Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, now affiliated with the American Enterprise Institute, is taking a few pages out of an important new book, “The Battle: How the Fight Between Free Enterprise and Big Government Will Shape America’s Future.” Gingrich, who has been excerpting the book by AEI President and social scientist Arthur Brooks in his recent speeches, says the thesis of the tome is that “the new culture war in America is not over guns, gay marriage or abortion, but instead between a socialist redistributionist minority (the 30% coalition) and a massive free-enterprise, work-ethic, opportunity-oriented majority (the 70% majority.)”

Among the key themes of the book is: “Free enterprise is not simply an economic alternative. Free enterprise is about who we are as a people and who we want to be. It embodies our power as individuals and our independence from government. In short, enterprise is an act of self-expression – a declaration of what we truly value – and a social issue for Americans.”

This insight helps explain the paradox of both Austin and Hollywood. How many times if you heard folks on the liberal end of the spectrum say they love Austin but couldn’t live anywhere else in Texas? In the latest issue of Austin Monthly, former Mayor Gus Garcia said the thing he likes most about Austin is “the spirit of liberalism that prevails.”

Do you think these folks recognize one of the reasons Austin has become a magnet for musicians, artists, and other creative individuals is that there is no state income tax and that the cost of living here is half to a third of New York or San Francisco? What is a more powerful form of self-expression than selling your own songs and art and, hopefully, getting to keep the vast majority of what you earn? While some people attribute Texas’ prosperity simply to oil, it is the relative economic freedom in our state policies compared with other states that also helps explain why Austin is rated America’s best city for small business.

While many conservatives have had legitimate bones to pick with Hollywood over the years, conservative author David Horowitz – who founded an organization for conservatives in Hollywood – has argued that the capitalist lifestyle depicted in movies and music also played a role in the desire of Russians and Eastern Europeans living under communism to become more like America. Interestingly, both Bibles and Beatles records were smuggled into communist regimes.

Perhaps the reason economic freedom is a tough sell is you can never prove the great inventions, businesses, and creative advances that would have happened had there been fewer taxes and regulations. But we do know that the free market system does more than just create wealth; it unlocks human potential.

– Marc Levin