on October 16, 2007
This was an informative & entertaining book with fine descriptions. The author refers to himself as a political Libertarian, which means he questions assumptions & claims that are often wrongly believed to be fact. Much of the data here is common sense. Such as cell phone use at a gas station won't cause an explosion, that reading in dim light is not really bad for your eyes, that older folks are not really more unhappy, that public schools are not underfunded, & that most lawsuits cause more harm than good.
He does a very good job detailing the latter two examples. The book is a loose collection of many ideas organized around a few unifying themes. Even though I don't have kids, I found the chapter on child raising myths written from the authors own perspective very worthwhile. Also, I think most will find his investigation into creating happiness & his discussion on the nature & power of forgiveness very crucial food for thought. The only negative I found was the authors going on too long in expressing the less salient points. On the whole he reached his goal to get the reader to consider every angle of an issue before making a decision. A solid four stars.
John Stossel from 20/20 fame has written a book that first exposes a myth and then tells the truth about the myth. (Sometimes, though rarely the myth is true). He covers topics ranging from capitalism, big government, health, parenting and happiness among many others. Mr. Stossel is a libertarian (not a conservative or republican)and a free market capitalist, so some of his conclusions will shock liberals and many conservatives. I agree with Stossel and his explanations on why many common myths are untrue. Here are a few shocking examples.
We in America may think sweat shops are terrible, but in 3rd world countries they are huge opportunities for the poor to make a living wage (for their country) as opposed to digging through dumps for scraps.(This is the same opinion a read in a Economics book in 2006).
We may think that loosing our manufacturing jobs to China is terrible for the workers, but the outsourcing creates white collar jobs in our country and lowers the consumer goods index dramatically for the poor so they can afford shoes and clothing that was much more expensive in the past. The truth is that the vast majority of laid off workers end up in better jobs.
Price gouging is good in emergency areas because it inspires the goods to get to where they need to be, with out motivation it can take years to get roofs fixed in a hurricane damaged area based on not having enough roofers. If they could charge more they would come from other parts of the country and the supply and demand would decide what the price would be.
Parents should teach their kids to think not to obey. Consequences are a great teacher.
Stossel is convinced the free market takes care of itself through supply and demand, big government is a waste, competition drives improvement and all people should be free to do as they please as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else. I highly recommend this book, whether you agree or disagree it will cause you to think and form your own opinion.
I've read John's other book and watched his programs as often as possible. This one is the best yet. The covereage of the truth about American schools is enlightening and will hopefully help pave the way for greater action in this area.
The section on brand name vs. non-brand products was excellent. My daughter performed a similar taste test for her science fair project revealing that people mostly buy for image and belief purposes and less for taste and quality purposes. John's findings were in the same line and should be read by everyone. The fact that New York City tap water beat out EVIAN should really make the world feel NAIVE (EVIAN backwards) about making their product the number one bottled water. Particularly since a chemical analysis showed the water was no more pure or healthy than what came out of the NYC pipes.
Great book. I really believe you don't know everything you need to know if you haven't read this book.
on November 21, 2006
John Stossel has gone back to press and come up with another winner. "Give Me a Break!" gave those who believed in government infallibility an eye-opener; "Myths, Lies and Stupidity" gives them more of the same, plus something the prior book lacked- footnotes. Now readers seeking to follow up on Stossel's revealations with actual sources can do just that- and throw solid evidence in the faces of those who say that trial lawyers are good for America, that brand name is better than generic, and that government action can solve any and every problem.
The book's not perfect, though. Stossel occasionally makes statements without backing them up at all with objective fact. Don't take this book as infallible- question it, just as you should question anything ANY media person says. Stossel admits he's been wrong himself in the past, even working hand in hand with the forces he now works to expose. This book isn't a perfect testament to a free market and limited government. What it DOES do is make a solid argument for restraining the power of government and especially of lawyers- and give the reader a trail to follow to learn more about HUNDREDS of examples of how modern common sense is utterly mistaken.
on September 6, 2006
The best thing about Stossel's book is the template he presents that allows people to step outside the "liberal" orthodoxy and breath the fresh air of independent thinking. "Liberals" [ie] leftists, socialists, big government nannies and grievance mongers have been mired in the most oppressive groupthink for over 40 years and working overtime crankin out the most outrageous fiction. And just look at how they attack someone's character if they don't conform to their idea of reality. And it doesn't take much to not conform. Ask Harvard president Lawrence Summers.
Though I don't agree with the Libertarian viewpoint in every case, the template of arguing for freedom in our daily affairs is a solid starting point. Have you noticed how "liberals" talk more about justice, equality and group rights - for example - than they do about freedom. Sure they want freedom to burn the flag, smoke their doobies and not have their or Al Queda's treasonous email's read. If freedom means undermining the social order and pissing on American culture "liberals" are all for it. God forbid though people should be able to have a private doctor that is not owned by the state, or enter into a private agreement regarding employment.
