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In praise of Stossel's "No They Can't"

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Wheylous Posted: Wed, Aug 22 2012 8:20 PM

http://www.amazon.com/They-Cant-Government-Fails-But-Individuals/dp/1451640943

I've been shadow-reading it at a shop at a train station where I had to make a connection a few times.

From what I've read (mostly the education chapter), it's pretty good stuff. Hits a lot of good bases and comes across as very sane and logical. It's accessible to even "normal" audiences. I found myself smiling many times.

Maybe he makes a major mistake somewhere in there, but I haven't seen it yet.

I do recommend it.

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I watch his show all the time. He makes very good points.

He is a minarchist though. Unless hes a closet anarchist but cant reveal his anarchism or else he will lose his job.

I might consider buying it.

“Since people are concerned that ‘X’ will not be provided, ‘X’ will naturally be provided by those who are concerned by its absence."
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You can view his TV special based on the book at the end of this playlist in three parts.

And here he is being interviewed on Uncommon Knowledge.

For more, see the Stossel section at the Guides and Knowledge collection.

 

Stossel's only real "mistakes" come out when you get down to the nitty gritty and his minarchism begins to stick out.  I find him to be a genuine truth-seeker, and he doesn't have a problem going where the evidence leads.  I honestly think he just hasn't dedicated enough time and study to go much deeper than where he is.  But where he is is deep enough to where it's tough to find much to argue with in his programming.

It's just that he's basically never gotten beyond Friedman (Milton, of course) and the David Boaz-kind of libertarianism.  He's quoted and called on Hayek many different times that I can recall, but then again, he wasn't exactly Mr. Anti-statism either.

The worst I've heard is when Stossel literally said "thank god for the EPA".  His position was essentially that he thought it was nice and good to have environmental regulations.  It was during a q&a session, and someone challenged him on it, and it was pretty clear he was open to other ideas, and almost came right out and pled ignorance (as in, he hadn't thought of anything better.)

Again, I think it's just a function of him simply not putting much more time into going any deeper than he already has.  Plus he's pretty busy as it is, just trying to spread the word of free-er markets he's already spreading.

But he has a healthy respect and admiration for Ron Paul, so I gotta feel like that's done a good deal to at least push him farther in the right direction and perhaps at least pique him to positions he may not have considered before, such as ending the Fed.

I don't think you'll find anything incredibly bad or wrong in his material until you get to the really tough questions and he simply falls back on government as all minarchists eventually do.

 

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Prime replied on Wed, Aug 22 2012 10:20 PM

I seem to remember Stossel's explanation for approving of the EPA (though not in its current form). It was something along the lines of if we left pollution up to the market, for example property rights and lawsuits, that it would take too long to get a decision; that the lawsuits could take years to develope and get a verdict, etc... Basically that route was too inefficient.

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Wesker1982 replied on Wed, Aug 22 2012 10:31 PM

Stossel supports the Hiroshima and Nagasiki bombings. I sent this link to his facebook http://mises.org/daily/4217/ , probably didn't get to him. 

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John James replied on Wed, Aug 22 2012 10:39 PM

I also tried to send him a list of resources on private security and defense (kind of like this, but much smaller and more focused) after I saw an episode of his show called "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles", in which he told Glenn Beck that the notion of a private national defense was a bit hard for even him to grasp.

 

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Like i said, maybe hes a closeted anarchist, but if he revealed his anarcho capitalist stance, he would lose his job the next day.

Am i hoping for too much here?

“Since people are concerned that ‘X’ will not be provided, ‘X’ will naturally be provided by those who are concerned by its absence."
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No way.  As I quoted here and elsewhere, as Rothbard said:

It is not incumbent on the libertarian to always proclaim his full “anarchist” position in whatever he writes; but it is incumbent upon him in no way to praise taxation or condone it; he should simply leave this perhaps glaring vacuum, and wait for the eager reader to begin to question and perhaps come to you for further enlightenment. But if the libertarian says, “Of course, some taxes must be levied,” or something of the sort, he has betrayed the cause.

Ron Paul may use the Constitution and minarchist rhetoric as part of a strategy to appeal to a wider audience, but he never actually supports statism.  And in fact, he comes right out and says what his true feelings are on various issues, you just have to be paying attention.

Stossel could easily avoid advocacy of the state and language that supports it, but he doesn't do that.  He comes right out and says we need government.  He's said it many times.  He's talked about how no one wants to live in the countries with the most government (i.e. North Korea, U.S.S.R., East Germany, etc.), but the absolute worst places on Earth are where there is no government (he's thinking of areas like central and eastern Africa, I suppose).  He talks about "legitimate functions of government".  As I said, he came right out and stated that the notion of a private national defense was a bit hard for even him to grasp.

No, Stossel is a true minarchist.  He truly believes government is not only justified, but necessary.  Again, I fully believe this is simply due to a lack of consideration and study on his part, but it's still his position nonetheless.

 

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Sigh. Hope is now lost. He does say we need small government. But youre right, a closeted anarchist would just avoid making a claim like that.

“Since people are concerned that ‘X’ will not be provided, ‘X’ will naturally be provided by those who are concerned by its absence."
"The sweetest of minds can harbor the harshest of men.”

http://voluntaryistreader.wordpress.org

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xahrx replied on Thu, Aug 23 2012 10:13 AM

I like his stuff more or less.  I think he's a good communicator and I don't really care if he goes all out anarcho capitalist or not, as long as he fights against the state when he can.  Plus, I think most people progress toward positions like anarchism rather than just diving in whole hog.  You usually need to unlearn a lot of stuff by the time you even find the idea.  Stossel is on his way, I think.  Because he's doing what I notice almost all proto anarchists do; he's asking different questions than most people, which means he's coming from a different base of assumptions and not taking for granted what most others are.

"I was just in the bathroom getting ready to leave the house, if you must know, and a sudden wave of admiration for the cotton swab came over me." - Anonymous
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Wheylous replied on Thu, Aug 23 2012 11:29 AM

On the Ron Paul issue, I know that this is a repetition, but do look up his response to the spooner argument on YouTube. He essentially says "I hope we can one day advance to the point where we can question the Constitution and the necessity for government itself".

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David B replied on Thu, Aug 23 2012 5:17 PM

At a minimum, Stossel is a fantastic example of how to communicate simple ideas of freedom through simple narratives.  He's great for that.  We need more people like him, even if they "don't go far enough".

 

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