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He reserves most of his attacks for the big-government left (“Progressives always fear the ‘power’ of business, rather than the power of government”). He won’t endear himself to environmentalists, for example, with this take on the government stepping in to protect endangered species: “How do we save them? Here’s an idea: Sell them. And eat them.”
But he doesn’t believe Republicans have all the answers either:
Both parties share the fatal conceit of believing that their grandiose plan will solve America’s problems. Neither plan will… It doesn’t matter which party is in power. No one spends other people’s money as carefully as he spends his own.
Stossel’s solutions to the country’s problems lie in the free market. “Government is like someone who gets in front of a parade and pretends to lead it,” he writes, whereas “creative minds of the private sector invent solutions that never occur to government bureaucrats.” While the free market isn’t perfect, Stossel says, bad things happen when government interferes – primarily, infringements on our liberty.
Take what Stossel calls the Food Police, for example. Do we really need the government to save us from our own poor food choices? “Government goes astray when it tries to protect us from ourselves,” he says. Free competition protects consumers best. In any case, whether or not government makes us safer, its rules always leave us less free:
The Food Police claim that they just want to help us make informed choices. But that’s not all they want to do. They want government to force us to make healthy choices.
The powerful assumption behind so much of government’s policy regarding food (and everything else) is that everything good should be encouraged by law and everything bad should be discouraged. Stated that way, it sounds like common sense. But… this is a formula for totalitarianism.
That totalitarianism extends to, as he puts it in one chapter title, making sure no one gets offended. About the government curtailing free speech in order to spare people’s feelings: “When getting offended gives people more power, people get offended more easily… We should never let government decide which ideas are worthy of protection and which are not.” As for being offended by Stossel himself, he’s fine with that: “If you disagree with me, argue with me. Shun me. And yes, even boycott me. Just don’t bring in government to settle the issue.”
When it comes to military spending in money pits like Afghanistan and Iraq, Stossel believes that “nation building is the worst form of planning,” and that rather than increasing or even maintaining a bloated military budget, “our soldiers are better served if we narrow their mission.”
Despite the range of issues covered in this book, and the wealth of examples, Stossel’s main point is very basic and simple. In his conclusion, aptly entitled “There Ought Not to Be a Law,” he sums up:
There is nothing that government can do that we cannot do better as free individuals – and as groups of individuals, working together voluntarily, not at the point of a gun or under threat of a fine.
Without big government, our possibilities are endless.
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