Glenn Beck's "Arguing With Idiots" Has an Idiotic Title, but a Lot of Truth

I have a dilemma regarding Glenn Beck.  He's bombastic, and--as he admits--he's a rodeo clown.  But he's also very intelligent.  His latest book, although poorly named, is full of interesting truths and insights.  Many people hate Glenn Beck.  They challenge his personality and some of the causes that he (jokingly) advocates, but they seldom challenge his facts.

Beck can be very uncivil.  But he speaks the truth.  Is that enough reason to keep paying attention to him?

I wondered how a book entitled "Arguing with Idiots" could have any redeeming qualities.  But then I came across a family member's copy over the Thanksgiving weekend, and I began to read. 

I still hate the title. But the book is fabulous.

Besides seldom actually trying to prove whether something Beck says is true or not, one of the greatest misconceptions people have who hate Glenn Beck is that he is a shill for the Republican party.  Beck, besides regularly stating the opposite on his radio and television programs, makes it clear in his latest book that he actually thinks Republicans are worse than Democrats.
Both parties are to blame for the situation we now find ourselves in.  In fact, I think you can make a good case that the Republicans deserve your anger more than the Democrats.  At least most Democrats have been fairly honest about their...agenda.  Republicans have shredded our Constitution while smiling and pretending that they actually care about the principles our Founders stood for.

It has been a very long time since capitalism has been tried on a very large scale in America.  What we have is more of a kind of paternal fascism.  That's why Glenn Beck says that
Capitalism is not good or evil; it's just capitalism. Capitalism hasn't failed.  Greed has failed.  [What has] failed is "soulless capitalism," because success without compassion results in greed and excess--and we had plenty of both.  But that soullessness didn't come out of nowhere, it was bred by a government that continually tries to step i and do the jobs that individual Americans should be responsible for.
And once were responsible for.  The most critical ingredient of capitalism is one that capitalism haters overlook--whether blindly or conveniently, I'm not sure.  Capitalism must be mixed with morality for it to be successful.  A government that rewards some unsuccessful companies--considered "too big to fail"--while ignoring others, is the height of capitalistic immorality.

Do you still think, as faux economist Paul Krugman does, that "increased government spending is just what the doctor ordered, and concerns about the budget deficit should be put on hold"?  I didn't think so.  But in case you're having second thoughts, Beck puts the theory to rest that government spending somehow increases the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by some sort of "multiplier effect":
Noted Harvard economist Robert Barro looked at federal spending and corresponding GDP growth during World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.  In each case he found the "multiplier" to be exactly the same: 0.8.  In other words, for every dollar our government spent, 80 cents was added to our GDP.  Even worse, Barro thinks that wartime spending probably increases the's likely even lower when you try to spend your way out of a recession.

After all, if government spending increases GDP, why don't we just let the federal government take over everything?  And why did the economy of the Soviet Union implode? (Oh, I remember...Ronald Reagan said some really mean things about it and hurt its feelings.)

So...  I dare you.  Ignore the title.  Read the book.  You may go on hating the guy (hopefully we can fix his bombastic idiosyncrasy over time), but I think you'll have a hard time disputing his book.



    So individual Americans should be responsible for making sure banks don't take on too much risk that we are then left to pick up the pieces?

    Beck is one of the most intellectually dishonest people I know.

  2. Governments are to blame for greed? Ridiculous. Even Skousen, Becks hero, claimed that greed is good for the society at large. Our system rewards and glorifies greed and Beck glorifies that system. Or he wouldn't have a job...


  3. Capitalism is driven by greed which as one of the seven deadly sins is inherently immoral. That is the real truth of the matter. Beck is an idiot who tells other right wing idiots exactly what they want to hear. Just agreeing with what Beck vomits over the airwaves does not make it the truth even if he is a Mormon.

  4. With the way he conducts himself in public and his dogged reliance on hotbutton epithets, I have a very hard time taking Beck seriously at all. If you make the world's best soda, then name it Poop Cola and use a bottle shaped like a turd, why would you buy it? That's Glenn Beck in a nutshell.

    At his core, he is a pandering entertainer. Digging through the pandering (which has markedly increased/shifted as he changed networks) to find a shred of sincerity is a near-impossibility. For these reasons, I can't find any reason to consider Beck as much more than the rodeo clown he claims to be.

