George and Harriet: Social Entrepreneurs

Over the last three years I have told anyone who will listen that business has an incredible amount of power to create positive social change. I am constantly reading articles and books that help me to see what is possible, instead of focusing on the despair around us. I am a glass half-full kind of person, and my blog today will reinforce that characteristic.

Although I will be quoting Arthur Brooks this morning, from the American Enterprise Institute (a conservative think tank), I also love reading what Robert Reich has to say on income inequality. The reason I do this is an attempt to find common ground. Brooks does a good job in his book, The Conservative Heart: How to Build a Fairer, Happier, and More Prosperous America, describing what I think is the common ground between liberal and conservative perspectives on the needs of the poor in our country.

Brooks lays out what he calls “five simple facts” concerning our current situation:
1. “Our nation is leaving the vulnerable behind, and Americans rightly find this as unacceptable.”
2. “The War on Poverty has not been successful, and the last seven years have made things dramatically worse.”
3. “Americans know these facts and are instinctively skeptical of conventional large government welfare policies.”
4. “While conservatives have criticized those outmoded policies, they have offered little in the way of alternatives.”
5. “Americans have concluded this is because conservatives don’t really care about the poor.”

I am not too sure I would say the LBJ’s war on poverty is a complete failure, but we have spent $22 Trillion on this war. We do have the same level of poverty as in the past, around 15%, and the most vulnerable are the people most affected by this lack of change. The data shows us that inequality is getting worse with the top economic quintile reaping the greatest rewards, while the poor are still living in the same conditions as the great depression. I do agree with Brooks when he states, “Instead of real solutions and genuine hope, those stuck at the bottom today have been offered class resentment and presidential sloganeering about the evils of rich people and political conservatives.” Although I am tired of liberal sloganeering, I am also tired of conservative sloganeering about the evils of immigration and building walls.

So, what are the solutions? First, I don’t think we should get rid of social programs. Although I don’t think government is the most efficient way of handling things, it does provide a service. Eliminating food stamp programs, and other social help is not what we need. However, if we are only using hand-outs then we are creating a dependency on government which is counter-productive to self-sufficiency and initiative.

As I read the story of Dallas Davis, I was convinced concerning the power of work; work that provides a living wage. Dallas Davis was homeless in New York City. He ended up on drugs and in prison. He would eventually end up meeting George McDonald, who, in response to the death of a homeless woman, started an organization that was both a homeless shelter and a job-training program. “Homeless men – many coming straight from prison – would live in a converted Harlem schoolhouse; learn to work and earn; stay clean and sober; and graduate, ready to enter society as value-creating, values-conscious individuals.” The goal is to help these men “reclaim their lives through the dignity of real, valuable, honest to goodness work.”

Comparing previous shelters with the Doe Fund, Dallas stated, “They always told me what they could do for me. But this was the first time I was told what I could do for myself.” Since 1990, 22,000 people “have reclaimed their lives.” I am curious, though, how many men had to be dismissed from the program?

George and Harriet McDonald began by treating these men as human beings. These men were not invisible; they were seen and treated with respect. One way they did this was by remodeling the Harlem schoolhouse into a warm and welcoming facility, with “a wood-paneled library, classrooms with computers, a recreation room with a big screen TV, and a beautiful patio that overlooks the Harlem River.” This was contrary to what government officials recommended, these officials told the McDonalds that if they made the facility too nice people would not want to leave.

As I read this story, and the principles the McDonalds said they follow, I was convinced that Social Entrepreneurship is an important business activity in the future. So what are those principles? They are Social Entrepreneurs. The following comments describe the principles that the McDonald’s felt were important.

First, people are assets, not liabilities. Liabilities are something we try to eliminate, whereas assets are something we try to develop. The McDonalds saw people sleeping in parks as dormant assets that could improve society. The McDonalds saw people “as assets to society, which meant they can create value denominated however you wish – which is what it means to be made in God’s image.”

