The Debt Ceiling and the Pursuit of Happiness

I highly recommend an op-ed by Arthur Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute, in today’s Wall Street Journal: The Debt Ceiling and the Pursuit of Happiness (subscription required). 

Mr. Brooks writes…

The battle over the debt ceiling is only the latest skirmish in what promises to be an ongoing, exhausting war over budget issues…But structural change will only succeed if it's accompanied by a moral argument—an unabashed cultural defense of the free enterprise system…

America's Founders knew the importance of moral language, which is why they asserted our unalienable right to the pursuit of happiness, not to the possession of property… Yet today, it is progressives, not free marketeers, who use the language of morality…

Free-enterprise advocates, on the other hand, speak privately about freedom and opportunity for everybody—including the poor…Sadly, in public, they always seem stuck in the language of economic efficiency. The result is that year after year we slip further down the redistributionist road…

If reformers want Americans to embrace real change, every policy proposal must be framed in terms of self-realization, meritocratic fairness and the promise of a better future. Why do we want to lower taxes for entrepreneurs? Because we believe in earned success. Why do we care about economic growth? To make individual opportunity possible, not simply to increase wealth. Why do we need entitlement reform? Because it is wrong to steal from our children…

This fight will not be easy or politically safe. But it will be a happy one: to share the values that make us proud to be Americans.

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