The Way Things Ought To Be by Rush Limbaugh

In a previous post, I mentioned how the debate over Reaganomics is what triggered my interest in public policy. That interest in Reaganomics came from Rush Limbaugh’s first book, The Way Things Ought To Be. So thank him for this blog you’re reading.

It has been 20 years since I read Limbaugh’s first book. My views have evolved since then from Republican conservatism to a (primarily) non-voting libertarianism. With that in mind, and with the discussion on the future of the Republican Party and talk radio’s strong influence in that future, I thought it’d be interesting to go back and look to see how relevant his book still is.

Re-reading the points about Reagan re-confirm why I’m still a free market guy (if not exactly a Reagan conservative). Limbaugh accurately explains that the economy is not a zero-sum game. Excessively taxing capital will result in less investment from entrepreneurs, which means fewer job opportunities for the middle class. While not a major emphasis in the book, Limbaugh also mentions how government spending is often wealth transfers to the wealthy and well-connected. Someone noticeably absent from Limbaugh’s praise of the 1980s, however, is former Fed chairman Paul Volker, who deserves credit along with Reagan for reviving the economy via fighting inflation. But the general idea of capitalism over socialism is absolutely correct.

However, there is a LOT in this book that just has not aged well.

Reading Limbaugh talk about women is cringeworthy. One chapter in the book talks is dedicated to reports on the “sexual harassment front.” He writes about a study on men being more comfortable in the workplace when they work around fewer women, and defends the right of some guy to swim to the bottom of a pool and ogle at women swimming above him. Is this really relevant to modern-day conservatism? He also writes about supporting a “combat-ready battalion of Amazons with PMS” to topple dictators. Per Limbaugh, this would be another example of him “demonstrating absurdity by being absurd” that the media always takes at face-value. It’s an excuse Limbaugh uses almost every time he gets himself in trouble.

Another chapter is devoted to the Clarence Thomas hearings and Anita Hill. Although I do have admiration for some of Justice Thomas’ jurisprudence, I don’t know where the truth lies regarding his involvement with Hill. I’m pretty sure both sides politicized the issue to their advantage, which is why Limbaugh’s book serves as a poor history on the topic. He refers to refers to the “yeoman research effort” by former American Spectator reporter David Brock when countering Hill’s claims. Problem: Brock has renounced his work on Anita Hill.

His chapter on the criminal justice system has also not held up well over time. I do agree with his point on the Great Society’s role in fostering inner-city problems. But his claims that we are “tolerant of crime” and don’t “punish criminals appropriately and effectively” try to paint a picture of our justice system that gives too much respect to civil liberties. I couldn’t disagree more. It’s nice that Limbaugh doesn’t believe any “decent person is in favor of police brutality.” But thanks to the war on drugs, we have people getting shot, killed, assaulted, raped, and burned. By the police. Limbaugh’s solution: stop putting cops on the DEFENSIVE. He also talks about our inefficient court system letting criminals back on the streets. As I’ve cited previously, misconduct is rampant in our justice system, but not of the variety Limbaugh believes. We don’t have a problem punishing crime. The problem is that civil liberties are too often DISREGARDED. The justice system Limbaugh prefers is already in place. We need to do better.

Limbaugh may still resonate with conservatives, but I can see why I dropped my dittohead credentials a long time ago. Not recommended.


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