Friday, 11 June 2010

The power of Beck

I logged on this morning to find a huge spike in my readers.  Hundreds of readers had beaten a path to my door to read a 2008 post on a Rudyard Kipling poem.

Why?  Because, as I soon discovered, Glenn Beck mentions the poem—or at least plagiarises it—in the trailer for his new book, The Overton Window

Love him or hate him—and there are sound reasons for both--such is the power of Glenn Beck.

But that’s only a trivial example of his reach.  Here’s something even more powerful.

On Tuesday night in the States, Beck ran a special on F.A. Hayek’s classic 1944 warning to the world about incipient totalitarianism, The Road to Serfdom, the book that woke up a whole generation, including Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Within minutes, the server for the Mises Institute website was starting to smell the way servers do when they’re being asked to do too much by too many —they called it The Beck Bomb— and  Hayek’s Wikipedia entry had crashed; the GOOGLE search phrase “The Road to Serfdom” was #1 on Google Trends; the audio version of The Road to Serfdom was #2 on iTunes; and within hoursAmazon were reporting that the book was now their number one best-seller.

From zero to number one in just a few short hours.  Not bad going for a book few had read in years.

That’s the power of Glenn Beck.

I look forward to his show next week on Atlas Shrugged.  :-)

In the meantime, here’s the whole ‘Road to Serfdom’ show in four parts.  Here’s a link to download a cartoon version of the book (which has the virtue of brushing past Hayek’s [let’s be kind here] limp defence of laissez-faire capitalism and the free market), here’s the Reader’s Digest condensed version of Friedrich Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom”and here’s the Google Books online version.

Oh, and don’t forget to grab Beck’s guest Tom Woods’s great books either while you’re in a book-buying mood.  He’s one of the good guys:


  1. The "Overton Window" - the 'window' of ideas that are considered politically acceptable, is an interesting concept. As the originator of the concept stated, the size and position of the window is constantly changing.

    It seems to me that those who regularly comment on this blog that PC or the Libz are being too 'extreme', and that freedom can only be secured by working withing the limits of the existng 'window' are failing to take this into account - and under-estimating the extent to which the window can be shifted by taking extreme and well-reasoned positions.

    Interestingly, we seem to be moving into a phase of history where the Overton Window is becoming bigger all round. More extreme ideas, both good and bad are becoming increasingly acceptable. Not the time to be shrinking violets, I would have thought...

  2. As economist/econophysicist Paul Ormerod said on this blog post that:

    ...Hayek in particular was the brilliant precursor of complexity theory, he stressed the inherent limits to knowledge. Very interestingly, the Hayek man last night did refer if only briefly to complex adaptive systems and how Hayek lacked the mathematical tools to work in this area – true, but we now have them.

    and I think that Dr. Ormerod is right on the mark there with that comment. The good thing is, that we're only going to hear more & more about Hayek over time as old economic foundations are now desperately needed of an overhaul as (leftist/socialist) mainstream economist and Nobel Laureate Prof. Joseph Stiglitz had stated in his conference talk here earlier in the year (YouTube video), that current Economic Theories must be reformed.

    Joseph Stiglitz - An Agenda for Reforming Economic Theory

    Interestingly, I was a bit surprised when Prof. Stiglitz (as a mainstream economist himself) mentioned in his talk that part of the solution to the new economic framework may come from Statistical Mechanics in physics. The reason for my being surprised is that majority of mainstream economists have so far largely ignored the well grounded empirical research that come from non-traditional area such as behavioural economics, econo-physics and so forth.

    So, reforming of economic theories and its rewriting is already started, whether mainstream economists like it or not, they will jump on the bandwagon but perhaps it will take time.

    Anyway, I went to the Auckland University library 2 weeks ago to check and see if they’ve got a copy of the following book, but they haven't.

    Classical Econophysics

    Chapter 14 of this book: Hayek on Information and Knowledge, must be about quantifying Hayek's framework (I’ve yet to read it). I’ve just ordered a copy from Amazon and I am looking forward to reading it and may be there are useful models/algorithms in there that would be interesting for software implementation for evaluation of risks & pricing of financial markets' securities & trading instruments.

  3. Hayek was good in certain areas and quite bad in other areas. Von mises was more consistent. Having said that i enjoy reading both.

  4. PC that's why your blog is top in the ranking because you blog about topics that have no borders. The subjects that you discuss on your blog are relevant here locally in little old NZ and also relevant overseas, even they're relevant in the next door solar systems and galaxies. Yes, your blog is relevant everywhere.

    So, anything that happens or takes place anywhere in the world, there must be a blog post here on your blog that already touched on or relevant to those events (either directly or indirectly).

    This is the reason why I stated in my last night's post that the judges on the panel for AirNZ bloggers awards are simply dumb, since they can't see anything beyond the surface since they all lack deep knowledge about the real world. I doubt that Regan or Ricardo on the judging panel know who Glen Beck is, let alone who Hayek is.

    I hope that next year, perhaps they can pick panel members who are knowledgeable, so they can separate the wheat from the chaff. The panel are all chaff. One potential good judge would be Paul Buchanan from Kiwipolitico if he won't participate (like this year).

