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Editor’s note: John Stossel will be speaking about his new book in a Freedom Center event at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills on Monday, April 23. Click here for details.
In his television specials and in books like Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity: Get Out the Shovel – Why Everything You Know is Wrong and Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media, reporter John Stossel has built an award-winning reputation as a tenacious debunker of commonly-held assumptions, and as a thorn in the side of business-as-usual bureaucrats. Now, as a welcome antidote to President Obama’s “Yes, we can!” big-government campaign mantra, comes Stossel’s latest book, No They Can’t: Why Government Fails But Individuals Succeed.
The libertarian Stossel hosts his own show and a series of specials on the Fox Business Network, and appears frequently on other Fox News shows. His consumer reporting has made him a nineteen-time Emmy winner and a five-time honoree for excellence by the National Press Club. Those familiar with Stossel’s laidback, plainspoken, eminently reasonable TV persona (and who isn’t?) will find it in full evidence here in No They Can’t as well.
The book’s thirteen chapters are devoted to a wide range of the biggest issues facing our government today, such as health care, the war on drugs, education, military spending, and the “budget insanity.” Stossel points out that our instinct is to believe that government can and should step in and resolve such problems. In a rhetorical device which he returns to frequently throughout the book, he posits “What Intuition Tempts Us to Believe: When there’s a problem, government should act.” He answers that with “What Reality Taught Me: Individuals should act, not government.”
Other examples of What Intuition Tempts Us to Believe: “If we just elect the right politicians, we can reinvent government and balance its books.” “Individuals are selfish, so we need government to ‘level the playing field’ and make life ‘fair.’” “The Food Police want to help us make better choices.” “It’s nice for people to have their say, but some speech is so hateful and offensive that we must limit it.” “Education is too important to be left to the uncertainty of market competition.” Chapter by chapter, Stossel systematically lays out his case for why these assumptions and many, many more about our government’s problem-solving capabilities are wrong on all counts, and why the truth is actually counter-intuitive.
The overarching, “most socially destructive” assumption of all, writes Stossel, is “the intuitively appealing belief that when there is a problem, government action is the best way to solve it.” For him, “Good government has to mean less government.” One would think that this sentiment would put Stossel squarely in the Tea Party camp. But he believes that even many Tea Party activists don’t want to cut the big government tether entirely (“61% of Tea Party sympathizers believe free trade has hurt the United States,” for example). And he notes that even Tea Party politician favorites can’t be trusted once they’re in office.
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