Speaker Looks at Capitalism with 20/20 Vision
Next time you see an Oberlin student making profit on frequenters of North Quad’s Wisdom Tree, just remember that John Stossel considers that student to be one of the “real heroes of America.”
This past Wednesday, Stossel detailed his experiences as a libertarian in consumer reporting in a talk titled “Bashing Business: How Capitalism is Vilified in Newsrooms, Universities and Government.” Stossel is host of ABC’s 20/20.
Stossel launched his lecture, which was sponsored by the Oberlin College Republicans as part of the Ronald Reagan Political Leadership Series, by explaining his shift from an advocate of government intervention into business to an advocate of the free market.
“When I started reporting, I approached the world the way most world reporters do,” Stossel said, referring to what he portrayed as many reporters’ “view that capitalism is okay, brings us some stuff, but is by and large nasty,” and that government and lawyers are needed to “make the playing field more fair.”
He then proceeded to spend the rest of the talk repudiating this mindset and justifying his experience that “the more I watched the competition of the market [the more] I thought it protects consumers better than government ever could.”
Despite these early indications to the contrary, Stossel proved to be anything but a demagogue for the OC Republicans. Tracing the growth of government from Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” to today, Stossel noted that “Bush made [government] bigger even faster than the Democrats did.”
And, although Stossel came to Oberlin to extol the merits of capitalism, he admitted it has its limitations, stating at one point that capitalism cannot slow global warming. “The free market will not solve environmental problems.”
Stossel’s largest concern outside of politics appeared to be the culture of fear created by television news. At one point he presented a chart detailing the number of years taken off an average American’s life by airplane crashes, terrorism, house fires and murder. He then added driving, then smoking, then “poverty” to the chart so that the audience could see the insignificance of the initially mentioned causes of death compared to those larger ones that receive far less coverage in television media.
Even in the midst of his bashing of the “liberal” media, Stossel advocated a number of positions that left-leaning Oberlin students would find more amenable to their views, mentioning that “homosexuality is natural” and that he did not believe that the U.S. should be trying to build a government in Iraq. In addition, Stossel promoted the legalization of some currently illegal drugs, coupled with a simplified Food and Drug Administration approval process for medical drugs.
The College’s captains of industry and less heroic members came in full force Wednesday evening, and while reactions to Stossel’s politics were mixed, many seemed satisfied with his performance.