Second, “work is a blessing, not a punishment.” Some will go back to the fall and say that due to the fall of Adam and Eve we were punished and sentenced to working by the sweat of our brow. The only problem with that is Adam and Eve worked prior to the fall, they tilled the garden. So work is meant to be a blessing. Work is meant to accompany dignity, and dignity is a result of our choices to be productive.

The third lesson is very interesting. “Values matter most in lifting people up.” I was interested in what values “Ready, Willing, and Able” pass on to the people in this program? Honesty and integrity are primary. Anyone in the program needs to be truthful. Another value is thrift. The Doe Fund, Ready, Willing, and Able; deducts mandatory savings from the men’s paychecks. This money goes into a savings account. This helps each of the men who leave the program to have a nest egg. Another value is personal responsibility. The are required to show up for work every day, and “pay a modest rent out of their pay.“ Doe Fund is teaching these men how to be a head of a household. Lastly, they are learning how to be sober. Obviously drug tests are a part of being in this program, if someone fails they are not kicked out of the program, they lose privileges. There is a strong level of accountability between the men. These men are required to sign a contract which lays out expectations. “The trainees agree to abide by these values. In exchange, the Doe Fund promises to pay, house, and feed them, provide work, education, job placement, and graduate services after they depart.”

The last lesson, that I think is most important, “Help is important, but hope is essential.” George McDonald stated that, “his clients arrive having faced unimaginable hardships, incredible violence, bleak, soul-crushing circumstances from the time they were little children.” Talk about conditioning, and feeling trapped, while wondering why the so-called American dream has passed them by.

I am going to end this blog with a couple of quotes that I found very interesting. In response to values, Brooks states, “Creating a separate set of moral standards according to socioeconomic status is not an act of mercy. It is a crime against the poor. It is an abdication of our social duty to hold one another accountable. It is shameful that our self-styled elites are so afraid to preach the very secrets to success they so readily practice in their own lives.” I have worked hard all my life to achieve what I have achieved, but I also recognize that I have had opportunities that others do not have. So our mission impossible, which George and Harriet accepted, is to create opportunity for people to improve themselves.

The last quote is in response to the comment that those who live in poverty and despair have no ability to capture the so-called American dream. “This is why our approach to helping the poor over the past fifty years has been so destructive: It reinforces learned helplessness instead of combating it. Dozens of assistance programs that seem sensible in isolation add up to an overarching message that nobody intended to convey: You can’t do it, so we’re going to carry you.” This seems to me to reinforce disparity rather than combat it.

Sometimes I get concerned about my students and their inability to connect the dots. There are extremely concerned with the situation of the poor and marginalized, rightfully so, but I think they want to rely too much on government programs instead of creating opportunity for the poor and marginalized. Unwittingly, they are reinforcing what they are fighting against. Don’t get me wrong, I think we need social programs to help those who cannot help themselves, and we need to have hand up programs to help people find the dignity so needed to create value in their own lives. So, as usual the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

And that is my thought for the day!

Thoughts On Entrepreneurship

Summer is winding down. School is ready to start. A change in leadership, which seems to be really good, an unexpected loss of a colleague, starting of new programs, and revising old ones, all point to a very interesting, and difficult, year.

Christine Tokonitz, a faculty member, friend, and colleague, died suddenly yesterday. She was the brains behind our Health Care Administration program, and the heart of our department. She will be missed. Dr. Reginald Nichols is my new boss, and if my meetings with him over the last few weeks are any indication of his leadership skills, I am a happy camper. He is an incredible leader who will help our school rise to its potential.

I am looking forward to the many improvements I have devised for my classes this year. However, the one I want to focus on this morning is the Capstone course for the Social Entrepreneurship major. I don’t want our program to end up like the Moxie Center for Student Entrepreneurship at the University of California. It closed at the end of the June, “having finally run out of other people’s money.” I read about this during my morning reading time.

