Dana Perino of Fox News interviews Arthur Brooks

Dana Perino recently interviewed Arthur Brooks for Fox News about his new book The Conservative Heart:

Read an excerpt from this Q&A below:

Dana Perino: I underlined many passages of the book, including the three components of the pursuit of happiness. Could that be flipped around to be the happiness of pursuit, as I recently heard a psychologist describe?

Arthur Brooks: I like that. In the book I talk about the research into whether or not money really buys happiness. Here’s what one study found: once you get a little beyond the middle-class threshold and your household is earning about $75,000 in total, more money hardly moves the happiness needle at all. How different would the world be if everyone whose household earned more than that amount stopped living as though more money would bring them more happiness?

Happiness isn’t found in some finite checklist of goals that we can diligently complete and then coast. It’s how we live our lives in the process. That’s why the four pillars of happiness are faith, family, community and meaningful work. Those are priorities we have to keep investing in.

DP: When you wrote about how conservatives feel about how Obama feels contempt for them, and then suggest what it must be like to put the shoe on the other foot and to think about how conservatives must sound to others . . . that struck me as a useful exercise. When I was the press secretary, I used to imagine President Bush watching the press briefing, and if I thought he wasn’t going to be proud of something I was about to say, then I didn’t say it. I don’t see this exercise as being filtered or restrained; rather, I see it as necessary to be more persuasive to a broader audience. Agree?

AB: That is a great point. I wish that every staffer and operative in Washington would take your advice. And I think the problem goes even further, because many of our leaders and elected officials themselves are arguing on the basis of negativity and division. So many of them feel their short-term interests are best served by impugning the other side’s motives and trying to elevate policy differences to the level of a holy war.

After everyone in Washington adopts your test, they might go a step further and ask themselves: “Would my opponents honestly think what I’m about to say is accurate and fair?” If the answer is no, then the statement might not ring true to voters, either.

DP: You write a lot about the meaningfulness of work, the dignity of work. What do you, as an economist, think we need to do to prepare ourselves for the additional use of robots in the workplace? Because that’s coming, sooner than we may like.

AB: Where technology and the economy are going is tough to say. History shows that human beings are a dynamic, vibrant resource, and innovations rarely create permanent unemployment in a free enterprise marketplace.

With that said, automation should raise real concerns for policymakers. If we believe that meaningful work is an inherent good and a vital source of human dignity — a proposition that underlies all of “The Conservative Heart” — then we need to be more careful than ever that our safety net policies do not decrease access to work for Americans with little experience or formal education.

For example, let’s say we’re trying to help an entry-level factory worker or grocery store clerk support his or her family. If right now the worker is competing directly with a machine for their position, a minimum wage hike is more likely than ever to price him or her right out of the labor market. Better to use a policy like the Earned Income Tax Credit that supplements workers’ wages without destroying jobs. There are a lot of policy solutions like that in the book.

You can read the rest of the interview here.

Interested in learning more about how to share your heart in public policy debates?