The Libertarian take on the economy is the strongest. Top down command economies are failures. They have been failures for years all over the world. But "liberals" are so infected with bile and hatred of a private sector that rewards responsibility and achievement they keep proposing the same lame utopian schemes. Utopian schemes that always rely on fascistic micromanagment of our lives. [eg] The Clinton/Stalin health care scam.
But what can we expect of people who regurgitate the same unthinking drivel over and over?
Stossel is not the first to uncover some of these myths. How about the howler that American women earn less doing the same work. "Liberals", feminists and the like believe in the world view that America is a patriarchy with the religious fanaticism of the Amish. Yet anyone with a modicum of skepticism will see as Stossel points out that if those evil businessmen could produce the same thing for 21.5% less they would ONLY hire women. He quotes Martha Burke - the chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations as saying...[businessmen don't hire all women workforces] "because they (men) like to hire men." Millions of brain dead feminists and their fellow travelers are willing to believe that men like each other so much (and hate women) that men - as a group - are going to take a 21.5% cut in their profits. This of course is assuming that all businesses are owned by men - a canard that many on the left buy into like children being told that the Easter bunny is real
The left thinks money grows on trees (trees that only the rich have access to) or is stolen from the working class. This is pure Marxism. The idea that a minimum wage is necessary is right out of this play book. Pure class envy.
Stossel points out something that a lot of us have already figured out years ago. Increasing the minimum wage drives consumer prices up and/or businesses out of business. Of course this hurts - guess who - the most? The working class who lose jobs and pay more for products. Neve rmind that you have an ideology to keep propping up at any cost.
The Libertarian position is not just solid economics - its a philosophy based on liberty. It is a moral idea to allow people the freedom to enter into their own private business transactions. It seems that monster government is always at odds with this simple concept.
John Stossel's book is not just about exposing myths, it shines the light of day on the mind numbing intolerance, lack of heart and irrational thinking of the "liberal" left and its allies. Dont' believe me? Read down some of these "one star" reviews.
As a long-time resident of the greater NYC Metropolitan area, I have been familiar with the work of John Stossel since his appearances on WCBS-TV as an in-your-face consumer reporter early in his career. I took notice when he moved to network TV after being hired by Roone Arledge, and continued to enjoy his reporting even though I sometimes disagreed with some of his premises. I then became a viewer of his specials which often questioned liberal orthodoxy with such catchy titles as "Are We Scaring Ourselves To Death?" I regularly found these to be both informative and provocative and was very pleased when he became the co-anchor of 20/20. I met when we both attended a conference several years ago; since then I have seen him once or twice a year at other events that we have both attended and regard him as a casual friend. We share a common philosophical outlook with regarding the benefits of free market competition rather than government regulation and generally agree concerning a wide range of topics. In this regard this book is no exception although there are a few areas where I disagree with his interpretation and commentary although none where I fault his facts.
I very much enjoyed John's best seller, the autobiographical GIVE ME A BREAK (Amazon five star review 2/4/2004). As a disclaimer, I want to mention that my belief in the educational value of John's work (and its potential to be a catalyst for classroom discussion of the topics involved) has led me to also provide some modest financial support to intheclassroom.org, the organization which provides copies of John's programs and classroom guides to high school teachers interested in the material. As a further disclaimer, as a result our acquaintance I received an ARC (advance review copy) of this book; I do not believe that this fact influenced my review but reveal it in the interest of full disclosure.
This book is both fun and informative; it is bound to evoke a wide range of emotions in most readers - anger, shock, disbelief, relief, incredulity, laughter, surprise and finally gratitude that we have honest reporters such as John Stossel and the real experts upon which he relies to help us separate the truth from both the simple falsehoods in which we commonly believe and the often malicious lies and scams to which we are all too often exposed. As John explains in his introduction, his investigative team consistently gets out their shovels and digs through a lot of nonsense and deception to discover the truth. And most surprisingly, every once in a while as they are looking for the pony in the pile of manure, they discover one - occasionally a popular belief concerning a controversial topic which has attained mythic proportions actually turns out to be true.
