There’s been a string of celebrity commentators whom I’ve enjoyed in other media, but I didn’t like their books. I enjoy listening to Rush Limbaugh on the radio, but I didn’t enjoy his book. I loved hearing Charlton Heston speak, but I didn’t love his book. Now I can add national radio and television host Glenn Beck to this list.
I like watching him on TV, but I didn’t like his book “Glenn Beck’s Common Sense: The Case Against an Out-of-Control Government, Inspired by Thomas Paine.” Since the previous book I read before Beck was John Locke’s “Two Treatises of Government,” anything not written in 17th Century English was refreshing. But as I think back about Beck’s “Common Sense” though, I can’t really recall any new ideas that I took away from it.
Where Beck shines is when he details what he calls “The Cancer of Progressivism.” Here Beck doesn’t just bash the Democrats. He shows how both political parties are steeped in the ideology of the progressives (who some might call liberals or statists). He includes some telling quotes from Republican President Teddy Roosevelt who believed that private property was “subject to the general right of the community to regulate its use to whatever degree the public welfare may require it,” and continues on to George W. Bush’s big government policies. Beck has strong political convictions and is not just a schill for the GOP, even if his opponents may try to paint him that way.
The book also contains a copy of Thomas Paine’s 1776 classic “Common Sense.” Since I had read Paine’s work many years ago and time is short, I didn’t reread it this time. As I recall, in it Paine spends a lot of time explaining why hereditary monarchy is not a good form of government. Although I hope every American will read Paine’s work at least once, to many modern readers it will seem like… well, common sense.
In general, if you’re looking for a primer on small government and constitutional thought, I would forgo “Glenn Beck’s Common Sense” and pick up a copy of “The Revolution: A Manifesto” by Dr. Ron Paul. I’ll continue to enjoy Beck where he excels: on TV and radio.