The Road to Freedom | Arthur C. Brooks

Summary of: The Road to Freedom: How to Win the Fight for Free Enterprise
By: Arthur C. Brooks


Embark on a journey through Arthur C. Brooks’s ‘The Road to Freedom: How to Win the Fight for Free Enterprise’, as we delve into the changing landscapes of politics and the emergence of two distinct groups: the ‘Anywhere’ and ‘Somewhere’ people. In this summary, we will discuss the traits and mindsets that differentiate these groups, as well as their impact on the political climate and recent election results. Learn about the contrasts between Anywhere elitism and Somewhere disenchantment, and how these divisions have real-world implications on issues such as immigration, economy, and globalization. This enlightening exploration aims to shed light on current political developments and the power dynamics at play.

Anywhere vs Somewhere People

The election of Trump and Brexit has highlighted a divide in politics that cannot be explained by traditional left and right labels. The book proposes a new categorization of people’s political views – Anywhere vs Somewhere people. Anywhere people are a minority who have gained a college degree, moved away from their hometown, and define themselves through their achievements and careers. They are positive about globalization and change, while celebrating an escape from community and communal constraints. Somewhere people, on the other hand, mostly stay in their hometown, have lower educational qualifications, and define themselves more through family roles and local attachments and identities. They tend to be more local and less international in their mindset, and are pessimistic about globalization, mass immigration and change in general. This categorization offers a new way to understand contemporary politics and a plea for a less headstrong Anywhere liberalism.

Somewhere People and the Loss of Conservative Norms

The book explores President Trump’s “forgotten people” and their Somewhere mentality, which values loyalty, authority, and sacred concepts. These people feel left behind and believe life was better in the past. While they are not intolerant, they fear a loss of values and community similarity. The book examines how market and social liberalism has transformed America, the UK, and other Western countries, leading to the decline of conservative norms and values. While progress in society is possible, it has resulted in limited places at the bottom that feel worse. To improve integration, the book argues that promoting a common in-group identity is necessary.

The Transformation of the Political Left

Over the years, the political left, known for its inclusivity and acceptance of the “Somewhere voter,” has evolved to become more “Anywhere” in its values and priorities. The goal of creating a world without exclusive communities, including the nation-state, has led to a rejection of discrimination in favor of one’s own country. However, national institutions continue to play a significant role in people’s lives today. The elites’ support for globalization has resulted in the neglect of the working class, as exemplified by the passing of NAFTA. Consequently, the left’s shift towards non-economic progressive causes has left a gap for populist leaders like Trump to fill. The left’s focus is on social issues such as feminism, environmentalism, and rights for LGBT people, immigrants, and minorities, as well as access to university education. To address the causes of populism, the left needs to curb “Anywhere” overreach and pay attention to the working-class once again.

Understanding the Populist Wave

The rise of populism in politics can be traced to a growing resentment among Somewhere voters towards the Anywhere elites who seemed to have stopped fighting for the working class. This frustration was further exacerbated by the 2008 financial crisis, which saw rich bankers being bailed out using taxpayer money. The resulting rebellion against perceived Anywhere liberalism overreach was fueled by new social media technology that bypassed elite filters. However, it is important to note that not all Somewhere ideas should be pigeonholed as racist or ill-informed. The Brexit vote was a manifestation of the desire for political agency and recognition. While national identity has become weaker among the highly educated globally mobile in rich countries, populist movements have grown increasingly anti-liberal, while elites have become secretly anti-democratic. Anywhere elites often ignore public opinion when it suits them using the “political leadership” defense, and dismiss strong signals from voters as “populist,” enabling them to discount or ignore them.

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