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Sunday, August 8th, 2010

Time Event
10:28p
Difficult to read, but thought-provoking ...
Calm down. This is a book that I read last November, and have been putting off reviewing ever since. Why? Well, as any reader of this space knows, I have been in a seemingly unending job search, and “common wisdom” would have it that when one is being eye-balled by potential employers one must be as vanilla as possible, purging all controversy, weakness, and attitude from one's on-line presence, as those HR folks out there are looking for ANY excuse to round-file an application. I can't even begin to tell you what a frustration this has been, as in following this “wisdom” I have stripped away nearly everything which is identifiably “me” in favor of a mask which is as close as I can approach to “ideal employee drone”. I hate this (ooh, one of those no-no words!) but it's the reason that over most of the past year, my personal blog has been so non-personal: I do book reviews, I talk about my posts over on The Job Stalker and rarely dare to profess any opinions beyond something I have enjoyed (or not) in my now-rare ventures into a restaurant. However, a combination of this being the only thing left in my to-be-reviewed pile and the encouragement I found in Jason Fried's Rework, I'm going ahead and reviewing this.

Yes, I realize that Glenn Beck is “the new Ann Coulter”, the media figure that's most likely to make liberal/leftists' heads explode with uncontrolled indignation. Sorry. I'm certainly hoping that anybody considering my resume isn't going to jettison my application due to my not parroting the Big Brother-esque groupthink “hate” against Mr. Beck, although I recognize that in a lot of contexts, this sort of conformity of opinion (non-profits, I'm looking at you), is de rigueur, and that any variance from the “party line” demands extreme response.

That being said, Glenn Beck's Glenn Beck's Common Sense: The Case Against an Out-of-Control Government, Inspired by Thomas Paine is not a particularly easy book to get through. I am a long-time Libertarian, and no fan of big government, or government involvement in commerce or individuals' personal lives, but Beck's view of the world is so grim. The essential take-away from Beck's half of this book (oh, one thing that came as a surprise here was that 55 pages out of a 175-page book was a reprint of Thomas Paine's Common Sense, a wonderful, and essential read, but a “subtraction by addition” in the context of this volume) is that we, as Americans, are totally screwed, and that we are on a course to a dystopia that is likely to look like mid-50's Albania writ large.

I don't suppose that this will be much of a surprise to any who have watched Beck's show on Fox over the past many months … he has the emotional presence of a man who has had his dearest love given a dire prognosis, and is desperate to find a way to reverse the illness. Perhaps I'm some sort of Pollyanna on this, perhaps I'm delusional, perhaps I just don't want to look as deeply into the maw of the beast as Beck does, but I still think that we can pull away from the Statist death spiral that has dragged the country down over the past several years. However, Beck walks the reader through a truly nightmare scenario here, a darkness that America is unlikely to crawl out of, at least in any form that would be recognizable as America.

Beck, does, however, provide one very useful bit of conceptualization here, and that is defining the struggle not being between left and right, liberal and conservative, or even statist and libertarian, but between “PROGRESSIVES” and those who still hold to the vision of the Founding Fathers. This was something of a “lightbulb moment” for me, as it has been a long time since I was able to be even moderately enthusiastic about prominent Republicans, only voting that way out of disgust for the vermin typically representing the Democratic Party. Beck has a great description of this (especially in light of the 2008 election):

The Progressives on the right believed in Statism and American expansion through military strength, while the Progressives on the left believed in Statism and expansion through transnationalist entities such as the League of Nations and then the United Nations. ... Progressivism is why, with few exceptions, Americans feel though the candidates they get to choose from are pretty much the same. Do you elect Progressive candidate A or really Progressive candidate B?
Unfortunately, Beck has the same failing as many of those who would call out the Progressives, the insistence on bringing his “imaginary friends” into the discussion. The main thing that drove me from the Republican Party and into the arms of the Libertarians was the “dominionist” slant which exhibited itself in such madness as forcing Bush Sr. to accept Dan Quayle as his VP … while Beck is a Mormon convert, this same sort of anti-rational vibe is front-and-center (well, it's #2 on the list) in his “9-12 Project”, which he posits as the counter-balance to the Progressive destruction of America. Why can't America have a non-Statist, non-Religious, rationality-based 3rd option?

Anyway, this is a book that should be read by many, but is only likely to be read “by the choir”; and for some, like me, it's a difficult thing to accept. Between Glenn Beck's Common Sense being relatively recent (2009) and the notoriety of the author, it is likely to be available at most larger bookstores (unless “purged” by left/liberal employees, as is frequently the case). However, if you don't want to get into a fight with the commissar behind the counter, you can get this from Amazon for under ten bucks. Again, it's not a fun read, but it is an eye-opening review of what has gone wrong with America, and on that basis, I'd suggest it for those willing to take the effort to chip the gems out of the matrix.


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