It's fitting that Glenn Beck's television program should end up on Headline News, CNN's cut and paste station that, ironically enough, is on channel 35 here, between CNN and Fox News. I've always wondered why Beck didn't end up on Fox, as he is a conservative talk radio analyst and a fresh voice in what has become an argumentative, almost Springeresque, atmosphere. The show flows with easy humor, intelligent wit and commentary about society that is filled with common sense and optimism for the human spirit. It also bounces with the spark and drive that only someone with ADHD could have. There's nothing else on television, anyway, and I'd much rather listen to his outlook on the world than CNN's "woe to the world" view, or the hundredth rerun of Sportscenter on ESPN (which at this point is beating the Superbowl into a over-analyzed dead horse).
So it should come as no surprise that getting the audio book provided me with many hours of laughing and thought provoking ideas as I drove back and forth to work. Actually, Beck only reads 2/3 of the actual book, and the book includes many graphics that don't make it into the audiobook, so getting the book itself is much more satisfying than listening to it, but it was good nonetheless.
The one thing that I wanted to focus on was on Beck's optimism and faith in the free market system. I have stated my own political views in a previous blog, that briefly, every person and business has the responsibility to self-regulate themselves based on what's right and wrong. This is the basis for the Libertarian ideal. What Beck focuses on in the chapter on Poverty is the prevailing view that increasing the minimum wage, handing out food stamps, and providing for the poor is the best way of improving the lives of its citizens. And while certainly that is needed for some people (and I know some personally, even one of my friends right now that is homeless), there are multitudes of people for whom the support by the government lessens their drive to improve themselves. It is up to the citizens of this country to achieve their own dreams. As Beck says, the Declaration of Independence talks about the "pursuit" of happiness. There is no guarantee that citizens should have happiness, or that the government should provide that for its people. People should have the drive and ability to work toward their dreams, whatever those may be. Further, the current system of capitalism provides the best road to achieving those dreams. From the garage origins of Apple to the CEO's that started off their lives working in the lowest levels of that business, people have been using the system of commerce we have to become successful. For example, my grandmother worked with a stocker at Orbach's Department store named Gene Knippers. He rose through that department store, and achieved enough success he was able to move to Florida and invest in many restaurants and other businesses. He is now a millionaire and had been given a lifetime achievement award by the association of restaurants there in Florida (I forget the name).
Glenn Beck goes on to describe the millions of dollars invested by private enterprise to the gulf coast states after Katrina. The example he gives is two bridges that were destroyed outside New Orleans. The privately owned train line bridge was repaired and operational within 6 months of the hurricane. The public bridge he talks about (which I can only assume is the shorter of the two bridges that crosses Lake Ponchatrane) is only partially fixed, and will take much longer to repair. It is up to the private sector to invest in its citizens. From education, to emergency assistance, to providing the citizens of the United States with jobs and the opportunity to become successful, business have the ability to make this country much better than anything the government can do. So while I often complain about the negative parts of capitalism, what I call "Consumerism," or consuming the customer to gain profit, I have the utmost faith in the current system to do what's right for the people that it serves. This is where the self-regulation comes in. I am an idealist in this regard, because there will be many people that say, "But you know they're not going to do that, so it's up to the government to step in and provide where businesses won't." Well, that may be true, but if the government does this, there won't be any pressure on the private sector to provide the help that only they can give. It is up to us to lift each other up, to improve the lives of the people around us.