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Are national conservatives right to be pessimistic about America’s future?
Plus: What to do about the challenges blue collar workers face; and helping those classical liberalism leaves behind
How freedom achieves progress: In the last FREOPP Highlights, we reported on FREOPP’s Freedom & Progress conference, held earlier this month, and shared video of a panel discussion about the midterm elections. This issue, you can catch up on the conversations from three other sessions. In the first, FREOPP President Avik Roy addresses arguments made by national conservatives whose writings and speeches are marked by a profound pessimism about the American people. Their focus on political power and cultural and national identity have led them to believe that economic and personal freedom are, as one prominent natcon put it, “dehumanizing.” Avik counters that America’s exceptionalism is rooted in those very freedoms and that they are the best—and perhaps only—means by which we can overcome the very real challenges Americans face:
Our values will win in the end. Because our values are about believing in the potential of every American to do something meaningful with his life, regardless of race or gender or wealth. The far left and the far right both believe that some Americans deserve to be left behind. Let them focus on punishing their enemies. We’ll win because we’re more focused on making new friends. Our opponents can’t compete with that, because they have such visceral disdain for so many of their countrymen. … It’s time for us to remember what has truly made America great: to know that, regardless of who they voted for on Tuesday, Americans want freedom and opportunity as much as we want it for them.
→ Avik’s comments begin at 5:24, after an introduction from FREOPP’s Chairman Jonathan Bush. In his comments, Jonathan summarizes FREOPP’s vision for expanding economic opportunity for those who least have it and recaps several important wins from the past two years.
The blue-collar agenda: Life expectancy for Americans without a college degree is declining due to what scholars Angus Deaton and Anne Case call “deaths of despair:” suicides, alcohol, and drug abuse. The problem is especially acute in working-class and rural regions. These Americans feel unheard by a political system influenced by highly educated elites in New York, Washington, and California. In a Freedom & Progress panel discussion hosted by The Washington Post’s Henry Olsen, Judge Glock of the Cicero Institute, Matthew Klein of FREOPP, and Ryan Streeter of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) discuss policy solutions that will help make blue collar workers better off. They debate trade and protectionism and identify specific problems like rising inflation and the burdens of the regulatory state that disproportionately affect the working class. They also discuss the aspects of the narrative around blue collar workers that journalists and policymakers are getting wrong and emphasize the importance of economic dynamism to improving outcomes for low-income Americans.
Not convinced that inflation is a particular problem for the poor? Check out FREOPP’s Inflation Inequality Indices, which quantify why lower- and middle-income households are more harmed by rising prices.
Who has classical liberalism left behind? Classical liberalism—the values of individual and economic liberty, social toleration, and empirical rigor—has helped make America the wealthiest country in the history of the world. But not every community has shared equally in America’s success. Avik moderated a Freedom & Progress conversation between Matthew Continetti of AEI, David Frum of The Atlantic, Marshall Kosloff of The Realignment podcast, and David Nott of Reason about the blind spots of the classical liberal movement and the strongest arguments of national conservatives on the right and progressives on the left. The panel especially debated the social and political consequences of free trade and protectionism while agreeing that many of the most common criticisms of classical liberalism are not the most fair or important ones.
Thanks for keeping up with FREOPP, and have a great weekend!
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