Somehow libertarian John Stossel survived over 20 years at ABC before finally making it over to Fox. The man who Glenn described as, “one of my favorite guys on TV,” joined Glenn this morning on radio to discuss his new book, No They Can’t: Why Government Fails and Individuals Succeed.
Of the 28 years that Stossel spent at ABC, 20 of them were as a libertarian fighting the left and big government. John told Glenn that had “enough of winning Emmy awards and bashing business – I want to explain how government is the bigger problem …and that fight went on for 20 years.”
John’s new book explains a fascinating new theory: small government goes against intuition.
“They no they can't is a reaction to the Obama campaign’s "yes we can",” John told Glenn, “and that came to mean government – and I do think that's instinctive. When we're scared we think we have to turn to government for a solution.”
Stossel used the example of September 11th. “After September 11th I was scared in New York, and they said “we have to have government run airline security.” That made sense to me,” he told Glenn.
He went on to explain that the Senate voted 100 to 0 to federalize the TSA, which we now know isn’t very good. “People don’t know that it [the TSA] costs ten times the old screener costs,” John explained.
Stossel continued this point by using the example of San Francisco, the one big city that still allows the use of private screeners. The screeners are more friends and the lines move more quickly.
“By the TSA’s own tests they find more contraband,” he said. “They’re just better, because they’re a private company, and they don’t want to lose the contract and they do things like run contests for their screeners. It’s great.”
“You could have given me a $1 million. You could have put a $1 million prize. I could have polled the audience and phoned a friend, and we still wouldn’t have been able to guess which city has privatized security being San Francisco,” Glenn said. “How in the hell did that happen?”
John explained that the airport manager in that city just so happened to be the first to use the clause in the law that allows cities to opt out. The TSA has since begun to ignore this requests cities are putting in for the clause, because so many want to opt-out.
“Glacier national park in Montana, where they have triple the amount of traffic in summer, the TSA doesn't adjust the work force,” John said, “it’s a government bureaucracy.”
“You say intuition says corporations are out of control, and government has to police them,” Glenn said to John.
John explained that on the surface it seems much more complicated that market forces could protect you. It seems much easier that corporations need to be controlled so that they don’t go out of control. But, that’s not the case. The corporations get out of control when they don’t reap any of the consequences of their actions. “If they’re out of control, if they hurt their customers, they shrink – they go out of business,” John said.
“That makes sense,” Glenn said. “Because the financial sector is out of control, but it would have solved itself if they would have collapsed back in ’08. They would have learned their lesson.”
“And the investors would have been wiser,” Stossel added. “Market discipline is the only real protection.”
Glenn agreed with John, but no one is getting this message across to the American people.
“If it goes against intuition and the media will not put reasonable people on—maybe there's a flash of light here and there like you were on the ABC—but you can't get into the system to say the American people, ‘look I know your gut says this, but it's the wrong way to go.’ How do you change that? How do you get people to say I want small government?” Glenn asked John.
“I think there's one simple way,” John answered. “You give all your friends a copy of No They Can’t: Why Government Fails and Individuals Succeed.”
“So your book is the key to happiness, and Utopia?” Pat joked. “Wow.”
“It's a Libertarian's dream, and something that we need to read, understand and be able to explain to our friends,” Glenn concluded, “because their gut will tell them the opposite way to go.”