NO THEY CANT Why Government Fails--but Individuals Succeed
BY JOHN STOSSEL
THRESHOLD EDITIONS, NEW YORK
2012, 306 PAGES, $27.00
John Stossel, a libertarian who believes in freedom of action and thought, echoes Henry David Thoreau: "government is best which governs least ... or not at all" Stossel considers himself a skeptic, "suspicious of superstitions," the worst of which is the "intuitively appealing belief that when there is a problem, government action is the best way to solve it." He believes "what government usually does is to make the problem worse and leave us deeper in debt." For every problem the government professes to solve, it invariably creates new ones. If government did nothing, "the miraculous self-correcting mechanisms of the market would mitigate most problems with more finesse and far less cost" In 2008, Democrats ran on the theme "Yes We Can." Stossel says, "No They Can't." In this book, he attempts to prove his stand.
The author hosts "Stossel," his own one-hour weekly Fox Business Network show as well as a series of one-hour specials on Fox News. He appears as a regular on "The O'Reilly Factor" and other Fox News shows. During his 30 years in journalism, Stossel has received 19 Emmy Awards, and five times the National Press Club has honored him for excellence in consumer reporting. Stossel authored two previous books, both New York Times best sellers for several weeks.
Critical of almost everything the government does, Stossel attacks the 160,000-page Code of Federal Regulations containing all the final regulatory rules under which we live; Congress adds several thousand new pages each year. He believes subsidies and regulations created the U.S. housing bubble--easy mortgage terms and guarantees produced an unsustainable housing debacle. He attributes the problems to "crony capitalism, sometimes termed Crapitalism," by which a cozy relationship between government and big business shaped the marketplace. Change can come not by electing a different president or a different Congress, but by "switching to competitive, efficiency-seeking incentives of the free market."
The Constitution limits government's power to interfere with people and their properly--thus it is "on the side of the free market." Under genuine capitalism, individuals make their own choices--everybody wins or the trade never happens. Throughout the book, Stossel proposes to solve most problems by showing how much better a voluntary free market is than government by force. Libertarians do not oppose all rules--"only top-down rules ... that allow a few people to force rules on millions of people."
After years of study, Stossel concludes unions have created a major problem for business. What galls him most are labor laws that grant unions an effective monopoly on jobs and force workers to join. Union dues often go to candidates promising to perpetuate union power and advantage. He especially dislikes teachers' unions--"we will never have a good educational system if we cannot fire bad teachers."
The author would change the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). After the bill passed in 1990, employers hired fewer disabled individuals to avoid lawsuits: "lawyers feed off the ADA" Stossel also would change the minimum wage laws. "Only two percent of American workers earn the minimum wage" because at $7.25 an hour, employers can not afford to hire them. Wage minimums tell employers: "Don't give a beginner a chance."
Stossel's faith in free enterprise encompasses fixing health care. In response to ObamaCare, Stossel believes "health care is too important NOT to be disciplined by market competition." Understandably, health care has risen more than twice the rate of inflation--"when someone else pays, costs go up." Threatening bankruptcy within entitlements ("Medicare is a Ponzi scheme") poses the "biggest threat to America's future. …