A Conversation with Arthur C. Brooks, Part 2
Although a powerful minority has other ideas, most Americans still know what it means to be American.


EDITORS NOTE: Kathryn Jean Lopez continues her conversation with Arthur Brooks on his new book, The Battle: How the Fight between Free Enterprise and Big Government Will Shape America’s Future. Part 1 of the interview can be read here.

KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: How was Scott Brown “in touch with America’s mainstream”? And why is that an important lesson for politicians who want to win this November?

ARTHUR C. BROOKS: Scott Brown did not win by being a Republican apparatchik. He won because he struck a chord that resonated with the mainstream in his state — and that chord was his faith in the ability of free enterprise to get us out of the current economic malaise. In his words, “What made America great? Free markets, free enterprise, manufacturing, job creation. That’s how we’re going to do it, not by enlarging government.” The data show that 70 percent of Americans — and, clearly, a majority of folks in Massachusetts as well — believe these things.

LOPEZ: You wrote in the Washington Post recently that “Brown’s victory — and Rand Paul’s triumph in Kentucky’s Republican Senate primary last week, for that matter — are but warning shots in the burgeoning culture war. The most intense battles are still ahead.” What do you mean? What should we be preparing for?

BROOKS: The Brown and Paul victories are harbingers of more struggles between those who put their faith in government and those who prefer to trust the abilities of their fellow Americans. They will be repeated all across the country. That’s what we should be preparing for — in effect, the playing out of the subtitle of my book, “How the fight between free enterprise and big government will shape America’s future.”

LOPEZ: Has Scott Brown been to AEI? Has Rand Paul? Do you want to get more candidates and officeholders over there?

BROOKS: The answers are: No, No, and Yes. AEI conferences, seminars, and keynote addresses feature candidates and officeholders from all across the political spectrum — from former vice president Cheney to Treasury Secretary Geithner in the past months. But a major premise of The Battle is that it is principle — not short-term political power — that ultimately must carry the day. AEI is less interested in candidates in pursuit of raw political influence than in those who can best articulate the principles of sound policy based on our shared values.

LOPEZ: What might Tocqueville say about democracy in America, circa 2010?

BROOKS: Where the ruling class seems to be battling the soul of America, while polls suggest that the majority of voters are opposed to the transformation afoot? It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, does it?