by John Stossel


John Stossel is the much-maligned “20/20” reporter, who underwent a libertarian conversion and isn t afraid to say so.

In this book, shovels represent everything you know that is wrong, I guess because there are many who enjoy shoveling it. Stossel begins with the media whom, he notes, are not exactly geniuses. When it comes to science and economics, they are “clueless.” He even suggests you [you — the person reading this] can invest more wisely by ignoring the media experts’ advice. With the exception of Fox News and the aforementioned ABC show, few outlets offer Stossel a platform, even self-proclaimed champions of “open debate.” He writes that, “There are real problems in the world. The media ought to focus on them. ”

I do not agree entirely with Stossel, but find it refreshing reading someone who generally gets it right. Yes, government is a problem, not the solution. His more important point is that there is little open debate on crucial issues in the United States.

Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity is apolitical, though. Stossel doesn’t prefer one major party to the other. And he covers many other areas. For instance sex, where he says size does matter. He shows that businesses are not inherently bad, that many are good. He explains that gas pump prices are not high, adjusted for inflation; that argument won’t be catching on for awhile. Bottled water is a rip-off, fancy dog food a waste of money. The Congressional Record is a sham and a waste of money. Diamonds are nobody’s friend. Hypnosis can work, Astrology cannot. I’m a Gemini; I expect the unexpected.

The pollution problem is caused by older cars, not larger vehicles. Global warming is something we can do little about.  If all the nations signed the Kyoto agreement and obeyed it, global temperatures would still increase. The difference by 2050 would be less than a tenth of a degree. Makes you shiver, doesn’t it?

Many of the erroneous beliefs he challenges have been reported, at least in The Wall Street Journal. Outsourcing is not bad. The minimum wage is. Stossel exposes liberals as being as intrusive in other countries’ affairs as conservatives, Republicans as pretty much Democrats with better tailors.

The author’s greatest public service is debunking the myth of benevolent government:

We need government to restrain us from injuring each other, defend us against attack, protect the environment, and do very few other things. Limited government is a wonderful thing. But our government has grown from the founders’ genius vision to a monster that sustains itself with constantly increasing taxes, endless meddling, and every-greater intrusion into what was once private life.

That’s a far cry from Nancy J Altman’s halting suggestion that our system of Constitutional law should “evolve” itself into adieu.

Agricultural subsidies are disastrous. Around 1900, the US had six million farms and the Agriculture Department had 3,000 employees. With two million farms today, Agriculture has 100,000 employees.

Stossel states, as have I, that most Americans have no idea how much tax they are paying. He singles out the devious employer contribution to Social Security and Medicare, then claims 37% of federal taxes are hidden. Sounds about right. Then our correspondent asks why politicians who send their children to private schools won’t let less wealthy parents do the same, with vouchers. Well, he answers that: government bureaucrats and unions.

How can politicians increase the penalties for possessing marijuana after acknowledging their use of it? In fairness, they claim not to have enjoyed it, which only makes them bigger dicks, IMHO. And size matters.

One admirable quality of the oddly-titled book is the author’s refusal to malign groups, or maybe he is avoiding class-action reprisals. For instance, he claims there are a few decent politicians, loathed by their colleagues. He does seems opposed to all lawyers, so sue him. Schools can be good, unless they are government monopolies. Well, how can you trust the people who discourage reading by taxing books to foster increased knowledge?

While libertarianism works, John is reluctant to label himself. I say he is an advocate of freedom and individualism, as opposed to government.

I read faster after learning “malaria will kill more than one thousand children before you finish reading this book.” I thought I could help, but maybe the children would die even sooner. Life is complicated. This book is not.

Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity is well written in a style reminiscent of a television news report. I’m not sure who the target audience is. In my experience, those who like big government solutions to all their problems are unimpressed with technicalities, like facts. Lengthy title aside, this is a breezy, informative book. Highly recommended.

Posted by gt slade, 7 July 2006, at L·E·E, Liberty·Equality·Eternity, the gt slade official BLOG


©2006, 2014 GT Slade

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