March 24, 2016 Print

Political rhetoric can get personal quickly, with each side suggesting that the others are not only mistaken, but actually malicious or evil. People on both the left and the right tend to believe although they have pure motives and good intentions, the other side is hateful and corrupt. If people were to look past their polarizing instincts, suggests Arthur Brooks, president of Atlas Network partner the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), they would find an amazing new opportunity to cooperate on the most effective solution to lifting people out of poverty.

In a TED talk delivered on Feb. 18 at the TED2016 conference in Vancouver, B.C., in Canada, and released online in March, Brooks cited social science research from his friend Jonathan Haidt, a psychology professor at New York University, who studies the ideologies, morals, and values of differing groups of people.

“He has shown, for example, that conservatives and liberals have a very different emphasis on what they think is important,” Brooks said in the speech. “For example, Jon Haidt has showed that liberals care about poverty 59 percent more than they care about economic liberty. And conservatives care about economic liberty 28 percent more than they care about poverty. Irreconcilable differences, right? We’ll never come together. Wrong. That is diversity in which lies our strength.”

It is only when the desire to alleviate poverty is joined with the method of economic freedom that the poor are lifted into prosperity, Brooks continued. These two differing outlooks are not only compatible, they are both essential parts of a strategic whole.

“We need each other, in other words, if we want to help people and get the next 2 billion people out of poverty,” Brooks said. “There’s no other way. … We need to come together around the best ways to mitigate poverty, using the best tools at our disposal, and that comes only when conservatives recognize that they need liberals and their obsession with poverty — and liberals need conservatives and their obsession with free markets. That’s the diversity in which lies the future strength of our country, if we choose to take it.”