I was blessed to spend this evening at the Acton Institute’s annual dinner event in Grand Rapids, Michigan. For those unfamiliar with Acton, change that now (click here). They are a breath of fresh air in a day and age where the moral foundation of freedom has been abandoned, and the moral superiority of free markets has been forgotten.
Their co-founder, Father Sirico, is a friend and patriot. He is a scholar in Catholic social thought, and perhaps as good of an orator as I have ever heard. He and I shared the podium at an event I did in Newport Beach earlier in the year. Fortunately for me, I spoke before him that evening! The talk tonight was challenging and inspiring. He reminded us that the greatest victim in this present environment is entrepreneurial courage. We do not have the option to wallow in our pessimism. Defeatism will not protect us from the walls of socialism and redistributionism being built right around us. As Hayek said decades ago, moral courage is needed to tow the line for the cause of freedom and markets. I feel grateful this evening to have an ally in this battle in Father Sirico and the Acton Institute.
The keynote speaker tonight was Arthur Brooks, the President of the American Enterprise Institute. His talk forms the basis for my catchy blog title. He carefully walked us through the overwhelming evidence that it is “earned success” that makes people happy. Society is over-loaded with people who have received money via inheritance or the lottery, and sociological and psychological studies have repeatedly affirmed this rather fascinating tenet: People with money who did not earn it are overwhelmingly more likely to say that they are unhappy than people who earned it. Obviously, regardless of the source of one’s prosperity, happiness can not be bought. As people of faith, we know that the human condition is such that mere material comfort can not bring about resolution in what tries men’s souls. But “earned success” – the stimulation of human dignity that achievement and accomplishment represent – does bring about happiness (at least in a statistically significant way).
We are beseiged daily with the class warfarism of the mainstream media and liberal elites who decry the greed and materialism of free market capitalism. The materialists in our society are not believers in free enterprise who are focused on “earned success”; the materialists are the leftists who dare to suggest that the mere redistribution of money is going to make people happy. That, my friends, is base materialism. It is shallow. It is dangerous. And it is destructuve. A worldview that pursues earned success is empirically proven to provide true happiness, for only that worldview respects human dignity.
I picked a fine era in which to be an adult. This is the ideal time for me to uphold the most important ideological tenet in my being. Defending the free enterprise system, rooted in the transcendent truths of God, makes me happy. If the free enterprise system can be adequately defended from its current assault, there will be a lot more happy people as well.