Arthur Brooks Shares Life Lessons in Book Talk

Photos by Diane Baldwin/RAND Corporation

May 21, 2019

The problem in American public life today isn’t excessive anger; it’s a culture of contempt. So says alum Arthur Brooks (cohort '96), author of the new book Love Your Enemies. Brooks spoke at Pardee RAND on Friday.

Across the political spectrum, Brooks said, we hear that those who disagree with us are not just wrong, but our enemies—worthless and morally defective. This is warping political discourse, tearing us apart as people, and even wrecking our health. But he said there is a way forward.

"What's the purpose of political discourse?" he asked. "If it's not persuasion, then we can't come together. And if we can't come together, we can't make very much progress. That's a problem, as far as I'm concerned."

Drawing on ancient wisdom, the latest findings in behavioral science, and examples from history’s greatest leaders, Brooks shared his thoughts on how we can rebuild America’s moral consensus, restore a vibrant competition of ideas, reject divisive leadership, and find love in our hearts, not just civility and tolerance, for those with whom we disagree.

He also shared how Pardee RAND influenced him and his career.

"Coming here, learning policy analysis the RAND way, at PRGS, it was such a turning point in my life," he said. "I have to say, just being part of RAND analysis, being part of a cohort of people who shared my views of human dignity and human potential, I just valued that so very highly. If anything good has come of my career, it really started here."

The outgoing president of the American Enterprise Institute, Brooks is also a columnist for the Washington Post, host of the podcast “The Arthur Brooks Show,” and the bestselling author of 11 books on topics including the role of government, economic opportunity, happiness, and the morality of free enterprise. In July he will join Harvard Kennedy School as a professor of the practice of public leadership and will jointly serve as a senior fellow at Harvard Business School.

"I've talked to all different kinds of groups," Brooks said. "Left-wing groups on college campuses, middle-of-the-road chambers of commerce, right-wing activists, everyone. I'll talk to everybody, because I love ideas, I love talking about ideas. Where did I get that? I got that here."

He added, "The idea of being able to talk about my book here at PRGS, at RAND, made me really happy.

"I think that RAND is really living the ideas of this book. The analysis here really does live up to the ideals of this book, and how we can do better in our own lives."