Greed is useful Journalist Stossel makes a correction to title of his local talk
Thursday, November 29, 2007
BY ALISON BLACK
Special to the Gazette
KALAMAZOO -- John Stossel, an Emmy-winning consumer reporter, author and co-anchor of the ABC News show ``20/20,'' is a staunch supporter of free-market capitalism. But he's no Gordon Gecko.
Stossel opened his lecture to a packed house at Western Michigan University's Laura V. Shaw Theatre Wednesday by asserting that it wasn't his decision to bill the show as: ``Freedom and Its Enemies: Why Greed Is Good.''
``Greed is good? Give me a break,'' Stossel said, eschewing the Adam-Smith-run-amok motto made famous by the cunning capitalist Gecko, played by Michael Douglas in 1987's ``Wall Street.''
``I think I'd prefer `useful.'''
For over an hour, Stossel discussed hot-button topics like the unintended negative side effects of the U.S. drug war, the ``spider web of freedom-killing rules'' added to federal code since President Clinton heralded an end to ``the Era of Big Government,'' and global-warming science.
``Frankly, if it were a little warmer in Michigan, it would not be a catastrophe,'' he joked.
He expressed doubt that cars or swimming pools would exist were they introduced today -- because of over-regulation they'd cease to be practical. And he took the news media to task for doing an inadequate job of reporting risks in proportion to the danger they actually present, using a slide presentation to illustrate how plane crashes and terrorism pose far lesser risks to American safety than automobiles.
``If we scare (Americans) about every ant,'' he asked, ``how can we get them to pay attention when the elephant comes around? We're live at the scene and we'll keep telling you about what we don't know for hours.''
Stossel answered questions from the audience after the lecture, and signed copies of his books.
``He was able to say things that we don't hear from the mainstream media,'' said Bill Smith, of Portage. ``He also backs things up with facts. It was nice to see that.''
Kara Fassbender, 15, came to receive extra credit for a 10th-grade economics class at Mattawan High School.
``I liked his ideas,'' Fassbender said. ``The government is a little too controlling right now.''
``To me, he was pretty truthful,'' added Fassbender's mother, Julie Fassbender.
Stossel has received 19 Emmy Awards for investigative journalism and has been honored for excellence in consumer reporting by the National Press Club. He has authored several books.
His lecture was sponsored by the Western Michigan University's College Republicans.