Book Review: GIVE ME A BREAK
Off hand, I can name only one mainstream TV news reporter without gagging — John Stossel. Stossel’s spent the past decade or so reporting “against the grain,” and TV specials like “Are We Scaring Ourselves to Death?” and “John Stossel Goes to
Stossel started out as a “consumer reporter,” bashing corporate crooks and even smalltime rip-off artists. “For years,” he writes, “I bought the stereotypes that serve as conventional wisdom in the news business: Corporations are evil; all risk is intolerable; consumers need more government to protect us.” But eventually, Stossel had what he calls an epiphany: “...voluntary is better than forced. Free is better than coerced. It’s why, whenever possible, we are better off if the private sector is bigger and government smaller. Government can never hope to attend to people’s needs and wants as well as the market, simply because it’s not as fast or efficient. The government makes big adjustments every two or four or six years; the market, driven by countless trades like your ice-cream purchase can adjust thousands of times a second.”
Because of this personal revelation, Stossel’s been attacked by the Bogus Left. Sidney Wolfe of the Ralph Nader-founded group Public Citizen said he’s “a menace...doing a massive amount of damage.” But Stossel is not the “friend of industry” that interest groups have accused him of being.
“Why am I a ‘friend of industry’ because I like free markets?” he asks. “Many in industry despise free markets, and try to use cronyism and government connections to rig the system to avoid free market competition. I’m a friend of entrepreneurship, but is there something wrong with that? Entrepreneurship brings us many of the best things we have.”
Despite his attacks on big government, Stossel admits, “I’m no anarchist.” But he shuns most other labels as well. He writes:
“...the mainstream media are tilted so far to the left that they call me conservative.
“I guess they call me that because I believe the free market is a good thing — but what’s conservative about the market? It’s unplanned, unpredictable, scary, noisy. ‘Libertarian’ is a better term for my beliefs. But it’s a lousy word. People think it means ‘libertine,’ and the Libertarian Party has had flaky people like Howard Stern run for office. Maybe ‘classical liberal’ is a better term for what I am. Liberals were originally the ones who advocated freedom and tolerance.
Give Me a Break is fun to read. And refreshingly, Stossel doesn’t come off as a faultless crusader. He admits his mistakes and foibles. And he’s one of the best messengers we free-marketeers have got.
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