Ethical Populism: Why Are Americans Resisting Freebies?


Last year Arthur Brooks wrote an engaging piece in the Wall Street Journal titled “The Real Culture War is Over Capitalism.” Although the article is somewhat dated, I encourage you to read it, as it still effectively sums up a dichotomy that is ever present in our society.

In the article, Brooks argues that the “culture war” of today is different from the one of yesterday:

There is a major cultural schism developing in America. But it’s not over abortion, same-sex marriage or home schooling, as important as these issues are. The new divide centers on free enterprise — the principle at the core of American culture.

This certainly still seems to be the case. By listening to the rhetoric of both President Obama and the Tea Party Movement you can quickly gather that the disagreements are not purely about the economics of each policy, but also the ethical implications.

A sign proclaiming "America Will Not Be Mandated" signals ethical resistance to government force.

Obama thinks the government has an ethical obligation to redistribute wealth, but many Americans see that as an ethical violation of individual freedom. To be sure, many Americans see redistribution of their own wealth as an ethical obligation, but the idea that someone would forcefully do it for them defeats (or at least diminishes) the entire imperative. Here we come back to the concept of True Community vs. Forced Community.

On a positive note, Brooks believes most Americans still prefer self-reliance and free enterprise over statism. Most Americans would rather provide for themselves and their neighbors than have it done for them — something that certainly cannot be said of most European societies. Regarding whether Americans prefer a free market to socialism, Brooks cites a poll in which 70% agreed that we are “better off in a free market economy” despite occasional ups and downs. A measly 20% disagreed that a free market system worked best.

Given these statistics, the ethics of the free market system seem to ring true with most Americans, which is why Brooks encourages proponents of liberty to increase their ethical emphasis. This is indeed the goal of RemnantCulture.com.

In the end, the debate currently going on is an ethical one. Will we continue to provide for ourselves and our neighbors, or will we cede that responsibility to the government?

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  • jdwarden36

    It's about individual sovereignty. The right to keep what you created and earned. If you can be self sufficient then you don't need a hand out. The more hand outs that are given the more personal liberty is taken. People are understanding now that unearned comfort is not worth the subjugated liberty. Is it ethical to give hand outs? No, it's not. What does giving something to someone who hasn't earned it teach him about attaining it himself? You are doing more of a disservice to your fellow man by artificially propping him up than allowing him to succeed on his own. The “pursuit” is the hard work one must go through to truly earn their keep.

    “It takes money to earn money.”

    Sure it does. A charitable hand out that allows someone to turn a profit is an investment. If you give someone the means to be more successful at your own cost, and that person makes something out of it, you are both better off. That person will return the favor or not ask for anything else. They will cost you no more money. And that person has attained a sense of self worth and the means to produce wealth and success.

  • jdwarden36

    Don't get me wrong. I meant “not necessarily” Charity is good in strict moderation and not to be doled out lightly. Donating something with no strings attached and having you not gained anything by the end result is the true bastion of sacrifice. Sacrificing for your fellow man is not always a bad thing, but be cautious. Man cannot live on bread alone…

  • jdwarden36

    It's about individual sovereignty. The right to keep what you created and earned. If you can be self sufficient then you don't need a hand out. The more hand outs that are given the more personal liberty is taken. People are understanding now that unearned comfort is not worth the subjugated liberty. Is it ethical to give hand outs? No, it's not. What does giving something to someone who hasn't earned it teach him about attaining it himself? You are doing more of a disservice to your fellow man by artificially propping him up than allowing him to succeed on his own. The “pursuit” is the hard work one must go through to truly earn their keep.

    “It takes money to earn money.”

    Sure it does. A charitable hand out that allows someone to turn a profit is an investment. If you give someone the means to be more successful at your own cost, and that person makes something out of it, you are both better off. That person will return the favor or not ask for anything else. They will cost you no more money. And that person has attained a sense of self worth and the means to produce wealth and success.

  • jdwarden36

    Don't get me wrong. I meant “not necessarily” Charity is good in strict moderation and not to be doled out lightly. Donating something with no strings attached and having you not gained anything by the end result is the true bastion of sacrifice. Sacrificing for your fellow man is not always a bad thing, but be cautious. Man cannot live on bread alone…