It appears that a San Diego philanthropist named Irwin Moxie donated $1 million to fund student start-ups. According to Ken Kuang “UCSD no doubt sees the Moxie Center’s 2 ½ year run as a great success.” It helped many young entrepreneurs bring their ideas to implementation. The only problem was the Center did not sustain itself. “The Moxie Center, while promoting the entrepreneurial spirit was run like a charity, in that it didn’t seek any returns on its investments in student’s enterprise.” When I read this, I felt like I awoke out of a deep sleep. Wow, this makes total sense.

Ken Kuang illustrated this failure by noting how the Center was not teaching the students about win-win. “Win-win means that both parties in a transaction come out of it feeling satisfied that they got a fair shake.” What this means is the school should have been investing in these students with the expectation of a return. However, Kuang pointed out some other deficiencies.

It appears that the center was not emphasizing the right things related to running a strong business. Things like profit-and-loss statements, “covering payroll taxes, worker’s compensation, and other basic costs.” There also seemed some issues with understanding overhead costs and how much to pay one’s self. As I read this editorial I pondered what to do with our Social Entrepreneurship program?

Ken’s comments about growing up in China really got me thinking. “Too many U.S. business schools are focused on producing future leaders for big corporations and Wall Street firms – not equipping people to venture out on their own.” I think this makes sense. However, it has been my experience that most students don’t want to venture out on their own.

Ken stated that business schools in China are focused on “the basics of running a small business and how to create a profitable company. They want to pull as many people out of poverty in as short a time as possible, and they know the rising tide will lift the most boats is the small business community.” This is why I think our Social Entrepreneurship program is so important.

Mr. Kuang is doing something about this need in San Diego. He and a few other entrepreneurs are creating internships for budding entrepreneurs. His actions have me thinking. Any entrepreneurial program should involve action learning not just theoretical discussions. I also think the connecting of entrepreneurs with mentors is critical. However, I also think the practice of gift giving is not a good thing. I think a program needs to teach the student about dealing with investors.

I have already made changes to the Capstone project for this year, that I think will improve the process, and now I am planning to do more, which I am sure I will write about over the next few weeks. I am very excited the Social Entrepreneurship program, and I know it will be even better this year. I guarantee it.

And that is my thought for the day!

A Conservative Heart: Almost

I admit it. I love to read. I just purchased Arthur Brook’s new book “The Conservative Heart: How to Build A Fairer, Happier, And More Prosperous America.” I read some quotes from the book, and decided it deserves a look. Brooks creates an argument that the solution to poverty involves “meritocratic fairness.” I like meritocracy, but I do think there are some system issues that need to be addressed so meritocracy can flourish.

I just watched a YouTube explanation of how the Prison-Industrial Complex is being used to maintain the unfair status quo of our social class system. The Prison-Industrial Complex is a “job-creator” and uses “inmate labor to do provide services, thus creating a huge profitmaking endeavor for those that privately own the prisons. The Prison-Industrial System builds fat bank accounts on the backs of inmates for individuals “who are motivated by making profit rather than solely by punishing or rehabilitating criminals or reducing crime rates. Several social activist groups believe this profit making has led to the huge increase in the prison industry and the number of people incarcerated. Most of these folks come from poor inner city situations that continue to exacerbate the problem of poverty in our inner cities. Thus, I agree with what William Galston proposal in today’s paper to create a different debate around this subject of income inequality.

Galston began by describing various solutions for income inequality. “The liberals want to use the government to promote greater financial equality for its own sake; conservatives believe that rewards should follow hard work and merit.” In my opinion truth usually lies somewhere between two extremes, and in this case the truth is in the middle.

First of all, what are the facts? We have been fighting poverty for 50+ years, and what do we have to show for it? Have people’s economic condition improved? The Pew Charitable Trust did a study to see what is happening to people in our country? Are they socially mobile? The study published in 2012 noted that 43% of individuals raised in the bottom income 20% stay there. It also showed, according to Galston, that 70% are stuck below the middle. “By contrast, 40% of those raised at the top stay there, and 63% stay above the middle.” About 4% of people studied actually rose to the top from the bottom. These statistics look at our overall society, what about Blacks?

