‘ROAD TO FREEDOM’

ROAD TO FREEDOM: HOW TO WIN THE FIGHT FOR FREE ENTERPRISEBy Arthur C. Brooks, Basic Books, $25.99 214 pages

Washington Times on May 11, 2012, published a review by Nicole Russell of Arthur C. Brooks’ new revolutionary book “The Road to Serfdom”. Brooks quotes the German economist F.A. Hayek observing: “No sensible person should have doubted that the crude rules in which the principles of economic policy of the nineteenth century were expressed were only a beginning – that we had yet much to learn and that there were still immense possibilities of advancement on the lines on which we had moved.” Excerpts below:

Indeed, in the nearly 70 years since Hayek’s book, scholars and “sensible” people alike have learned much about how a country can prosper and falter within the frame of a free-market economy.

Mr. Brooks has a background in social science and economics and, as the president of the American Enterprise Institute think tank…He wastes no time describing America’s economic and political origins, how America has drifted from those principles and how America can blend the two vastly different realities to become a modern-day government thriving in a free-enterprise system

From the outset, Mr. Brooks deviates from the typical conservative discussion about how far America has veered from its free-market origins by making an intriguing and swift case for free-market principles not just based on material payoffs, but moral ones.

While describing tenets of a free-enterprise system, Mr. Brooks also picks apart the many disparate arguments against it. For example, many people oppose capitalism because they think it hurts the poor and disadvantaged. He argues that those people fail to understand how the free-market system functions and if this could only be corrected, they would see the opposite is true.

Even conservatives struggle to make a case against redistribution as a method toward creating fairness (especially for the poor). Yet Mr. Brooks argues that redistribution, however fair it may seem, is actually the opposite: “A fair system in an opportunity society rewards merit … an unfair system redistributes resources simply to derive greater income equality.”

Mr. Brooks continues to praise the many facets of the free-enterprise system via a brief history lesson citing the mortality rate and poor quality of life before the Industrial Revolution, which spurred an “unprecedented emergence of free societies and markets” that ultimately were responsible for producing a higher quality of life in virtually every category: from basic medicine and waste management to luxuries such as automobiles and computers.

Mr. Brooks spends the first four chapters extolling the virtues of the free-market system and, for the cynics, proves study after study why it’s morally responsible and beneficial. Then he takes a sharp turn and brings us back to reality: Nearly half of Americans pay no federal income tax while businesses are more and more regulated (and taxed).

The only drawbacks are inherent in a book written by an economist: The onslaught of statistics can become mind-numbingly dissuasive. Despite his emphasis on the moral benefits of a free-market economy, the graphs and studies he uses may fail to be as persuasive to someone living on $15,000 per year. Also, one does also wonder for whom Mr. Brooks has written this little gem packed with economic statistics, moral arguments and a recipe for the pursuit of happiness.

Nevertheless, “The Road to Freedom” is paved with good intentions. If this book, especially the first several chapters that describe so compellingly the unique freedom of the system of government the United States embraces, doesn’t make you want to stand up and salute the American flag…nothing will.

Nicole Russell has written for TheAtlantic.com, Politico, National Review Online and the American Spectator.

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