  5. Marshall: It's ironic that Krugman thinks that wars are good in order to have full employment. What say you that we get a gang together and go blow up about 50 million cars in the United States; the resulting need for car production oughta help GM get out of bankruptcy AND bring unemployment down to almost nothing.

    Huh? Sound like a plan? ;-)

    Joseph: You probably think that Adam Smith thought that greed was good, too. I read that part in Making of America that you suggested I read about Vanderbilt and greed, and that's stretching it quite a bit to say that Skousen advocated greed.

    Jesse: I beg to differ. Admittedly, I don't watch his TV show, but I do listen to his radio program somewhat but fairly regularly. It's easy to ferret out the 90% insight from the 10% rodeo clown. Glenn Beck makes me think. I often research what he's saying, and I generally find what he's saying to be truthful.

    Anon (who called me an idiot): I asked on one of my Facebook threads what was worse--Glenn Beck's supposed divisiveness or the vitriol spewed by those who hate him.

    I think you just gave me the answer.

  6. Krugman wasn't saying war is good, he was saying that there was rationing going on during those periods and we also had full employment.

    "Consumer goods were rationed; people were urged to restrain their spending to make resources available for the war effort.

    Oh, and the economy was at full employment — and then some. Rosie the Riveter, anyone?"

    Thus comparing that to our current situation and to argue policies is not helpful.

    On the other hand I find Beck's ability to turn brain off for so many people quite remarkable.

  7. Frank,

    Please show me, in specific terms (from "The Making of America"), how Skousen and Beck's view does not amount to letting greed off the hook as an ultimate benefit in a capitalist society or as Chomsky puts it "that private vices somehow yield public benefits". Simply appealing to Adams, doesn't cut it.

  8. Marshall: I still don't see the nuance. Maybe it's because Beck turned my brain off.

    Joseph: If, as you seem to be doing, you agree that Adam Smith abhorred greed in order for a capitalist society to function properly (which he did), then I think appealing to him on behalf of Beck and Skousen is perfectly acceptable. Beck and Skousen ascribe to Adam Smith's philosophies. If you don't understand that fact, then you largely misunderstand them.

  9. Beck is right that it is greed which has failed. However, Beck willfully disregards how fundamentally greed is tied to much--perhaps most--capitalist theories, how the models presented by the free market advocates has very deliberately inculcated "soullessness" in capitalism--which makes the concept that it was government which "bred" the soullessness of our strain of capitalism a bit of a hollow claim. I would be much less skeptical about the adoration with which Beck and his ilk revere capitalism if they made more effort to emphasize the need to endow capitalism with compassion, empathy, and kindness. We "overlook" that "most critical ingredient of capitalism" because most of its advocates do.

    (Can one really claim that morality is such a critical ingredient of capitalism if "capitalism is not good or evil; it's just capitalism"? morality is not an inherent ingredient of capitalism, it is an ingredient with which we must imbue capitalism if it is to be successful. We must be clear that capitalism without that morality is as destructive as any other economic system)

    The notion that individual Americans were once responsible for the jobs of protecting and providing for the poor is a bit dubious. Or rather, they may have been responsible for providing for those less fortunate, but evidence does not support that they fulfilled that responsibility better than government has through providing various social safety nets and services.

    As to which is worse, Beck or his detractors, I'd hardly call him any less vitriolic than most of the "haters."

  10. Ok, but it was Skousen who appealed to Adams in favor of greed. I don't doubt that Skousen was wrong in quoting Adams in that context, but either way the idea of benevolent greed is one of the peglegs that conservatism stands on, with evidence from many people including Ayn Rand, John Stossel and Skousen.

  11. Derek says: "As to which is worse, Beck or his detractors, I'd hardly call him any less vitriolic than most of the "haters."" I guess you don't listen to him very much, then.

    Joseph: Stossel? That's a new one on me. Do you have some examples of what you mean?

  12. John Stossel:

  13. Frank, I've mentioned to you numerous times in the past examples in which I've heard him use extremely caustic language, explosive hyperbole, and extremely belittling and demeaning language with callers who disagree.

    btw, your assertion that the detactors "seldom challenge his facts" is also wildly inaccurate. I've frequently challenged his facts, as have many others. The very first time I heard him (this probably would have been around 2002 or 2003), he claimed that the US had never fought for land or territory, "asking only a little ground to bury our dead." I sent him an email pointing out that the Mexican-American and the Spanish-American Wars were both very expressly about accumulating territory. The man's "facts" are as easily disputed as his demeanor.


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