Galston describes the results as follows, “For African-Americans, the odds of rising are even worse. Fifty-five percent of them born at the bottom stay there, and fully 75% fail to make it into middle class.” The study also shows that 65% of Blacks are born into the bottom income quintile, while only 11% of white Americans are born there.

Income statistics, according to Galston are also very interesting. Men who are born into the bottom quintile will probably earn $34,000 per year, while men born in the top 20% can expect a paycheck of around $105,000 per year. Women have a similar pay gap from $41,000 to about $118,000.

As interesting as those numbers are, the set of numbers that really caught my attention involved single mothers. Richard Reeves was quoted as showing that “50% of children born at the bottom of the income ladder to single mothers end up there as adults, versus only 17% of children born poor but raised by married parents.” 27% of those children raised by a single mother made it to middle class or higher, “compared with 59% of those raised by married parents.”

These numbers are interesting, but, as Arthur Brooks points out, when you set up a system where all of the poor are located in one geographical area, and the families are all led by single mothers, “you compound the disadvantage.” Look at reservations today, the living conditions are atrocious, but we don’t do anything about it.

I go back to my original conclusion there needs to be a partnership between business, government, and the community to create opportunities. I agree with Galston’s comment “Equal opportunity in the U.S. is an aspiration, not a fact.” Therefore, we need to work together to create a level playing field for all to earn their way up the ladder. The community needs to help families be strong, but to do this poor families need resources, which involves the government. But for people to climb the ladder there needs to be jobs. Businesses need to stop looking for cheap labor overseas and recreate living wage jobs here so people can earn a better life.

I don’t believe anyone wants to be given social mobility. I think people want to be able to achieve it through their own labor but it does seem to be a bit more difficult in this day and age.

As President Obama noted, “The American people’s frustration… is rooted in their own daily battles to make ends meet…. The nagging sense that no matter how hard they work, the deck is stacked against them…the fear that their kids won’t be better off than they were… and lack of upward mobility that has jeopardized middle class America’s basic bargain: that if you work hard, you have a chance to get ahead.”

So as Galston ends his editorial, “Conservatives are right to say that if families were stronger, government would be less necessary. But when families are weak and lack resources, either government steps in or children don’t have a fair chance to succeed.” There are many examples across the United States that demonstrates how a partnership between Business, Government, and the Community can work. So instead of fighting lets get in done.

And that is my thought for the day!

The Benedict Option; Is No Option

I have to be honest with you, I have been thinking about dropping out. By dropping out I mean stop using my IPhone, IPad, watching TV, especially the news, and giving up my laptop. I am discouraged about our society, politics, social morality, and generally this earth in general. However, I’ve decided my hope has been misplaced in a fallen system that has no ability to regenerate itself. I have decided that it is best to listen to what Psalm 121:1 says, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.”

David Skeel this morning wrote in the regular WSJ article, Houses of Worship, that “now isn’t the time to flee the public square.” He began the article by discussing the Benedict Option, which calls for Christians to stage a “strategic retreat from the culture.” This reminds me of Ayn Rand’s book “Atlas Shrugged,” where John Galt encourages all the creative and innovative leaders to leave society.

We could say, who is Rod Dreher, just like John Galt, who is calling for this disappearance? “Mr. Dreher, in a series of blog posts over the past several weeks for the American Conservative, has described the Benedict Option as my name for an inchoate phenomenon in which Christians adopt a more consciously countercultural stance toward our post-Christian mainstream culture.” I think it is very evident that we are in a post-Christian culture, so I think this is a relevant discussion to have.

In the early sixth century the Church decided to leave the world and move into monastic life. Subsequently, this has been attempted many times throughout history. In 2006, David Kuo, “a former special assistant to President George W. Bush,” wrote in “Tempting Faith” that he was “advocating that evangelical Christians take a timeout and abstain from politics for a few years.” Another person in 2010, James Davison Hunter, argued the same message. However, we are still here and still participating, and I think we need to continue to do this, but with keeping something in mind.

