What do I think of Arthur Brooks’s book published by Broadside Books? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Without a doubt, The Conservative Heart is one of the most important books I’ve ever read. Some might think it’s just because of the embodiment of good conservative principles, which is great, but also because this applies to so many areas, such as my main one of Christian apologetics. Not only that, but it leaves me with hope. It leaves me thinking the American Dream is still out there for all of us.
Practically every page contained something worth highlighting. In fact, were I to go through again doing this, it would be easier to just highlight the parts that weren’t as moving and gripping. Challenge after challenge comes to the reader about how one can best function in our society and impart hope to people who are in a difficult place. (Including myself)
Brooks starts off with what we need to be happy, and it’s simple. We have the idea of loving things and using people. The real idea is to love people and use things. Wealth is not bad. There is no evil in money. What is wrong is to have the attachment to money. In fact, Brooks contends that some wealth is necessary for true happiness. Brooks never cites it, but I think of Proverbs 30:8-9.
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.
We chase after so many goods that we think will bring us happiness instead of looking for memories that will bring us happiness. We also look to other gods of our age, like sex, when Brooks presents research that says that if you want to know how many sexual partners happy people tend to have, the answer is simple. One. (Looks like I’m covered.)
Brooks argues that what is needed for people is not just to give them a hand-out, but people want to do meaningful work. People don’t care about being rich usually, as long as they think they’re contributing to society. They want to fulfill a purpose and sadly, our government programs can often treat them as if they’re dependents and they need to stay down and they can’t make it. People want a hand-up more than they want a hand-out.
One program he looks at is the Ready, Willing, and Able program. This program takes people off the streets and then make them work. When they’ve completed a trial period, then they’re trained in a field of their choice and they’re taught how to make a budget and get regular drug testing. If they don’t pass the test, they get out of the program then and lose the benefits. It’s had a successful effect as well.
The idea is to see every person as having something worthy to contribute to the cause. Every time you see someone out there in the world who is in a desperate situation, you can see that as someone who could be in a place of serving the world and making it better. Don’t just see a statistic. See a person.
Brooks also points out that on the whole conservatives give more to charitable causes than liberals do. Brooks even found this as a surprise as he was expecting liberals would give more. Even after you account for income differences, conservatives are giving more of their money to charity and giving more across the board from volunteer service to blood donation.
Brooks also points out that working is a gift. He talks about being on a plane next to someone who was a CFO of a company that handles several fast food franchises. Brooks is asking about the industry and then asks, quite foolishly he’d agree, if the man ever regretted creating so many dead-end jobs.
The man gets point blank with Brooks and tells him that if you come in and work for a year, you’ll probably get promoted to an assistant manager. Go four years and you can become a store manager. Go further and you can reach further because as he says, he began his career flipping burgers.
Bottom line to get? There are no dead-end jobs.
In fact, what matters most even more than how much it pays is how much meaning the job gives the person. Can the person feel like they’re a part of the story instead of just a burden to everyone else? That is what people long for.
Now in all of this Brooks is not against a safety net. Yes. Some people will need help. It should be a success in our system that we have enough surplus that we can care for those in need, but it is not a success if we see a lot of people having to be cared for. The net is there for trapeze artists should they fall, but it’s not a great performance if we just see them fall in the net and stay there and do tricks from the net.
Brooks also contends that we have to do better getting our message out. If conservatives care, which we do, why is it assumed we don’t? It’s because a lot of us like to talk about what we’re against. We don’t tend to talk about what we’re for. Consider the minimum wage. We hear someone make a statement about the minimum wage and how it should be raised. We respond by pointing out the damage that will be done to those on the lowest rung of the economic ladder and that it won’t help them in the long run and ideas like that. Is that true? Yep. What does the other person hear? We’re against helping the poor and we have no solutions to the problem. What if we said something like this?
I agree that those on the lowest end of the economic perspective or struggling and we must help them out the best that we can and enable them to live on their own and I have no doubt you have good intentions, but your ideas just won’t work because of XYZ. I propose instead that we give tax cuts to those above so they can have more freedom to hire more people and in fact pay them more and that will include those who are on the lowest economic level.
You see? I haven’t just started there with what I’m against. I’ve started with what I’m for and then something that can be done to help out and that it will help those out. We can often get the picture that we’re just negative because it often looks like all we do is argue against something instead of for something.
Brooks also points out that if we want our movements, we need to start appealing to the people first and what they already hold to or at least want them to hold to. When King began speaking about civil rights, he spoke to the people about what they would agree with and he acted like he had a majority even before he had a majority. He spoke pointing to the transcendental values we all hold dear. That is how he convinced people. The same happened with Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Although I don’t agree with this last group’s beliefs, the homosexual movement I contend did the exact same thing.
There is much more that can be said about this book but the most important thing to be said is to read it. Study it. Learn it well. While I find it great at defending my own conservative principles, I realize the same can work at defending my own Christian principles too.
Thank you Dr. Brooks for this wonderful work!