The contents of this book cannot be summarized in any meaningful way. I believe that the most helpful information for a potential reader in addition to my general summary will be a discussion of how it is organized and then a few brief examples and a discussion of some general themes. There are twelve chapters, each of which is devoted to a particular topic, some of which are quite specific and easily defined and a few of which are quite general. They will all be familiar to anyone familiar with John's work, as they are topics whose various aspects have been repeatedly covered in his television broadcasts. They are 1) Clueless Media; 2) He and She (sexist myths and incorrect stereotypes); 3) Hating Business; 4) Monster Government; 5) Stupid Schools; 6) Consumer Cons; 7) Legal Extortion; 8) Experts for Everything (making nonsense plausible); 9) The Power of Belief (not about religion, but belief without evidence); 10) Our Health; 11) Perils of Parenting; and 12) The Pursuit of Happiness. These topics are followed by a brief conclusion in which John discusses his political philosophy, decries the state of much of what is considered political debate today, debunks the myth that he is a conservative and reaffirms his belief in the principles of our Founding Fathers. (These last few pages are basically a summary of the philosophy developed in his earlier book.)
The dominant similarity among the chapters in the book is that these twelve topics are all areas where MYTHS, LIES AND DOWNRIGHT STUPIDITY are often prevalent. Each chapter examines several interesting myths, and there were far too many for me to choose just a few favorites. However, among those which I did enjoy were the discussions concerning how mouthwash often makes our breath worse, why antibacterial soap does little to help your health (viruses are usually a greater threat than bacteria and how you wash your hands is more important than what you use) and how laptop computers can reduce male fertility. In addition, the discussion of why premium dog food appeals to people but is not better for your dog was interesting if a little gross - dogs love udders and other byproducts which humans find to be repulsive.
While most of the scientifically challenged myths mentioned above will probably not create much controversy among this book's reader's, John's willingness to challenge commonly held beliefs in such areas as economics, politics, the environment and government regulation will undoubtedly outrage many of those individuals whose "special interests" are being skewered. An example of these myths and his "truths" is that a higher minimum wage helps workers, to which he retorts that it "helps some workers, but hurts more". Even more controversial is a topic frequently in today's headlines and a source of heated political debate - the belief that outsourcing is a "crisis" which takes jobs from Americans. To which he replies "outsourcing creates American jobs". However, his most biting criticisms are reserved for his associates in the press and most acerbically for the politicians who want to both control our lives and perpetuate their power while claiming to be our friends. I was already familiar with the facts in his discussion of the lies perpetuated in the Congressional Record (which is in reality a non-record), whose falsehoods would be investigated by Congress if anyone else published it. I still nevertheless enjoyed his examples. Most telling, however, was his discussion of the myth that the average politician will fulfill his election-year term limit pledge; the single anecdote which truly exemplifies how they view themselves and their relationship to the individuals who elected them was the quote (you'll have to read the book to find out who uttered it) by a Congressman who sixteen months after explaining why he wanted to be a citizen legislator rather than a lifetime politician informed his constituents, according to an article in his local newspaper, that "he'd been talking with the Lord, who had absolved him of his pledge".
Another aspect of the book which I enjoyed was the frequent use of highly descriptive terminology which strikingly illustrated the concepts which were being discussed. One example which vividly remains in my mind under the discussion of price controls and price gouging was the image of price increases during catastrophes performing the "vital task of economic triage". Another was the image of the "invisible fist" of the plaintiff's bar supplementing Adam's Smith's invisible hand of the marketplace. Other examples are Americans' "addiction to insurance" (surely much more dangerous than any addiction to oil) and the current "censorship by intimidation" so rife on college campuses today (to which Larry Summers certainly can testify).
Finally, this is a book which also contains a lot of very helpful advice. John's chapter about child raising myths, written from his perspective as a parent, is very worthwhile reading; I wish that he had written a book with these helpful insights when I was trying to figure out how to raise my two daughters.( I found the description of how kids become "mother deaf" fascinating.) And everyone should find his investigation into attaining happiness and his discussion of the power and nature of forgiveness worthwhile.
Of course, the fact that this book discusses a very diverse group of topics undoubtedly means that many readers will find some chapters very stimulating, some of little interest, and perhaps a few controversial. Furthermore, the book is basically a collection of a great many ideas organized around a few unifying themes. I found it satisfying to read one chapter at a time, rather than attempt to proceed too rapidly through the various topics. Since it does not have to be read sequentially, this is also the type of book that you can either randomly peruse jumping from myth to myth or simply go where your interests take you,.
I really enjoyed this book and strongly recommend it for anyone with an open mind and an interest in how often widely held beliefs are incorrect. My one caveat is that there is undoubtedly repetitive material in here for readers who are familiar with the author's reporting and watch his programs regularly, but this was definitely not enough of a negative factor to affect either my enjoyment or my rating.
on March 4, 2007
Stossel takes on political correctness, the unions, and especially the lawyers. All the angry reviewers here are calling names without refuting the arguments. These folks must love the lawyers running the show in this country. Playgrounds closing down, towns not being able to find doctors, drug companies intimidated into not being able to produce vaccines because lawyers are waiting like carrion vultures to take them apart, people blaming others and suing because they can't quit smoking or overeating. Blame everyone else for your problems. Confront this crap like Stossel does and it is sending some readers into liberal rage. We need a million more John Stossels and we might make a dent in the problems of the deterioration of our society.