I understand scripture and its clear picture of the world. The world is fallen. Therefore, we cannot look to Politics, Religion, Capitalism, or Socialism to save the world it is just not possible. In fact, if we look to any of these isms to accomplish this we are practicing idolatry.

Timothy Keller in his wonderful book, “Counterfeit Gods: The empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power,” describes how we have focused on the wrong things thinking they will accomplish what God can only do. As I continue to read his book I am amazed at how accurate his words are. Let me give you a few examples.

Loving one’s country is a good thing, but Keller tells us what Reinhold Niebuhr think of extreme nationalism. Niebuhr stated that “when power and prosperity of a nation become unconditional absolutes that veto all other concerns, then violence and injustice can be perpetrated without question.” I think this is supported by history. Keller references Dutch scholar Bob Goudzwaard to make his point of how this end justifies the means, “Thus a nation’s goal of material prosperity becomes an idol when we use it to justify the destruction of the natural environment or allow the abuse of individuals or classes of people.” Thus we can make politics an idol, and God forbid that politics and Christianity ever become strange bedfellows again.

Neibuhr warned us against making your political philosophy a “saving faith.” We only have to look to recent history to see the reality of this failure. These failures are reflected in the Marxism of Russia, the excesses of Capitalism, and government in general. If we focus our hopes on any of the above, and look to these ideologies as absolutes, this will only lead to disappointment. C.E.M. Joad, states, “It is because we rejected the doctrine of original sin that we are disappointed.”

These ideologies demand total commitment, yet they will never provide peace. Neibuhr “argued that human thinking always elevates some finite value or object to be the Answer.” Keller states, “In Marxism the powerful state becomes the savior and capitalists are demonized. In conservative economic thought, free markets and competition will solve our problems, and therefore liberals and government are the obstacles to a happy society.” The fact is, neither of these extremes are the truth.

Phew, I have righted the ship. Even though I think that business has an incredible ability to create positive social change, I understand what is in the heart of human kind. I don’t trust human systems, but I also think that good can be done through them. I just have to trust my God to work that out. Now my hold is built on nothing less, than Jesus blood and righteousness. I will dare not trust the sweetest frame, but only lean on Jesus name. Yep, that is the truth.

And that is my thought for the day!

Jack Kemp And Bob Woodson: Great Ideas!

A while back there was a gentleman who played profession football. He was a quarterback for NFL teams San Diego Chargers and Buffalo Bills. He was the AFL’s Most Valuable player in 1965, and led the Bills to a couple of championships.

Eventually Kemp went into politics and served nine terms as a Congressman for Western New York and Housing Secretary under George H.W. Bush. He was very successful and well liked, and he considered himself an economic conservative. Although he advocated Supply-Side economics, he did have some pretty good ideas about how to combat poverty.

About thirty years ago Kemp telephoned a gentleman named Bob Woodson. Bob Woodson is an African-American who has espoused the idea that “low-income individuals and neighborhood organizations must play the central role in fixing their communities, and that these efforts benefit from free-market concepts like competition, entrepreneurship, efficiency, and metrics.” Reading about Woodson has been very interesting, especially in light of what the Eastlake Foundation did in Georgia.

Woodson is a “veteran of the civil rights fight,” but “became disenchanted with the left’s devotion to failed government poverty programs.” I wrote about the amount of money that has been spent over the last 50 years with mixed results. $20 Trillion is a lot of money no matter how you spend it. Woodson started an organization, The Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, “which transforms low-income areas from the inside out.” I enjoyed reading about this man and his great work. As a result, I have written down some thoughts.

I think we first and foremost need government policies that don’t create continued dependency on handouts. Mr. Woodson believes the government “has created a poverty-industrial-complex, in which most federal dollars go to those providing the services – the social workers, the drug counselors. That entire structure is hostile to helping the poor, because these folks have their own financial interests.”

