‘No they can’t’ legislate utopia, Stossel tells VALS

As part of his 20-day book tour to promote No They can’t, John Stossel, Fox Business Network host and commentator, spoke to attendees of the Values-Aligned Leadership Summit on Wednesday, April 18th put on by Colorado Christian University. John marveled the audience of over five hundred attendees with his gift for entertaining while saying something profound.

Stossel’s just released book titled, “No They Can’t: Why the Government Fails — But Individuals Succeed,” is his latest book in defense of free markets and economic freedom. He thoughtfully addresses a myriad of issues all surrounding his premise that government intervention does not in fact make the world safer or better. Government intervention has failed to make schools, the food police, health care, or the whole economy work better, yet we simply sit back and allow our elected officials to forge ahead with their efforts at growing government.

In Stossel’s book, one of the most intriguing issues included public schools and why costs have gone way up, while reading and math scores, as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, have been essentially flat since the 1970’s. His remarks ran the gamut, from the war on drugs (because alcohol prohibition worked so well), the assault on food, gun control, tax breaks, free trade, fixing health care and why America’s defense budget should be downsized. Through every argument or issue approached, Stossel eloquently weaves the idea that Government policies often backfire and have unintended consequences, in an easy to understand, conservational tone.

Stossel’s presentation at the Denver Marriot Tech Center used his patented gift for presenting issues in a simple, refreshing and straightforward manner that is not only easy to understand and appealing, but also logical. Stossel has clearly spent a great deal of time observing studying and analyzing things through, and then explained his opinion in a manner that not only appeal to the mind, but also to the heart.

During his presentation he briefly touched on issues he spends an entire chapter on in his book. Two of the best pieces of content he presented were charts. One shows the decline in workplace fatalities per 100,000 workers between 1933 and 2005. The chart shows that “before regulation, deaths dropped just as fast.” Or, as Mr. Stossel puts it, the establishment of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration “made no difference” in workplace fatalities.

During Stossel presentation, he explained why he believes Government often makes the problems it intends to solve worse because individuals do a better job at determining how they want to live, rather than politicians. An apt example was his discussion of the TSA. While the costs of the TSA have gone up ten times since 2001, San Francisco Airport, one of the first airports to adopt private screeners, has enjoyed a high level of security that is balanced by the most passenger-friendly service possible. Consumers report that going through San Francisco airport is unlike going through any other airport in the United States. Much of this positive praise is due to the fact that their screeners are friendlier, lines are quicker, the screeners are more thorough in identifying contraband and do an overall better job at keeping flying safe out of San Francisco.

The reason is due to the fact that a private company can be held directly accountable for security and customer satisfaction, while a Government agency can’t. If they don’t outperform the Government, they risk the loss of a huge Government contract. Stossel spoke of how other airports, namely Glacier Park International Airport, has tried unsuccessfully to opt out of using the TSA for airport security. The federal Government has denied their request because it would not be advantageous to the federal Government. So far, no airport that has opted out and hired private screeners, has chosen to come back into the federal screening program.

Stossel also provided a cogent argument as to why people accept central planning so easily. “As kids, mom and dad planned our lives. Our ancestors followed tribal leaders and people have been programmed to follow the recommendations of ‘experts’, he said. They are told, “Parents don’t know what curriculum their kids should be taught in school.” But if left to their own devices, people follow their own self-interest and find ways to get the most bang for their buck. He added that public officials do not know how to “centrally plan a society”, no one can- the world is too complex. Yet privatization and competition work in subtle ways that benefit everyone unequally, rather than equally sharing misery.

“Freedom protects even the ignorant.” Said Stossel. “In places like India, British rulers set up complex systems of red tape, that are directly responsible in keeping places like India poor, due to socialism.” He continued. “People left alone become prosperous.” Hong Kong is the exact opposite, where their open business environment has helped millions of people and small businesses pop up and thrive due to their lack of red tape in the last fifty years.

Stossel was the keynote speaker for the Values-Aligned Leadership Summit, in its tenth year. The conference was hosted by Colorado Christian University’s School of Business and Leadership, which encourages attendees to “Do the Right Thing”. The theme of this years summit was ethical failures and the overregulation of business. Stossel addressed this central theme throughout his talk and concluded that we in America have too many regulations … “The Code of Federal Regulations, which contains all the final regulatory rules under which we live, is now 160,000 pages long,” and well-intentioned rules in fact backfire more often than not.

Stossel held an intimate book signing earlier in the day and posed for photos. He is perhaps best known for his career at ABC as a co-host of “20/20” and consumer reporter on “Good Morning America.” He says his controversial libertarian views led him to depart the network. He now hosts “Stossel,” his own weekly, one-hour show on the Fox Business Network. He has won 19 Emmy awards and written two other books.

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