The Road to Freedom: How to Win the Fight for Free Enterprise

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Entrepreneurship, personal responsibility, and upward mobility: These traditions are at the heart of the free enterprise system, and have long been central to America’s exceptional culture. In recent years, however, policymakers have dramatically weakened these traditions—by exploding the size of government, propping up their corporate cronies, and trying to reorient our system from rewarding merit to redistributing wealth.

 In The Road to Freedom, American Enterprise ...

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The Road to Freedom: How to Win the Fight for Free Enterprise

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Entrepreneurship, personal responsibility, and upward mobility: These traditions are at the heart of the free enterprise system, and have long been central to America’s exceptional culture. In recent years, however, policymakers have dramatically weakened these traditions—by exploding the size of government, propping up their corporate cronies, and trying to reorient our system from rewarding merit to redistributing wealth.

 In The Road to Freedom, American Enterprise Institute President Arthur C. Brooks shows that this trend cannot be reversed through materialistic appeals about the economic efficiency of capitalism. Rather, free enterprise requires a moral defense rooted in the ideals of earned success, equality of opportunity, charity, and basic fairness. Brooks builds this defense and demonstrates how it is central to understanding the major policy issues facing America today.

The future of the free enterprise system has become a central issue in our national debate, and Brooks offers a practical manual for defending it over the coming years. Both a moral manifesto and a prescription for concrete policy changes, The Road to Freedom will help Americans in all walks of life translate the philosophy of free enterprise into action, to restore both our nation’s greatness and our own well-being in the process.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
American Enterprise Institute president Brooks (The Battle) weaves a paean to the free enterprise system, calling it more efficient than and morally superior to the alternatives, and uses shaky though well-documented generalizations and anecdotal evidence to justify his credo. He argues that the average person in 1800 had the standard of living of his Stone Age counterpart and that Americans are happiest working 50–59 hours per week at jobs that “the vast majority” like. Free enterprise, according to Brooks, offers superior opportunity for “what all people truly crave: earned success.” In this sense, it eclipses both statism and the meretricious practice of corporate cronyism. Paradoxically, although Americans endorse the virtues of free enterprise and limited government, he writes, the bipartisan slide of recent decades toward big government has blinded us to the inroads of statism. Brooks seeks to defang the most rabid of partisan arguments (“Even hardline conservatives don’t object to minimum basic protections for poor people”) while asserting that the “safety net” has become too broad. Though Brooks aims to present arguments for policy reform, more specifics on how to break through the thickets along the way would have given this treatise more substance. (May)
From the Publisher
George F. Will
“It is true, but insufficient, to argue that free enterprise makes us better off.  Arthur Brooks makes the indispensable point that it also makes us better.  Having stumbled far down the road to serfdom, we are much in need of Brooks’ trenchant case for a change of course.”

P. J. O’Rourke
“America’s tradition of being free provides greater economic growth and efficiency, better distribution of opportunities, and larger possibilities for the pursuit of happiness.  But what’s really important about being free is that it’s moral.  Individual liberty and personal responsibility are right.  Collective restraint and communal irresponsibility are wrong.  The Road to Freedom is a road from wrong to right.”
John Mackey, Co-Founder and CEO, Whole Foods Markets
“Arthur Brooks has written an important and timely book that shows how America became a prosperous and great nation through the free enterprise system of individual opportunity and entrepreneurship.  He intelligently discusses the fundamental principles of ethics, fairness, helping the poor, providing a safety net, and the proper role of government in a free enterprise economy.  In addition, he proposes policy reforms, which if our nation embraced them, would relatively quickly solve many of our nation’s most serious challenges.  I heartily recommend this book as an excellent road map to create a prosperous, socially just, and ethical society.”
Congressman Paul Ryan
“Arthur Brooks knows, as America’s Founders knew, that free enterprise underpins the moral case for human freedom.  Economic freedom produces unimaginable material prosperity, but it’s also the only economic form that encourages individuals to freely pursue their destinies, develop the character of self-responsibility, and strengthen communities.  Brooks eloquently confronts the growing threat to economic freedom and human fulfillment and describes the fundamental choices Americans must make to get back on the right road.”

The Washington Times“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, whisper a thanks to your immigrant predecessors or go purchase lunch from your local small business down the street in triumph, nothing will.”

The Weekly Standard
“Read The Road to Freedom for its explication of earned success, its definition of meritocratic fairness, and its moral commitment to using free exchange to improve the lives of the destitute.”

Clive Crook, The Atlantic

“Brooks is a smart, witty and engaging writer, and it's refreshing to see a conservative cast the argument for free enterprise in these terms.”

Kirkus Reviews
American Enterprise Institute president Brooks' follow-up to The Battle: How the Fight Between Free Enterprise and Big Government Will Shape America's Future (2010). The author presents his argument in two parts: "Making the Moral Case for Free Enterprise" and "Applying the Moral Case for Free Enterprise." In the first, Brooks portrays America as "an opportunity society" and uses studies of mobility between income classes to show that neither the poor nor the rich must remain as they are. This allows him to argue that U.S. income inequality is actually beneficial because "the moral rejoinder about the fairness of rewarding merit through free enterprise will carry the day." He also defends a "minimum safety net" not as a means to increase material equality but as a way to preserve "access to basic medical care, sufficient food and basic shelter." Brooks writes that the safety net should still be available for American citizens most in need and would include food stamps, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income. In the second section, the author insists that the primary concern should be fixing the debt problem, which means dealing with "out of control entitlement spending." Brooks contends that entitlements should be a basic safety net for the poor and not a source of retirement benefits for everybody. "The system should encourage people to work longer, retire later, and save more, so they can take care of themselves without resorting to the safety net," he writes. If entitlements are cut in the way the author suggests, foreigners will invest in America and recovery will be possible. Brooks does not consider the 2008 financial crisis and its great affect on such confidence. Another restatement of the views associated with neoconservatives, freshening up the packaging but not the substance.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465029402
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 5/8/2012
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 123,548
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

 Arthur C. Brooks is President of the American Enterprise Institute, a public policy think tank in Washington, DC. He is the author of nine books, including The Battle, Gross National Happiness, and Who Really Cares. Until 2009, Brooks was the Louis A. Bantle Professor of Business and Government Policy at Syracuse University. Previously, Brooks spent twelve years as a professional French hornist with the City Orchestra of Barcelona and other ensembles. He is a native of Seattle and currently lives in Bethesda, Maryland, with his wife Ester and their three children.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 8, 2012

    The best summation of the moral case for capitalism

    There has been no other book in my experience that best explains the moral case for capitalism and how it has enriched and made better the lives of everyone the world over who has adopted it.

    Arthur Brook clearly and succinctly displays this with good logic, humor, examples and compelling reading. This book is a must-read for conservatives and libertarians alike.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2013

    Jordan and Kato

    *Prepare their equipment.*

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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