I also think Woodson makes sense in how he deals with poverty. He uses local resources, and a process tailored to the community, while using volunteers to get as much money to the needy that they possibly can.

The article I read that brought this to my attention was discussing the need to get this kind of information to the public to create better public awareness of what Republicans are doing to alleviate poverty. I really don’t resonate with that statement, but I really like the process Woodson uses.

A great example of this is what Starbucks has chosen to do. “Starbucks said Thursday it’s opening stores in 15 poor and middle class locations across the United States, including one in Ferguson, MO., as part of its bid to integrate more disadvantaged youths into the workforce.” They plan on opening stores in Queens, South Chicago, and Milwaukee, Wis. Starbucks will be hiring 10,000 youths “who are neither employed nor at school and are at risk of never achieving economic self-sufficiency.” They plan on employing local youth, and will dedicate space to training these young people.

This is also a part of a larger move by several companies to hire or train 100,000 at-risk youths. It seems to me this is the way to attack poverty. I have often wondered why Indigenous Reservations have such a hard time with poverty, gangs, and drugs. One of the answers that I have come up with is what kind of of opportunities do the people who live on the Rez have?

I think the Rez is just like our inner cities. And for a war on poverty to be successful, we can’t fight it from a central position in Washington, D.C., we need to fight it where it is actually happening. And we need to start doing this when people are young enough to break the cycle of poverty. Creating job opportunities that pay a livable wage is the way to do it. There is power in business to create positive social change.

And that is my thought for the day!

The Pope And Unbridled Capitalism

I like Pope Francis. I am not Catholic, but I do like this Pope. I agree with many of his social comments. It is being reported that “Pope Francis appealed to world leaders on Saturday to seek a new economic model to help the poor, and shun policies that sacrifice human lives on the alter of money and profit.” He also mentioned “Corruption is the plague, it’s the gangrene of society.” Great comments, however, I hope he is not looking for politicians to lead this charge, because their track record is not particularly good. In fact many of our politicians are in bed with the greedy capitalists who are being blamed for all of the world’s ills.

Don’t get me wrong, greed and corruption are evil, but to say that a particular economic system, one to favors owning private property is the cause of all of our social ills, is an incorrect assumption, one that ignores the spiritual reality of the fall. But, I do agree, “Putting bread on the table, putting a roof over the heads of one’s children, giving them health and education” are essential for human dignity. However, I think it is also critical that people are able to do meaningful work for a livable wage.

Over the last fifty years we have spent $20 Trillion on the war-on-poverty. We are now looking at approximately 50 million people in the United States who live below the poverty line. This has been defined as an annual income of $23,492 for a family of four. However, if I were investing as much as our government has and not see any changes I would want to look at what I was investing in. Daniel Henninger said this about our anti-poverty programs, “Arguably it is true that because of these anti-poverty programs, the black Americans who have lived for generations in virtually the same housing projects and attended the same schools – in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Harlem, the Bronx, Watts, the South side of Chicago, North City in St. Louis, Camden, North Philadelphia, Cleveland’s east side and in what’s left of Detroit, remain reliably Democratic voters.” I am not focusing on the comment about Democratic voters, I am focusing on 50 years of a lack of success for the overall program dealing with poverty. Obviously, many have worked their way off of the poverty list and many have gone on to the list. But, the fact is we have spent a lot of money and nothing has changed. Is this capitalism’s fault? I don’t think so. I think it is a failed political program.

We need more programs like Portland Leadership Foundation that are giving people from disadvantaged positions in society the skills they need to be successful. We need to tackle the inner city problems with better education and job skill training to allow people to improve themselves, not rely on big government to give them handouts. People need a hand up.

