Sunday, March 3, 2013

Why Glenn Beck Should Shut Down His Television Show

Jack Hunter recently appeared with Glenn Beck on a Beck television set, as part of a panel discussion (see the clip below). For the audiences viewing pleasure in the background of the set (see the 3:50 mark) was a huge, softly lit poster of the monster Abraham Lincoln (paging Thomas DiLorenzo)

That was far from the only low spot. Beck has been pretending of late that he is either A. a libertarian or B. trying to understand libertarianism. The show started with a discussion about the legalization of street drugs. Beck's addition to the discussion can only be described as a train wreck.

Beck created a bizarre straw man. With a little help from another guest on the show, Zak Slayback, Beck argued that if street drugs were legalized, the access to the drugs would cause many more to become homeless, and thus become a drain on the rest of us.

Here are the problems with Beck framing the argument this way.

1. A black market exists in street drugs. The druggies are already getting their drugs. Beck's implication that a new massive rush of druggies would hit the streets suggests an inability to  recognize reality. I repeat, the druggies are getting their drugs, now.

2. The cost of street drugs is very high precisely because they are illegal and carry severe penalties for selling them. It is dangerous to be a street dealer. If drugs were legalized, the prices would plummet and you would have less homeless, not more.

This is libertarianism 101. Beck is far from close to understanding libertarianism if he gets himself tangled and confused on this basic libertarianism stuff.

3. By introducing the argument that more homeless would result if drugs were legalized, in addition to problem 2, Beck creates a further complication because he argues these new druggies (which don't exist) will want government services and the libertarians will have to deal with those who want to provide welfare type services to these new druggies. Let's just assume for a minute that the legalization of drugs does cause more druggies that become homeless. Beck is now arguing that we shouldn't advance the legalization of street drugs because we will then have to argue against more welfare-type services. What freedoms would Beck like libertarians to advocate? We can't argue legalization of drugs and apparently in Beck's world we can't argue against welfare. In other words, Beck seems to want to be a libertarian that doesn't want to object against the current system, at all. How is that libertarian in any way? Jacob Hornberger, another guest on the show, correctly argued that libertarianism should be about advocating freedom. He pointed out that there is no inconsistency in arguing in favor of the legalization of street drugs and advocating the abolishment of welfare. Beck gets none of this.

Beck then goes on to frame another problem by way of a  massive aggregation. He warns about theocracies, whose goal it is to behead Americans. I am not making this up. He is concerned with some outside government that wants to "control us" and "behead us."

I note, he makes this argument while sitting in the middle of a country that has the greatest incarceration rate in the world. What country wants to control people, Glenn?

The libertarian ideal is to recognize the non-aggression principle. We deal with those who do us harm, beginning and end of story. Libertarians are not advocates of invading Iraq, Afghanistan or Iran or some other theocracy. On a practical level, the United States is the most powerful military force in the world. Does Beck seriously think these countries are somehow threats to America?

If there are operators in these countries that want to maim and kill us, then they should be stopped, like Christopher Droner was stopped, on an individual basis.  (Though, perhaps, with greater respect for judicial process than was displayed by government officials in the Droner killing)  Or does Beck think the Army should attack the LA police and the US marines because Droner was trained to kill by them?

Bottom line: Beck is no libertarian. Despite what Jack Hunter says about the matter. Hunter writes:
If someone was trying to pass off big government Bush-style conservatism as libertarianism, I’d be the first to go on the attack. But that’s not what’s going on with Beck. He attacks that era and the Republicans who screwed up the country. He says he was completely wrong in his former support of the Patriot Act (when does a national talk host ever say they are wrong about anything?). He says we can’t police the world. He’s even said that the answer to the same-sex marriage question is to remove the state from the equation altogether. 
He says he absolutely loves Rand Paul. [Jack, this Rand Paul?-RW] 
And we should especially want those with a microphone as loud and as far reaching as Glenn Beck’s to come our way.

The last thing we need is someone with a microphone as loud as Beck's posing as a libertarian, or pretending to search for libertarian answers, when he sees threats to the United States from theocracies and can't even get the basics down on the libertarian anti-drug war argument.

The man should shut his show down and take time to understand libertarian thinking.

He should read:

 For A New Liberty by Murray Rothbard

The Ethics of Liberty by Murray Rothbard

Defending the Undefendable by Walter Block

Once he has absorbed these books, he should only then relaunch his show. He may then not agree with libertarian positions, but he will at least, hopefully, understand them.

