Sunday, August 26, 2012

No They Can't

No, They Can't: Why Government Fails-But Individuals Succeed:  As mentioned in a previous blog, I had the pleasure of meeting John Stossel last year.  Since he was nice enough to come and talk at a public school, I figured I would be nice enough to buy his book.[1]

If you've seen much of Stossel's previous work on ABC and his current work on Fox then you've already read this book.  It isn't anything that he hasn't said before many times.  The gist of it is simply that the cumbersomeness of government makes it ill suited to handle most of life's problems in any type of an efficient way and that the framers of the Constitution never intended the government to handle them anyway.

And as I've said before, he's got a pretty good point.  Government (any bureaucracy really) is inherently inefficient.  I don't think there are too many people out there who really believe otherwise.[2]  Throughout the book's thirteen chapters he reiterates this point over and over.

Stossel's solution is free enterprise.  In other words, government get out of the way and let the market handle it.  There's no need for an inefficient government to try and duplicate the success that the market creates on a daily basis.

Okay, so enough with the nice-nice.  What you really want to hear is what's wrong with the book.

The first thing I always think about when I hear somebody say something along the lines of, "that's not what the framers of the Constitution intended" is 'perhaps but then again the framers of the Constitution aren't here.'  In other words, maybe we can figure out what they were thinking back then, but we're not back then.  We're here in the present.  In a world that is so different from back then, I think if Thomas Jefferson were to suddenly be transported to the present day he'd declare a lot more than independence, if you get my drift.[3]  Once he'd calmed down and had a few things explained I suspect even he would say that some [4] of the ideas from the Constitution might need to be adjusted for the modern world.

If we are willing to except that, then the question simply becomes determining which things the government should be doing and which it shouldn't.

The other big problem I have with the book is the chapter on the war on drugs.  If you are willing to accept Stossel's assumptions then his points are valid and correct.  However, I don't accept them.  I agree that the war on drugs is a failure, but I don't agree that we should just give up or that we never should have started in the first place.

Finally, the book starts out [5] on a fairly positive note.  It essentially was saying, here's some issues and here are some solutions.  Perhaps we should look at them and at the least have a discussion about them.  The book basically ended on a note that was saying, 'things will never get fixed, so we're all doomed.' [6]  If you want to get people on your side of an argument, making them feel like the whole thing is pointless isn't the way to do it.

No They Can't: B-

[1] - And get him to sign it of course.
[2] - Okay there are plenty of people who might think that they believe otherwise, but there aren't too many who would believe that if they've dealt with or worked for the government on any kind of regular basis.
[3] - If you didn't, I meant he'd say a few choice words in his astonishment and perhaps wet his pants.
[4] - Not all or even nearly all, but some.
[5] - Or at least for me it seemed to start out
[6] - Of course his last chapter was about the skyrocketing debt problem, so it's hard to not get a bit depressed.


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