ABC News reporter John Stossel's second book is entitled Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity: Get Out the Shovel--Why Everything You Know is Wrong. Stossel is a consumer reporter who for many years has appeared on the ABC News program 20/20.
All too often, self-described "consumer reporters" and "consumer activists" are actually anti-capitalism activists. They attack business as greedy and heartless, imperiling and cheating consumers and mistreating its own employees. They promote government regulations and socialism to protect consumers from this supposed threat.
Stossel began his career as a conventional consumer reporter, not consciously seeking to promote liberalism, but basing his work on liberal assumptions about how the world works. Over time, however, he began to question the effectiveness of government regulations. He realized that government is a far bigger threat to consumers than business is. Stossel became a libertarian who recognizes that the free market protects consumers. Now, he exposes the effects of these government programs in addition to the typical work of a consumer reporter.
Myths, Lies, and Stupidity appears to be an edited compilation of Stossel's 20/20 reports. in particular, the chapter on education bears close resemblances to Stossel's special Stupid in America. The book covers more than a hundred topics, some closely related. It is organized into chapters on media, men and women, business, government, schools, business scams, lawsuits, experts, belief, health, parenting, and happiness.
Many of the issues covered. Stossel is of course a reliable supporter of free markets. Some of the topics aren't really ideological, they are just myths that caught on through repetition. Others are scams promoted by con artists and small-time crooks. Then there are cultural issues, where the application of Stossel's libertarianism is less straightforward. On such issues, Stossel often takes conservative positions, but not always.
There a few problems with the book. Specifically, Stossel seems sympathetic to polygamy, claims that it is impossible for homosexuals to change their "orientation", argues that violent video games are not a problem, and criticizes spanking. His arguments and evidence seem weak in these cases.
Still, the book is almost always correct and well-argued. Stossel performs a valuable service by exposing how government harms people. Stossel is not mindlessly pro-business; he recognizes that businesses sometimes cheat people, but that this is rare. Businesses cheat people most effectively when they can use government regulations. Stossel's job as a consumer reporter is a free-market mechanism to protect consumers.
Conservatives should be grateful for John Stossel. Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity is a profitable read.