Oh! it's a well written and entertaining read as well.
on September 11, 2006
I've enjoyed listening to John Stossel when I've stumbled on him on CSPAN-2, or being interviewed elsewhere; I never think to watch his own show, 20/20. I also liked his first book, Give Me a Break. In a country of 300 million people, I think we probably need more government than the Founding Fathers envisioned, but I generally agree with Mr Stossel that the government that governs best is that which governs least. I believe that if for no other reason than that gives everyone less opportunity for deceit.
When I received the book in the mail, I was disappointed. Flipping through the book, I saw the entire book was 1-4 page vignettes. It looked like one of those Imponderables books; something I would keep in the bathroom and leaf through on occasion. Frequently, I find that books written that way are clumsily slapped together and edited. I was happily surprised to discover that wasn't the case in Myths. Each chapter is well-organized, and most of the individual pieces smoothly flow from one to the next. The only major exception was Chapter Nine, The Power of Belief; it just seemed to appear from nowhere and didn't seem to fit in with the overall theme of the book.
Mr Stossel does a superb job of arguing for lean and efficient organizations. He's merciless against what I see as two of America's greatest threats: labor unions and our bloated Federal government. He danced around, but didn't hit, one major subject: the growth of unionized employees in Federal and State governments. One of the reasons that conservatives are doomed to reform government is the bureaucratic quicksand that forces every elected official to bring pork home to justify his existence. Couple that with an increasingly-unionized (more members equals more dues and more political influence) and unaccountable bureaucracy, and our nation will have a train wreck in the not-too-distant future.
Read this book. Mr Stossel has a conversational reading style, mixed with enough righteous indignation to make his point, but not be offensive.
on June 26, 2006
No big surprises here, but lots of fun facts and different points of view. If you are a conservative you won't like or agree with everything you read, and if you are a liberal you sure as heck won't, but if you are a libertarian it will probably confirm a lot of what you think.
Politics aside, there are some interesting things to think about that Stossel brings up. Lots of wives'-tales are sort of debunked, although oftentimes the study or "science" disproving the myth comes across as dubious as the myth itself.
A lot of the best stuff, to me at least, concerned the ever more powerful and harmful role laws and lawyers play in the U.S. Hosea says "Lawsuits will spring up like poisonous weeds", and that's about as apt a simile as one will ever run across. Stossel has a great deal of facts, observations, studies, and reasoning to point out what I suppose everyone knows- that a lot of lawyers are greedy and are just this side of being racketeers. In fact, as he quoted from several sources, a robber just takes your money, at least he doesn't demand you thank and admire him for it.
Like I said, you won't agree with everything, and some observations are weaker than others, but it is written pretty well and the topics are bite-sized, and you'll probably pick up some new info here and there. I'm probably giving it a half-star more than I should, but I definitely thought it better than average.
on January 18, 2007
Here Stossel exposes the deluge of misinformation that the media has been feeding us for years. And yes, there is a lot of things. He cuts through the media sensationalism surrounding many issues and challenges the assumptions that so many of us hold - including many assumptions that I held. He makes the point that we shouldn't just blindly accept everything that the media tells us but question that as well. He reminds us that bad news sells.
He certainly pulls no punches here either regarding controversial issues. For example, he shows that price gouging actually helps the customer. When I first saw that, I thought, "now this I have to see!" He actually demonstrates it pretty well too - I later took economics in college and his arguments on this and many other economic topics make a lot of sense. Here's another one: all the fearmongering about DDT was wrong and has lead to a lot of deaths from malaria in third-world countries. I'll let you read the book to read his other points and his defense of this one. He comes to startling but compelling conclusions about many contemporary issues. You will learn a lot from this book, such as:
- The alleged systematic discrimination against women in the marketplace isn't occurring
- Global warming and cooling has been going on a lot longer than we've been polluting
- Much of the policy that environmentalists are pushing will do little or no good and often do a lot of harm - e.g. the DDT scare
- Minimum wage helps some workers but hurts others
- The outsourcing "crisis" is actually helpful
Although I don't agree with everything he says, it certainly made me think (including about the topics I disagree with him about) and even made me change my mind on several topics (actually quite a few topics).
Stossel does a great job debunking many of the popular myths out there. If you don't want your assumptions challenged and to think critically about issues like public education, global warming, minimum wage, and many other topics, then don't read this book; otherwise, read it. This is a very worthwhile read that will really make you think.