It was one of those moments conservatives die for.
“The free enterprise system is itself a blessing, but it has to be predicated on moral living from each one of us,” averred Arthur Brooks, the president of the American Enterprise Institute, yesterday. “Moral living is a practice of compassion and sense of shared humanity.”
The message resonated with at least one attendee. “After to listen [sic] yesterday and to the presenters today, I developed more respect about capitalism,” said the Dalai Lama, who was part of the discussion panel at AEI.
In short, he discovered capitalism is not just about money and exploitation. Imagine that!
The scene wasn’t what you’d expect at a conservative think tank. Brooks was there, with his skinny necktie and hipster glasses. And the Dalai Lama was there with a visor and matching robe. And this is more than mere symbolism. While other conservative opinion leaders and think tankers are contributing to the Republican civil war, AEI stands out as an organization committed to developing and advancing conservative ideas in an inclusive manner — to having a dialogue — to winning converts. The Dalai Lama’s presence (and comments) reflects this.
During a time when conservatives are facing an identity crisis, moments like this offer hope. After all, if Brooks’ message about the moral case for free enterprise can elicit such a positive response from a self-described Marxist, just imagine what it can do for middle America. In contrast to Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” line, Brooks’ more positive message is, as New York Times columnist David Brooks writes, a Capitalism for the Masses.