Hunter writes:
During our appearance, Beck told me, Jacob and Zak that he’d like The Blaze to be a platform to promote libertarian leaders and ideas. He noted, correctly, that none of the other major outlets are covering this stuff adequately, or framing the debate correctly. He’s 100% right.
If Glenn Beck wants to help us, we’d be fools not to let him. If the advancement of liberty is the goal, he could be an important ally. If purity is the litmus test, we will never have any allies–and each of us should resign from this movement effective immediately.
Yeah, well Jack, if Beck presented the libertarian position that would be great. He's not. He doesn't understand it. At this point, he can't be a platform for libertarianism. He can only be a platform for confusion, starting with that damn stupid Lincoln poster on his set, next to the poster of that other evil monster Teddy Roosevelt.

What's the deal with those, Jack?  How is he, as you put it, attacking "that era and the Republicans who screwed up the country," when he has banners of two of the most evil Republicans the country has ever witnessed, hanging right behind your head on the set?


  1. I went through a Glenn Beck phase on my way to anarchism. I even bought one of his books. Then I found RP which led me to Mises and Rothbard.

    Now I look at Beck and laugh. I realize he's a caricature. Sure some of the things he says are good to hear in the MSM, but he's just profiteering and doesn't truly understand the ideology.

    That's why when he gets exposed so easily. He has a platform where his brand of "libertarianism" doesn't get challenged. However, when confronted by someone that does understand the philosophy he's shown to be a charlatan.

    Jack Hunter turned out to be in Jesse Benton's group. I liked Jack Hunter at one time as well until I realized he had all the same qualities of a Beck or Benton. Hunter is also a Randian. He'll be on his 2016 staff in some form or fashion.

  2. Your post is not "libertarianism 101".

    It is praxeology and thymology 201.

    Libertarianism 101 contains arguments of individual liberty, rights, etc.

    1. Duh, libertarianism is based on an understanding of praxeology and thymology, among other disciplines. The conflict you suggest doesn't exist.

    2. Have you ever noticed how much of a sausage fest libertarian events are? It is because of people like you who believe that libertarianism is based on economics, which usually does not attract women (regardless of 'school'). Libertarianism is based in natural rights and freedom of choice, well beyond just economics.

      On what economic grounds is the non-aggression principle founded?

    3. So if we stop talking about economics, libertarian events will become infested with women all of a sudden? I have my doubts.

    4. So.... Political philosophy is all about getting LAID???
      Come to think of it, sounds like my college days...

    5. That is a terrible argument, my friend. The world is not extreme, black and white thinking. Promoting freedom of choice, equal rights for all, etc, it is a much more rounded and appealing message than free markets.

    6. @Capn Mike - dude, you are aware that women, like, vote and stuff?

  3. Beck is just another conservative who tries confuse the libertarian message for those who still get their news primarily from the MSM.

    The tactic is simple, prop up jackboot loving conservatives who say they love Ayn Rand and want to end the fed and call them libertarian. Then when actual libertarians go on the show (such as Jacob Hornberger), Beck attempts to portray them as crazy anarchists and such. It's another reason why libertarians need to stop wasting their time with conservatives. Fusionism is a joke and thankfully its dead.

  4. When Glenn Beck was at his peak in 2009, I watched his Fox show every day. I did this because I did not understand Beck and due to his influence I wanted to understand him, as we was particularly influential on local Republicans with whom I was volunteering with. Here are some key things I observed about his TV show (note that is the only place I ever observed Beck - never read his website or listened to his show):

    Beck appears to be on a quest for the ultimate truth through reading and research. With this premise, he set his show up such that he could open a show and tell his audience to forget everything they ever learned because what he discovered last night or today demonstrated it all to be wrong. To me, this is very dangerous and rings of the scene in 1984 when the orator, in the middle of his speech, swaps the enemy and the ally of Oceania.

    Beck appears to use the same logic as those of freedom minded peoples, and gets many facts right, yet somehow consistently comes to completely wrong conclusions. For example, he states there is no 'left' vs 'right' and that the real scale has totalitarianism on one side and anarchy on the other side. (I feel this is fairly accurate, but would be curious to hear the opinions of others.) He then places the Constitution closer to anarchy than to totalitarianism, which is wrong.

