The Corner

Culture

One Man’s Vocation

Last week, I was in Washington, sitting at lunch with a colleague of mine. I said I had to scoot off to the American Enterprise Institute to record a podcast with its president, Arthur Brooks. “The most interesting man in Washington, D.C.,” said my colleague.

You can hear Arthur Brooks on this Q&A.

We talk about some of the issues that have bubbled — roared — to the surface: nationalism, populism, “globalism.” Americans are a non-envious people, says Brooks. But, in tough times, we may claw at one another, like the French (à la française).

What we have now, says Brooks, is a “dignity gap”: a gap between those who can hold their head up and those who can’t, or think they can’t. This is a lousy gap. Everyone must have his dignity (a wholesome dignity).

Eventually, America will be back, says Brooks, and we will enjoy getting richer together. This is the “American magic.” Also, we will enjoy seeing people around the world prosper beside us.

I was charmed by the following statement (among many others that Brooks made): “This country was built by and for ambitious riff-raff.” May the ambitious riff-raff keep coming, and make this country boom.

Brooks is a musician and once made his living as a French-horn player. It did not especially satisfy him, however. He read what Bach said when asked why he wrote music. “The aim and final end of all music,” said the great composer, “should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.” Brooks found his vocation, his true vocation. Economics and public policy? Sure — the kind that lifts the down and out into a much better life.

Enough of my scribbling. Our podcast, again, is here.

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