Editor’s note: This story is one in a continuing series on Washington, D.C.’s misinformation industry. The series seeks to illuminate the sometimes-misleading methods used by special interest groups to gain support for their agendas from government and average Americans.
When Arthur C. Brooks stepped on stage in December, the influential conservative’s mission was simple, yet ambitious: “If I do my job,” Brooks began his speech, “in the next few minutes I’m going to give you the secret to happiness.”
Standing before large block letters that spelled “H-A-P-P-I-N-E-S-S,” the charismatic president of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, explained how genetics, major life events and choices all contribute to one’s well-being.
Brooks mentioned the importance of forging close relationships with family, promoted charitable giving and emphasized that “money doesn’t buy happiness.”
Nearing the end of his nearly 20-minute speech, Brooks said happiness also depends on … free markets?
“The earned-success system that brings you happiness is the system of free enterprise that lifts people out of poverty,” Brooks said. “Don’t work for the stateism, the collectivism that suppresses this,” he added. “Work for the free enterprise that makes this possible.”
Don’t worry, be happy
Proponents say the free market system encourages investment, stimulates innovation and increases efficiency. But according to Brooks, it also makes you happy and improves your well-being — even if you’re poor.
The message appears to be part of a new public relations initiative spearheaded by America’s most high-profile free-market advocates: Charles and David Koch, the billionaire brothers who have built a powerful political empire based on libertarian principles.
Brooks, whose high-profile think tank receives Koch funding, was recently tapped to serve on the advisory board of the Charles Koch Institute’s “Well-Being Initiative,” which “aims to advance our understanding of the meaning, foundations, and drivers of human flourishing” through research, education and discussion.
The initiative may be billed as a way to explore well-being, but some critics of the Koch brothers are skeptical.
This story is part of Consider the Source. Seeking to ‘out’ shadowy political organizations flourishing in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling. Click here to read more stories in this investigation.
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Copyright 2014 The Center for Public Integrity. This story was published by The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news organization in Washington, D.C.