Capitalism’s Champion

audience seated at Stossel event
May 08, 2010

Fox host John Stossel denounces government intervention in free market in address to GW students.

A special contribution from Alec Jacobs, a sophomore and writer and intern at The Daily Caller

Speaking at the Elliott School of International Affairs last week about the current economic crisis, Emmy Award winner and former anchor of ABC’s 20/20 program John Stossel decried what he sees as the increasing size and role of government in America.

Mr. Stossel, who now hosts an eponymous Fox Business Network program, bemoaned government’s “dangerous” involvement in the free market, describing the prevailing philosophy as “when it’s complicated, you’ve got to have government take over.”

“I’d say they’re spending like drunken sailors but that would be an insult to drunken sailors,” he said. “Sailors spend their own money.”

Mr. Stossel also said he was unhappy with the financial regulation bill currently being discussed on Capitol Hill. Financial regulation never makes anything better, he said.

The government does not need to regulate financial markets, according to Mr. Stossel. “What failed wasn’t capitalism,” he said. “This wasn’t real capitalism, because it was funded by the government – Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.”

Mr. Stossel also argued that the notion that certain companies are too big to fail needs to be rethought. Since the banks haven’t failed, he argued, it is hard to know what exactly would occur.

Further, the current U.S. economic situation is being overblown. “We must have become a nation of wimps,” he said. “Why is this a crisis?”

Today’s numbers don’t compare with the unemployment and Dow Jones statistics from the 1982 recession, Mr. Stossel said. Unemployment is at 9.7 percent today compared with 10.8 percent in 1982, and the Dow was at 780 in 1982 compared with 11,000 today. “To call this a crisis is an insult to real crises,” he said.

Though Mr. Stossel fiercely defended the free market for most of his hour-long speech, he acknowledged that some government is necessary, though he warned that too much government poses problems.

A self-declared libertarian, Mr. Stossel thanked the Young America’s Foundation, which co-hosted the event with the Office of Undergraduate Programs at the GW Business School. Clarifying his political stance on a range of issues, Mr. Stossel said, “I think homosexuality is just fine; I didn’t want to go to Iraq … I think heroin should be legal.”

Mr. Stossel’s criticism extended to conservatives as well, whom he said sometimes think it is natural to distrust free markets.

During a question-and-answer session, he steadfastly defended his position that drugs should be legalized for adults and championed the virtues of capitalism. Mr. Stossel said these views make him a minority in New York, where he is based. “Where I live, that’s like being a child molester,” he said

Growing up, he would have made a more typical New Yorker, Mr. Stossel said. The prospect of reporting on corporate greed and misconduct was what first attracted him to journalism. But he said that he soon realized that the problems he was investigating were caused by government intervention and not capitalism.

Mr. Stossel said he chose to leave ABC, because producers would not let him do the kinds of stories he wanted to do. He convinced Roger Ailes, president of FOX News Channel, to hire him, and he swapped his massive ABC audience for a much smaller one. “As I went from liberal to libertarian, I stopped winning Emmys,” he joked.

Stossel summed up the night best during the applause after his speech. “You don’t have to thank me,” he said. “This is capitalism. You paid me!”

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