John Stossel recently made an appearance in Lubbock to discuss freedom and its enemies.
The Free Market Institute (FMI) and the College of Media and Communication at Texas Tech University (TTU), in collaboration with the Young America’s Foundation, hosted the award-winning journalist, on Oct. 16 in the Red Raider Ballroom in the Student Union Building on the campus of Texas Tech University.
Stossel is an American consumer television personality, Libertarian and author who is best known for his career on ABC News and Fox Business Channel. He combines reporting and commentary which reflects libertarian politics policies and economic views on the free market. He began his journalism career by becoming a researcher for KGW-TV. He also served as a consumer editor and reporter for ABC News on “Good Morning America,” joining the news magazine program “20/20” and becoming the co-anchor, before later working for Fox Business Channel.
Stossel said the need for economic education continues.
“When I was the age of you students, I just came out of college, and, like most liberals, I was sure that the government was the answer, and I fell into this job on TV and became a consumer reporter,” Stossel recalled. “And like most young people, I had this attitude that while capitalism brings us some stuff, that’s good, it’s by and large cruel and unfair. And we need regulations to protect us from the capitalists.”
Stossel said his peers loved this and gave him Emmy awards, of which he has won 19. He went on to explain that people are programmed to trust the experts, saying, for thousands of years, our ancestors lived in tribes, and if you did not listen to the advice of the tribal elder, you died and didn’t give birth to the next generation.
“We’re programmed to trust the experts,” he said. “I sure did.”
It took Stossel 15 years of watching regulators fail before he started to see the problems that the regulations held. What got to him the most was when he tried to legally open a lemonade stand outside of Fox’s (news channel) office.
“I couldn’t get legal permission, even though I had help of Fox lawyers,” Stossel said. “I tried for two months. It would have taken about three months for permission. You have to get registered with the county clerk’s office, take a food protection course, which takes 15 hours, take an exam that takes an hour. If you pass, you have to wait five weeks for your food protection certificate. Then you have to have a health department inspection, then sanitation inspection. It takes three weeks to get an appointment. If you pass, you can set up the business once you have a government–approved fire extinguisher.”
He said these rules do not work on the crooks. They keep getting away with it because the regulators wouldn’t get to them until five or 10 years later. It affects the innocent people trying to start a business.
Stossel questioned if it was just money people disliked. He came to the conclusion that it was not money, but the people who sold to others. Even if it was something they needed, the buyers did not like them because, “intuitively, people think of free enterprise as a zero–sum game. If someone got really rich, other people have lost. If you made a profit, you took it from someone. It’s zero sum. I see business offers being one of the bigger enemies of the free market.”
He pointed out that within a school of fish, or in a flock of birds, that there is no boss. They work it out on their own.
“Spontaneous order is what makes our life good, and we need to communicate that…,” Stossel said. “In a free society, things get better. We get smarter. When there’s an accident, people take steps to prevent the next accident. As we get richer, we care more about things. Wealthier is healthier.”
The reason why he says “wealthier is healthier” is because if you’re wealthy you can pay for new tires or for doctor appointments, which keeps us healthy.
“Government solutions always create unintended consequences,” said Stossel. “Look at the effect of poverty. For the first seven years or so, yeah, the programs lifted people up out of poverty. But then we taught people to be dependent.”
He said that government programs usually makes things worse.
“Good studies have shown that if you’re below the poverty line in America, your life is seven to 10 years shorter,” said Stossel.
Stossel questioned “what makes a country prosper?” and he concluded after looking at other countries, that there were two things that makes a country prosper, rule of law and economic freedom.
Stossel said the one thing he wanted students to take away from his speech was limited government works better.
Stossel grew up in Chicago and likes to play beach volleyball in his free time. However, he never wanted to become a consumer journalist. He said that he had never taken a journalism course. He got into it by taking job offers and realized that he had a talent for it without attending classes. However, he does have a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Princeton University in psychology. He suggested that for students to become successful, they should try things, read a lot, work hard, and not to die.