’s 2009 trips to Europe and the Middle East, for instance, have been characterized by some as nothing short of apology tours.
On the front page, I have a review of "The Battle," which is AEI President Arthur Brooks's call to arms for the conservative movement. Here's the beginning: If there is one dream of the Obama presidency that died a swift, merciless death with no hope of resuscitation, it was the hope that President Obama would usher in a new era of bipartisan technocracy. As the president explained over and over, he believed he was not imposing an ideological agenda but simply responding to problems. “I’m not interested in another old debate about big government versus small government,” he would say.
American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks has a Wall Street Journal op-ed today arguing that it's unfair for the tax system to make rich people pay higher rates than the poor and middle class. This is, of course, a foundational belief of the conservative movement. Like most conservatives making this case, though, Brooks does not rely on the moral suasion of his pro-regressive taxation beliefs.
David Frum got an enormous amount of attention for his blog post arguing that Republicans erred by refusing to engage with Democratic moderates on health care reform. Now he's resigned from the American Enterprise Institute. It doesn't look all that voluntary: I have been a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute since 2003. At lunch today, AEI President Arthur Brooks and I came to a termination of that relationship. Below is the text of my letter of resignation. Dear Arthur, This will memorialize our conversation at lunch today.