John Stossel: Myth Buster Extraordinaire


John Stossel: Myth Buster Extraordinaire

May 10th, 2007 3 min read

Visiting Fellow

My teenage son Nick is smacked in the face with liberal, socialist dogma every day of his life. The notion that Big Daddy Government can take care of everyone, natural disasters and all of mankind's ills is commonly accepted in his generation, because that's the message the modern culture shoves down their throats.

It's no wonder John Stossel's book "Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity" is Nick's new "textbook" for fighting ignorance.

Just released in paperback after its status as a New York Times best-seller in hardback last year, "Myths" is the best graduation gift you could buy for any kid headed off to that bastion of liberal dogma -- the American college campus.

But don't take this old woman's word for it. Nick thinks everyone should read the book. This bright kid often serves as my personal lab for how various products appeal (or don't) to young adults. After eagerly consuming most of the book in one sitting, Nick was emboldened and equipped to challenge the status quo in his senior high-government class, and he had fun doing it.

Buy a copy for yourself, too. John Stossel has created a fun, bold, in-your-face handbook that debunks much of the ignorance that often fills adult conversation. "Myths" is also frighteningly entertaining. Stossel so easily trashes "common wisdom," it's downright scary the nonsense many Americans have been led to believe.

Fans of "20/20" have come to expect Stossel's bold exposes and confrontations of liberal shenanigans. But if you think he's fun to watch on television, you should experience him in action before a live audience.

Stossel recently spoke at The Heritage Foundation about his book and showed, once again, that he is an anomaly among network anchors and investigative reporters. He had the conviction and nerve to proclaim, "The free market makes everything better," "Stop taking for granted the miracles of capitalism" and "Government holds people back." Of course, he provided fact after fact to illustrate his declarations.

You find "brash" statements and documentation on every page of "Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity."

Stossel's willingness to be courageous has not been without personal cost. As a young reporter on a mission to expose the ills of business and competition, John was showered with 19 Emmy awards before his own reporting convinced him that people and nations thrive in free markets. He hasn't taken home one Emmy since.

But never mind -- Stossel, also a popular columnist with Creator's Syndicate, just wants to get out the truth.

You'll find lots of great tidbits in his columns, "20/20" segments and in his books. (He also wrote the New York Times best-seller "Give Me a Break.") In "Myths," for instance, Stossel takes on the common belief that "drug companies are evil price gougers." Politicians routinely pander to this sentiment, promising to protect poor, defenseless consumers. The truth is, as John points out: "The higher the price of drugs, the more good drugs we get." He explains:

"Drugs don't just suddenly appear. Thousands of researchers work tirelessly to develop them. Most attempts fail. But the few successes repay the cost of the failures. ... The Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development says the average cost of developing a new drug is a staggering $802 million. ... The hated pharmaceutical companies make big profits, but I want them to make big profits because they have to make huge investments, suffer lots of failures and go through 10 to 15 years of testing before they can bring me the drugs that might save my life or alleviate my pain."

Think government might do a better job? Like, say, the fine job it does running your average motor vehicle administration? Going down to your local MVA is like visiting a museum of what life was like in the old Soviet Union. And how about the post office? Is it just possible that the free market could help there? When it comes to delivering packages, John says, it has: FedEx, UPS and other private companies use the power of competition to bring you a better product for less money. (Even the post office has benefited here, offering "Express Mail" on packages.)

The fact is, there's nothing the government can bring us that some good old-fashioned free-market capitalism can't give us better and cheaper. The free market may be fueled by "greed," but the fact that it's free means that businesses must serve people to get their profits. They must deliver a superior product or watch themselves go out of business. A government monopoly, whether in health care or any other market, means less innovation, less efficiency and a lower quality of life.

Healthy, free-market competition flat out makes life better. Read Stossel's book and you'll be able to argue this truth with confidence.

Rebecca Hagelin is a vice president of The Heritage Foundation and the author of Home Invasion: Protecting Your Family in a Culture that's Gone Stark Raving Mad.

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