Poverty matters: Arthur Brooks talks about importance of shared abundance without attachments
By Anne Blackbourn
Author provides insight into understanding happiness in capitalist economy
Offering new perspectives on social policy, renowned author and social scientist Arthur Brooks spoke at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery Tuesday about the importance of fighting for free enterprise.
Every year the annual Institute for Research on Poverties’ New Perspectives in Social Policy Seminar aims to reach beyond familiar fields of poverty study and open new paths of methodology. At this year’s seminar, Brooks and Timothy Smeeding, University of Wisconsin public affairs and economics professor, discussed addressing poverty through increasing understanding of shared abundance.
For the past two years Brooks has worked closely with the Dalai Lama to discover new boundaries related to consciousness and the moral importance within the free enterprise system. One of the lessons Brooks said he learned was that the true definition of wealth is having the ability and willingness to help others.
When discussing poverty, Brooks said one must recognize the importance of abundance of wealth. But there are two primary concepts of abundance to understand: the moral importance of abundance and the danger of abundance.
This concept can be applied to helping the poor, Brooks said. While alms for the poor are good for the individual soul, to really help the poor, there needs to be a a system, and the only system that can do this is free enterprise, he said.
“The reason I want you to join me in the fight for free enterprise is because I want you to join me in the fight for the world’s poorest people,” Brooks said.
In addition, Brooks said abundance is dangerous for everyday people as well. People who become attached to material items like money are not as happy as people who invest in relationships and love, he said.
To live a happier life, Brooks directed audience members to give away the material items they are most attached to. The more you give away the richer you become, he said.
Rather than obsessing over the price of indigenous items, Brooks said people should invest more time and energy into indigenous relationships with the people they love.
“We all need to work together to help this system to achieve greater fairness because poverty matters a lot and there is still a lot of it,” he said. “What matters is our ability to help other people. Abundance without attachment is a new way of thinking of things that goes beyond right and left.”
Smeeding agreed with Brooks’ argument that having opportunities is key to decreasing poverty. He said this is possible through globalization, free trade, property rights, rule of law and entrepreneurship.
Smeeding said there needs to be an increase in skills training, employment access and income for the bottom 40 percent of people. If winners in globalization compensated the losers, social upward mobility would be made possible, he said.
“[Brooks] and I have same social goals: opportunity, responsibly and security,” Smeeding said. “We would probably pursue them with different means and emphases.”
Anne Blackbourn is an associate campus editor for the Badger Herald, The Badger Herald is the nation's largest independent student newspaper, serving the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Madison, Wisconsin, community.