- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (January 20, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0060529148
- ISBN-13: 978-0060529147
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 216 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,072,178 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media... Hardcover – January 20, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Stossel doesn't offer much detail about how he became "the first of the in-your-face TV consumer reporters," rushing through his career's start and then shifting to anecdotes from his experiences to illustrate how he reached the ideological conclusions that have given him a reputation as a rogue, a tag he both embraces and tries to shake here. Free markets are great, the 20/20 correspondent repeatedly tells readers, while government regulation stifles innovation and keeps consumers from gaining access to the best, safest products possible. Stossel calls out the federal government in particular, citing its "incompetence" and comparing the FDA to a "malignant tumor" (he also claims September 11 happened because "the FAA never asked for tighter security"). While Stossel describes himself as a libertarian, his comments on the liberal media establishment are reminiscent of those of outspoken conservative Bernard Goldberg. Many readers who nod in agreement when Stossel complains about the "totalitarian left," however, may find it harder to share his enthusiasm for extending personal liberty to include assisted suicide, legalized prostitution and dwarf-tossing. Stossel may be effective in small doses on 20/20, but his rhetorical strength diminishes when the print format requires him to go on at length. 16-page b&w photo insert not seen by PW.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Stossel, the well-known television correspondent, was one of the first consumer reporters, sticking up for the little folks who got scammed by quack doctors, envelope-stuffing schemes, and the like. But he found himself frustrated. He would expose the bad guys, and the next month they would be back in business. Why, he asked, can't government step in and help? "The more reporting I did," Stossel writes, "the more it dawned on me that the government is often the problem, not the solution." His book, drawn from his television pieces, is full of stories of government gone mad: entrepreneurs put out of business because they violated a ridiculous regulation; competition unfairly quashed by regulators acting in the interests of lobby groups; laws interpreted so narrowly that they become ludicrous. Rapidly, he went from an intrepid consumer reporter to--in the eyes of his critics--a turncoat who abandoned the cherished liberal belief in the ability of government to help people. Although the book is clearly one man's opinion, Stossel is very persuasive. His thesis is simple: there is nothing government can do that the private sector can't do better, more efficiently, and cheaper. We are being ripped off, he laments, by excessive taxation, incompetent and bloated bureaucracies, and politicians who make decisions based on self-interest rather than public interest. It's a powerful, well-argued, and immensely thought-provoking book, and with Stossel's visibility, not to mention the incendiary subject matter, it's sure to be a hot one, too. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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"The regulators believe zero risk is possible, and given the chance, they will bankrupt the world trying to achieve it. The cost and the delays don't worry them: They're doing this for your own good." - from GIVE ME A BREAK
"Businesses often twist science to make money. Lawyers do it to win cases. Political activists distort science to fit their agenda, bureaucrats to protect their turf. Reporters keep falling for it ... Scientists sometimes go along with it because they like being famous." - from GIVE ME A BREAK
"... the busybodies who want to run other people's lives have more political clout. They make the rules because they lobby harder than the people who just want to be left alone. And in the political arena, the winners get to tell everyone else what they can do." - from GIVE ME A BREAK
The author of GIVE ME A BREAK, John Stossel, began life as an Emmy-winning but naïve television journalist. Then, as he describes in the book, he got street-smart and evolved into a libertarian. Now, he criticizes Big Government, and he doesn't win Emmy awards anymore. There's a moral there somewhere.
In a nutshell, GIVE ME A BREAK is Stossel's explanation of how special interest groups distort facts to further their agendas. Then of course, the biggest special interest group of them all, the Government, uses its power to force its agenda on you, depriving you of choices, confiscating your money, and reducing the efficiency of the free enterprise system.
This book, like Squeezed: Rear-Ended by American Politics by J.C. Bourque, is a rant that will justifiably make you - if you have libertarian tendencies - mad. Unfortunately, if you'd rather spend the energy not on getting mad but getting even, neither really tell you how. But, both volumes are entertaining and enlightening in the short run.
John Stossel basically pioneered ambush journalism, where he and a lone cameraman would turn up at a crooked business and confront the shady owner. This shock style of confrontation is normal now, but back in the 70's it was new. He made a career out of attacking exploitation by big business and crooks.
But in this book he explains that over time his opinion of the real causes of injustice and unfairness began to change with constant exposure to these incidents.
He made the great intellectual leap that most economists and political commentators never want to take; that the source of big business exploitation almost always comes from the coercive power of the State (state-monopoly capitalism), not from free and voluntary exchange between individuals (free-market capitalism).
Here is where John Stossel diverges from the path of journalistic commentators, where he realizes that State enforced regulations were the main cause of injustice and hurt the little guy.
In example after example, John shows that what we think of as regulations designed to 'protect' the consumer, are actually laws written by big business itself, to monopolize markets, create barriers to entry for competitors, and stifle any genuine competition. Behind all of this is the hidden hand of government, interfering in voluntary exchange between private citizens, for the benefit of crony capitalists.
Contrary to popular belief, almost all regulations passed by government are enthusiastically promoted by big business. But even in cases of laws passed due to genuine public outrage, big business knows that over time, the regulatory board will become filled with their own industry experts, and then become a toothless tiger, protecting the status-quo. This is a process known in political terms as 'regulatory capture'.
John Stossel also talks about his reputation over his career, in that when he was criticizing private business he was a hero to the liberal and progressive crowd. But once he moved his criticism to law regulations and the government itself, he became enemy number one. Due to his experiences over many years of investigating corruption, Stossel became a Libertarian. If you ever have misconceptions about the Libertarian political movement, and think it is about supporting big business capitalism, then this book will be enlightening.
Give me a Break was the first of his books I read. In it, he saws he exposes "hucksters and cheats and scam artists" but what he is really saying is that those are the people who bring you the "news" every day in print and on TV! THEY are the ones trying to pull the wool over your eyes and if you're like us, your eyes will be opened after this book.