  5. Christian Libz12 Jun 2010, 16:29:00

    PC, Redbaiter has a good point there from his comment above? You're doing more damage to the Libz by hitting anyone & everyone who is not a pure Libz objectivist, etc, Glen Becks, Rand Paul, Sarah Palin and so forth.

    Your problem (and I believe that majority of other silent Libzs') is that you don't recognize likeness to you in Beck, Paul, Palin. You only see either black or white (exact match), which means that you don't have friends, because in the real world, the majority of any population, you only have likeness/similarities (gray) and that's an undeniable fact. But you (and majority of senior Libzs') don't like gray, it is either black or white, end of story.

    I know why you sneer at people like Beck, Palin, Paul? Not because of what they part believe in (i.e., more freedom), it is because they aren’t 100% black or white. They’re gray. Libz's ideology is the best, but the rhetoric coming from the likes of you and top Libz members are sort of turning away people.

  6. "Libz's ideology is the best, but the rhetoric coming from the likes of you and top Libz members are sort of turning away people."
    Yes, exactly. And it's a waste of potential allies.

  7. Aww theres nothing wrong with a bit of rhetoric here and there...

    Serve the US well for decades

  8. I agree that a lot of what is said by those within the Libz is putting off a large number of voters/supporters. The LP should focus on on freedom, not Ayn Rand worship...

  9. Libz's ideology is the best, but the rhetoric coming from the likes of you and top Libz members are sort of turning away people.

    Turning away whom, exactly? Folk who are not libertarians, and who never will be libertarians, like conservatives, maybe?

    Oh dear, how sad.

  10. @ Christian Libz: The only “problem” I can see is on your side of this discussion. PC has just posted an article titled “The power of Beck”, including a video of his recent show. What is this then, if not acknowledgement that Beck does some good?

    Why then (like ungrateful swine) do you proceed to criticize him for allegedly sneering at Beck? If you think Beck is great, and all you want is acknowledgement of that fact, why not just say something like…. I don’t know….. ‘Thanks PC’ and leave it at that?

    That’s partly a rhetorical question, because I think I know the answer. You don’t just want him to acknowledge what he has in common with Beck - because that’s what he’s doing in this post anyway. You want more than that; you want him to ignore and evade the differences he has with Beck, and every other religious conservative. You want him to pretend that freedom is compatible with religion, even though he doesn’t believe it is. You want him to go hard on socialists, but soft on religionists – so as not to offend your particular prejudice.

    But do you really think this blog would be as good, or as popular, or powerful if PC didn’t call it as he sees it?

  11. An excellent article here Hayek's book from Reason magazine (dated 1992).

    The Road from Serfdom :
    Forseeing the Fall

    The article should be a good read for our (& world) politicians.

  12. I believe that Glenn Beck is a good man. But then too; he is hiding some of the truth. The main reason that these Progressives are so bad is because they are backed up by the new world order antichrist beast system (which they are a big part of) which consist of the International Bankers/Bilderbergers/Illuminati and those tricky and deceptive, Freemasons who have controlled the nations for centuries now.

    And Beck is hiding this fact and truth. But overall; I think that he is deliberately doing this to keep his job. But at least he is giving us 70% of the truth and hiding other villians who will be in the great lake of fire and brimstone screaming and yelling their heads off in the greatest tormentings imaginable.

    But why will God punish them so severely?! Because they are going to have World War 3 in the near future that will kill millions and millions. And they will make everybody who survives take their zombie making and mind controlling mark of the beast chip in their forehead or hand.

    And if you take it; you will serve and worship their coming antichrist beast leader. And this will mean that you have joined Satan and his hellish crusade of world domination and enslavement!!

  13. @FF: That's a great interview. Thanks.

    @Anonymous, 1:12: Astonishing. A commenter who makes Rodbeater appear sane.

  14. "Turning away whom, exactly? Folk who are not libertarians, and who never will be libertarians, like conservatives, maybe?

    Oh dear, how sad."

    It is that sentiment right there that ensures Libz will never rise to anything worthy.....dumb,dumb dumb!

    How many Libertrains arrived on the planet %100 pure...?Anyone?

  15. Christian Libz17 Jun 2010, 19:57:00

    "How many Libertarians arrived on the planet %100 pure...?Anyone?"

    I guess there is none, James. You're correct there. There are some Libzs’ out there who are silent or perhaps just being dumb. This is not how to win allies. You start small and then try to talk the new recruits who are still on the fringe but have some common grounds with you into your philosophies/ideologies. It takes time, and this is what senior Libzs’ are missing. Small steps are worth more than waiting & wishing for those who were born 100% Libz to discover the party or just turn up and join the party.

    This sort of no-bend attitude and an unwilling to accommodate anyone who is pro-freedom (such as Christians for instance) but not yet fully grasp what libertarian means is just dumb. In the real world, one has to work with what he/she has (i.e., that exists), rather than wishing that they are there already.

    This attitude will never work in the real world in running a business. How many Libzs' out there who have been successfully run businesses in such a manner? I can't find a single one.


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