Los Angeles is contemplating raising their minimum wage toe $15, similar to Seattle. LA is home to many garment manufacturing companies. These companies are now going to move their operations from LA to places unknown. This is a tragedy. So where are the tax incentives to encourage these companies to stay in LA? If the government is going to force wage increases instead of allow market forces to drive them up, then they will need to give these companies incentives to keep them in LA, or they will move to lower their costs.

You see, the powers that be operate from a particular paradigm. The left operate from tax and spend, and the right operates from individual incentive, and neither of these will get he job done. So we need to figure something else out.

The definition of insanity is to continue to do the same thin and expect different results. It is now time to stop bashing Capitalism, and focus on the real problems of greed and corruption. These are both products of a fallen nature. It is time to create innovative solutions to these huge problems, because when everyone works, then they can climb out of poverty.

And that is my thought for the day!

A Moral Understanding Of Wealth

I have to admit, I love watching a good movie. I like when it makes me laugh, when it makes me cry, and when the movie causes me to think. I recently watched a movie titled “The Outsider.” It starred Naomi Watts, one of my favorite actresses, and Tim Daly, who I love in Madam Secretary. In this movie Watts was a plain woman of the Amish faith, and Daly played a gunslinger. They fall in love, (she is shunned by her faith group) but at they end both plain woman and gunslinger come to a new found understanding of faith. Cheesy but fun!

A key moment in the movie is when Watts realizes, after marrying Johnny, that she no longer heard the music of nature. It happens because she falls into sin, and loses the ability to ear the music. To me this was very sad, and I think it reflects many today who are losing their ability to hear the music, as many are leaving the faith. That will be another blog entry. For today, I want to focus on the term music, at least as it applies to “Playing the Music of Capitalism.” I read this very good article the other day. It explored the conservative think tank, the Enterprise Institute, which I plan on becoming more connected with. The person that is leading that organization is Arthur Brooks. I have read his work, and find his arguments compelling. I’d like to share a couple of thoughts with you.

Brooks made a very interesting comment, “Our side has all the right policies, but without the music, the public just hears numbers, and we have no resonance.” In context he is talking about the ability of people to rise above their current situation. His point is that providing an opportunity for people to work and accomplish things is the right policy. However, I do think their needs to be strong social safety nets, but I agree that we need policies that help people achieve.

In the article there is a great example of what happens when we rely too much on government. The article discusses a Soviet Union poster from 1964 which displayed one worker who is drunk “scratching his head as he looks at the one-ruble note in his hand,” and the other worker, which “is a hale and hearty type proudly looking at the ten rubles he has earned. The caption: Work more, earn more.” We are talking about the Soviet Union, and this demonstrates to me the futility of big government and loss of incentive.

Brooks makes a great point, “In some ways, the Soviet poster serves the great AEI mission that began with its founding in New York in 1938: to cultivate a greater public knowledge and understanding of the social and economic advantages accruing to the American people through the maintenance of the system of free, competitive enterprise.”

Many times the conservative message lacks what Brooks call music, or emotional resonance. “Its what he means by the music. It begins by emphasizing that those who benefit most from freer markets are the have nots: those without inherited wealth, prestigious credentials, social or class advantages – in other words, people whose only hope for a better life is a social order that will reward hard work and enterprise.” All over the world economic development has helped people escape extreme poverty.

Brooks argues, “Capitalism has saved a couple of billion people and we have treated this miracle like a state secret.” I, for one, believe in the power of business to do social good. Many people, through entrepreneurism and hard work, have lifted themselves out of horrible social conditions. I still believe in the Horatio Algiers story.

Sometimes we drink the Koolaid, and believe that working hard is a bad thing, and we just need more help from the government. Arthur Brooks states, “Capitalism succeeds not because it is based in greed, but because the freedom to trade and do business with others is in harmony with our God given nature.” Although I have a problem with connecting God with politics or money, I think he has a good point.

Are there problems with Capitalism? Absolutely! People are fallen and therefore use something than can produce good for evil. Making money is not the only thing that is twisted and made bad.

I still believe in the free market and I still believe in our country.

And that is my thought for the day!