    Beck always has a long reading list for his audience to read. The rate that the books are recommended is far beyond any employed individual's ability to read. It is also often presented as a challenge to get the book to the top of the Amazon or NYT best seller's list. With such a long list of assigned reading, how many other books will the audience choose to read? I suspect not many, thus keeping out influence from non-Beck-approved sources.

    Beck demonstrated very little grasp of basic economics throughout the show.

    I saw Beck gaining some interest from my 'moderate' friends, but as soon as he announced his uber-religious events, I knew it was over for him. I have found that moderate types, even ones who are religious, are very turned off by personalities that put religion as a key part of their message. Sure enough, after that summer in 2010 when he had those various religious based events that he heavily promoted, I observed that his influence declined. I'm not sure if that's why Fox pulled his show, as I feel that has more to do with his promoting of events that competed with Fox.

  5. I set Jack Hunter up with a local radio station right on the eve of the Republican primary here in SC...he absolutely got his ass handed to him by a "call in" in our rinky dink Columbia market, and couldn't even pull off an opportunity to convincingly make Ron Paul's case to the average voter.

    Some of Jack's youtube video's are decent, but the reality is in the big picture Jack is nothing more than a statist at heart. He's similar to the Republican's that him and Beck claim to disdain in that gov't is "good" when run by their ideas/notions of what it should constitute. They can't even accept the basic premise that some of the founders came to; which is that gov't is inherently evil.

    So in essence, I can't even say Jack is a minarchist...I don't know what the hell he is...but I do know he's not Libertarian.

  6. That's a good short reading list. Here are a couple of other books that should be part of GB's reading:

    F. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom

    R. Higgs, Crisis and Leviathan

  7. Its good that posts like this come forth. Jack Hunter (a career political opportunist) and others are working hard at preventing young people from straying off of the political party farm. This act with Glenn Beck is just the latest in statism with a twist.

    Beck can learn all about real libertarianism any time he wishes. He can read.

  8. Why Glenn Beck should shut down his show? Because he is a statist and horrible libertarian? Yes, he keeps spouting off incorrectly about what libertarianism is, but why should he shut down his show because of it? That would be like telling NBC to shut down its Thursday night comedy night becuase Guys with Kids isn't funny [it isn't]. Or someone saying that you should give up the blog because you have a bad IP position [you shouldn't and you do]. His show isn't just a "libertarian" show [although he has been talking about it a lot recently].

    1. Beck is a stepping stone on the path to libertarianism for a lot of people. That's all.

      Remove one stone from the path, and we risk losing those people at the final objective. How many hundreds of thousands listen to Beck? Will they hear Rothbard, Mises, and Hayek mentioned? Maybe. Hornberger, Woods, Rockwell? Perhaps.

      And that's all it may take for our ranks to swell.

      We cannot expect ALL "libertarians" to be pure. We must accept that libertarianism is a becoming, is a path, a journey; and that even we who have been in the movement for years are still on that journey.

    2. Glenn Beck is trying to destroy Libertarianism. This should be obvious to anyone who pays any attention to what he has to say. He is empty and evil, made of the same ilk that spawned Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. I remember when he had some southern baptist pastors on his show in the run-up to his Godfest(and I am a Christian, to be clear--Glenn Beck is NOT) and when they pointedly stated that they believed that God was using him, poor Glenn went completely pale. Maybe for just a second the idea that he was not only selling of his BS so successfully but that he himself might even be believing it was a real

      He is an extremely dangerous person.

  9. Beck has not learned anything, if he's still confused about libertarianism. After watching this 12 minute clip, whether purposely or not, he is trying to disassemble something, not join it. He cannot have discovered either non-aggression nor self-ownership as guiding principles, or conversations like this would not even take place. He can say whatever he wants, and maybe he's transitioning slowly, who knows, but as of now Beck is still a neocon in my book.

    1. I agree, but his degree of "neo" has diminished. He's becoming more conservative, and in so doing is moving closer to libertarianism.

    2. Nonsense. Conservatives ("neo" or otherwise) are no closer to liberty than any other variant of statist. A libertarian rejects all violence against the innocent. Conservatives worship the military and the police, the actual iron fist part of the state. Conservatives simply use a lot of "liberty-sounding" rhetoric, but don't mean it at all.

