The Ten Things You Can't Say in America by Larry Elder

A Passionate Plea for Limited Government and Personal Responsibility

St. Martin’s Press · 2000 · 367 pages · $23.95 cloth; $14.95 paperback

Reviewed by William H. Peterson

There is hope yet for America. Larry Elder is a host of a successful talk show on KABC Radio in Los Angeles and a nationally syndicated columnist who wins the imprimatur of a major book publisher to carry a big message. As a black libertarian, he is also a breath of fresh air in his courage and plain speaking.

Elder is even something of a firebrand. Here he daringly takes on the Fortress America of Political Correctness on and off the campus, in and out of the mainline media, from and to the church pulpit. And so he assails ten supposedly unassailable yet monumentally politically correct paradigms.

Here are his topics:

  1. Blacks Are More Racist than Whites;
  2. White Condescension Is as Bad as Black Racism;
  3. The Media Bias: It’s Real, It’s Widespread, It’s Destructive;
  4. The Glass Ceiling—Full of Holes;
  5. America’s Greatest Problem: Not Crime, Racism, or Bad Schools—It’s Illegitimacy;
  6. There Is No Health-Care “Crisis”;
  7. America’s Welfare State: The Tyranny of the Statist Quo;
  8. Republicans Versus Democrats: Maybe a Dime’s Worth of Difference;
  9. The War Against Drugs Is Vietnam II: We’re Losing This One, Too;
  10. Gun Control Advocates: Good Guys with Blood on Their Hands.

Those are indeed things that can’t be said in most circles, but Elder argues his points with great assurance. He says out loud what Americans only whisper at the kitchen table, on the shop floor, or at the water cooler. Something has gone wrong.

We have become, he maintains, a nation of whimpering people who won’t take responsibility for our own actions, but furiously rage that the problem is always someone or something else.

Here’s a choice cut of Elder’s rhetoric: “We’ve become a nation of ‘victicrats’. . . . The glass ceiling? Nonsense. Hate crimes? All crimes are hateful. O.J. Simpson? He did it, and his defense team shamelessly used the black victicrat mentality to escape conviction.”

Let’s focus on just two of his “ten things.” First, take his argument that the War On Drugs amounts to Vietnam II—that we’re mired in a bloody and foolish conflict that can’t be won. Why, he asks, is it all right for his next-door neighbor to come home and have a martini—but a serious criminal offense to come home and smoke a joint?

Drugs, he admits, can kill, but so can alcohol. And so does tobacco, in far larger numbers. Ditto for overeating. The moral question is who is accountable to whom? Who should take responsibility—the individual or the Nanny State? Elder, of course, can’t abide the latter.

Second, what about those “holier than thou” gun controllers? For all their talk about child safety locks and “sensible” gun registration and licensing requirements, Elder asks if their ultimate aim isn’t the confiscation of privately owned weapons.

Bare fists or mace won’t do when an attacker has a gun. Elder believes you have the right to decide what sort of personal defense to own and use while the controllers think they are entitled to make that choice for you. He notes that New York has issued concealed weapons permits to Donald Trump, Laurence Rockefeller, and Howard Stern. Well, what about the baker in Queens? Or for that matter, women anywhere who are worried about violence?

Books by talk-show hosts tend to be unscholarly, but not this one. Elder has done his homework. Ten Things You Can’t Say in America is heavily documented, with many graphs and tables.

Larry Elder’s book is a triumph of common sense, with enough nerve to shake up the dreary statist quo. It is a passionate plea for limited government and personal responsibility. Let us hope to hear more from him.

Contributing editor William Peterson is an adjunct scholar at the Heritage Foundation.