Jul 18, 10
Read from June 27 to July 18, 2010
This is a good introduction to some of the tenants of and arguments for modern conservative thought written by someone with a fair amount of power in shaping it on a popular level. Beck is an engaging and accessible writer. Even as someone who has fundamental disagreements with the author and not part of his target audience of white, older, middle-income property owners, I found it a quick and engaging read. In the sense that it was a interesting and readable book, I definitely enjoyed it.
In terms of contents, I had mixed reactions. On the one hand, Beck is right about many of the things he points out as problems. That is to say, things like government corruption, the cult of the expert, and the rotten nature of political parties and incumbency are all problems. And he's definitely right when he calls out politicians and bureaucrats for talking down to people and obscuring issues by saying they're too complicated or need to be handled by experts.
However, there are two major issues with the contents of the book. First, the premise that issues like global warming, the global economy and the US government can all function and be fixed by "common sense" is problematic. One of the things I admire about Beck is his repeated affirmation of his audience's ability to understand and change the world around them as common people - but his definition of what common sense means results in oversimplification of genuinely complex issues with oversimplified answers that, conveniently, are all in line with his brand of conservative thought. So for example, his answer to the federal budget deficit is - well, you wouldn't spend money you don't have, so we need to slash spending and run the government like you run a household. Problem is, the federal government (and the global economy) doesn't run like a household.