This past weekend, I attended the American Enterprise Institute’s Purpose and Prosperity Conference. It was an excellent experience, teaching me a great deal about how to combine faith, economics, and public policy. I have often heard, “If Jesus was here today, he would be a Marxist.” This conference, in fact, proved the opposite. There were three major takeaways from this conference that I would like to discuss in further detail…
1. We need a more limited government.
The above quote by Dr. Andrew G. Biggs illustrates this perfectly.
Dr. Michael Greve, the John G. Serale Scholar at AEI, described how the New Deal not only expanded the federal government, but local and state governments as well. This, he explains, contradicts the ideal of competition between the states (the original intent of federalism). His advice? “Either let the feds run something or state and local governments run something, but don’t let them do it together and at the same time!”
Dr. Kenneth Green, a resident scholar at AEI, explains how nuclear and coal energy’s efficiency ratings are higher than wind (90%, 80%, and 20% respectively). Despite these well-known facts, the government continues to throw billions of dollars into “clean-energy” sources.
All three of these speakers help me to realize that just because the government can do something, it does not mean it should, nor that it is the best possible solution.
2. Faith and politics need not be mutually exclusive.
Dr. Arthur C. Brooks, the president of AEI, articulates this most clearly: “Morality and capitalism, like morality and democracy, are intimately connected and mutually complementary. They reinforce one another; the need one another; and they are terribly diminished without one another. They are links in a golden chain.” In his book The Road to Freedom, Brooks uses countless examples to create a moral argument for capitalism.
Free-market advocates are often criticized for being cold and uncaring, and that is something that must be changed. I am a free-market advocate because I truly want to help the poor. If I supported any other system, I would be deliberately choosing to go against my conscience as well as my Christian values. No system embodies these values more than a free-market system.
Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas gave the most inspiring speech of the conference. Detailing his battle with cancer and his struggle with priorities in his own life, he advocated making Christ the center of everything. Politics and religion should not be mutually exclusive, especially if we are trying to reflect God in our everyday lives. Governor Brownback also discussed the importance of love. Judging someone, he argues, ruins any chance of getting to know them: “They can have a completely different worldview, and we can still do extraordinary things together.”
3. There is hope for our country.
In my experience at AEI, I did not just learn from the lectures. I also learned from my interactions with people. I had the pleasure of meeting intelligent students and professors from across the country that were truly striving to serve the Lord in the best way they possibly can. The staff members at AEI were inspirations to my future.
I had a special chance to meet Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD). At 86 years old, he is serving his 10th term in Congress. Congressman Bartlett has spent his entire life fighting for the principles of the Constitution and his faith, setting an excellent example for his ten children, seventeen grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. This past week, he has woken up at 6 and often been working until midnight every day. Congressman Bartlett accepts the difficult job and long hours because he truly wants to serve his country.
Perhaps the most impacting moment of the entire weekend was during a break, while I was outside the Supreme Court. A Catholic protest against ObamaCare’s contraception mandate came down the street, marching peacefully to the steps outside the building. The police not only protected their right to assemble, they helped them cross the street to avoid any injuries! We live in a special country. Not only are we allowed to express our political and religious opinions, we are encouraged. My time at AEI helped me to realize that we can often express both types of opinions at the same time.