      Those who reject the use of violence against innocent people are alone on one side of a great gulf of ideology, with EVERY form of statism on the other side. For those who refuse to reject the use of violence against the innocent in order to get what they want, there is no variant that is "closer" to liberty. The only thing that differentiates them is what they want. The evil means they're willing to employ to get it (what they want) is the same.

  10. I doubt that he's "confused". His goal is probably to turn "libertarian" into another political label advocating central planning, despotism, and war. Freedom to choose becomes meaningless when the only permitted choices are identical. There's no cause for concern though, because the Randroids already did this.

  11. Beck said that he wanted to French kiss Rick Perry because Medina wouldn't go on a rant decrying "9/ll Truthers".

  12. Glenn Beck said that he could "French kiss Rick Perry", after hearing that Debra Medina wouldn't condemn "9/11 Truthers".

  13. Beck's confusion is not misguided Libertarianism, it's perfectly consistent institutionalized evangelical Christianism. His religious beliefs, which he wears on his sleeve daily on the radio (I listened once), require certain imperatives which, viewed through the prism of Libertarianism appear confused, but which they are able to resolve through the appeal to faith, which trumps all logical appeals. His position on the "war on terror" is the easiest to see this way, but the objection to legalizing "drugs" is also predicted by this theory (see Sam Harris, The End Of Faith for a full analysis of religious objections to drugs). Evangelicals believe "drugs" - which means specifically those popular substances marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and meth - are corrosive to social unity, and to the "souls" of those who indulge in them. All of Beck's seemingly loopy positions can be squared through his Jesus devotion. Which is why he is, as a public figure, supremely uninteresting.

    1. Beck is not an evangelical Christian (or any other kind) - he's a Mormon. And Hunter is a puke. Ronald Reagan is the litmus test - Hunter loves Reagan, who was a socialist masquerading as a conservative. Hunter's true colors as, at best, a Republican, have been known for a long time.

    2. I see. It's an interesting mistake to have made. For the point, it looks and sounds like the denominational details don't really matter. The LDS church "evangelizes" too. They require mission effort. Acceptance of Jesus as the savior. Division of the world into us and them. Etc. It is still the case that Beck endorses the "war on terror" because of his religious belief that Islam is antithetical to [whatever flavor of] Jesus devotion. His objection to drugs is religiously motivated. The widespread perception of him among many ethnic groups that he is racist is not helped by his public endorsements of a religious belief strongly associated with white people (if I could not differentiate his Mormon Jesus-speak from Evangelical Jesus-speak, I wonder how many casual viewers and listeners - and how many knee-jerk enemies of his - don't know either). As with the Tea Party, the foundation value system is rooted in institutional domination and congregational submission, and Beck's policy preferences, extended to their logical conclusion tend to a shape of government which mirrors that basic structure. Whatever it's called, I'm grateful that Beck has chosen one of the more obscure versions of the Jesus cult, since that choice will marginalize his influence over time.

    3. As pointed out, Beck is Mormon. Though Mormons use a lot of the same words as Christians, their "Jesus" is a completely different person than the Jesus of the Christian New Testament (for one, the Mormon Jesus is the brother of Lucifer).

      For that matter, so is the "Jesus" of mainstream American Christianity (whatever its variant). Unlike the "American Jesus", the Jesus of the New Testament preached non-violence; turning the other cheek (literally); praying for and doing good to those who persecute you, not violent defense and retribution; not returning evil for evil; blessed are the peacemakers; etc. Those who claim to follow Jesus, yet advocate the use of force for ANY purpose, are in error. Jesus never authorized his followers to use the force of the state to convert Muslims, stop drug use, oppose same-sex marriage, compel Church attendance, prevent liquor sales on Sunday, force people to pray in schools, or to "redeem the culture" in any way. These are all actions done in direct DISOBEDIENCE to the Jesus of the NT.

      For a good example of NT Christians, look at the Amish. No, I'm not saying the NT requires complete separation from society, or rejection of technology, or funny clothing/beards; there are plenty of odd cultural/traditional elements of the Amish that have no Biblical foundation. But what I refer to is their "live and let live" attitude towards others. They do not, qua Amish, seek to impose their values, lifestyle, or beliefs on others. They do not, qua Amish, seek political power or military might. They simply live their lives, enforce their communal standards among those who are there voluntarily (each Amish child has the option of leaving when they become an adult), and tolerating outsiders without any effort to force change on them. Again, I'm not saying the Amish are a perfect example, only that if more Christians really took Jesus seriously, we'd be thought of more like the Amish: odd, but not really bothering anyone.

      You can very easily dismiss the door-to-door evangelist or street corner preacher. It's when Christians try to seize political power to shape society into what they want that they become dangerous (as dangerous as any other group seeking power). The Christians that you rightly see as a threat are that way in COMPLETE DISOBEDIENCE to their professed Lord. In other words, they are that way IN SPITE of Christianity, not because of it.

  14. I am not huge fan of Beck. Here's what I do know: I consider my self a libertarian now, but I did not always; and I did not simply wake up one morning and know everything about natural law, self-ownership and non-aggression. At some point, a libertarian message started to make sense to me. I started reading, and listening to conversations and taking part in them. It was a journey for me, as it is with Beck and just about everyone else. To suggest that Beck should stop talking about it until he reaches some subjective level of libertarian "purity" is counterproductive. Beck has an agenda for his show, and it may or may not be to promote pure libertarianism. BUT if part of his journey includes giving a platform to other libertarians and promoting the conversation, I'm all for it. How else can we influence and educate others if we limit the conversation to "purists?" For that matter, who decides who the "purists" are?

    1. The purity test is not subjective and it's incredibly simple:

      Do you advocate violence against innocent people to get what you want?

      If the answer is yes, regardless of whatever sophistry you conjure to "justify" that answer, you are NOT a libertarian.

      It couldn't be more simple.

      We don't limit the conversation to purists. That's a strawman.

      What libertarians has Beck provided a platform for? Hunter? Hornberger? Neither of those men have renounced the use of violence against the innocent as a means they're willing to employ to get what they want. So neither is a libertarian.

      Beck is a demagogue and has a long history of being one. There is only one course of action for a repentent demagogue: to profusely apologize, step down, then assume a role as a student, not a loud-mouthed "leader". An honest person, seeing how they've been actively, vociferously misleading people for years (and profiting handsomely from it), will feel immense shame, and recognize they have lost the privilege of being in a position of influence. "I have wronged you all in my narcissistic arrogance. I see my error now and I'm going to step down since I clearly have much more to learn and a humble man keeps his mouth shut while he is learning, rather than parading himself around as a guru while still in a state of ignorance." That he hasn't done anything even remotely close to this is proof enough that his "conversion" is insincere.

  15. On the price of street drugs, has anybody besides Penn & Teller bothered to examine that aspect?

    Heroin is almost free now. For it to be cheaper, a bag would have to be included with every bag of pot at no extra charge. Pot has gotten cheaper too. Just crank up your favorite inflation calculator and examine the prices of heroin and pot since the 1970s. Both are more pure now and much cheaper.

    Pills are a slightly different story. The exclusivity given their makers by the government starts them off at a high price. Through the licensed distribution system, essentially deputizing everybody in the industry, creates a barrier that is expensive to circumvent.

    Crystal meth is relatively new and can be made somewhat easily. What about the price of that? Same answer as heroin and pot: The price has continued to drop.

    Law enforcement does not keep any of this out of the hands of anybody. It does not make it expensive, unless government can control every aspect from the idea to sale, and even with that it does not keep it out of the hands of anybody.

    The argument to make is that spending public money on this issue is a waste of effort, blood, and treasure.

    1. Waste for who? The local police forces that receive Federal money for drug enforcement don't think it's a waste. Nor do any of the Federal Agencies that owe their entire existence to the war on drugs. Private prisons? They're rolling in dough. Busybodies with a case of moral-hysteria (think of the CHILDREN!) don't think it's a waste. Drug rehab clinics that get a large degree of subsidy and court-ordered clientele? Good luck convincing them it's a

      There are always people who benefit from aggression, otherwise they wouldn't do it. Making the utilitarian argument is always impotent, since there are concentrated benefits and dispersed costs. Those who profit from the drug war have a much higher incentive to lobby for its continuation. The cost born by the individual citizen is not enough to inspire massive action to counter that lobbying.

      The only argument to make is the moral one: slavery is wrong. Claiming authority over what another person puts into their own body is slavery, pure and simple.

      On the other point, clearly the claim is that prohibition makes drugs relatively expensive. If there were no barriers to sale of recreational drugs, their cost would go down; pure and simple. That prices have fallen over time even while prohibited doesn't negate this. Prices would simply be even lower without the artificial barriers to trade.