Competition protects consumers, Stossel says

By Steve Korris | Sep 5, 2008

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS – Competition protects consumers and government doesn't, ABC News anchor John Stossel told the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce at the annual Business Summit.

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS – Competition protects consumers and government doesn't, ABC News anchor John Stossel told the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce at the annual Business Summit.

"In case after case, I have learned the market will protect us better than regulation," Stossel said at an Aug. 28 session of the three-day summit at The Greenbrier.

Stossel won 19 Emmy awards as a critic of business but said he hasn't won one since he converted to faith in free markets.

"My peers don't like me much," he said.

He began his speech by telling the business leaders, "You are the axis of evil."

He said most young reporters think capitalism is cruel and unfair.

"Government's job is to make sure you don't rip us off or kill us," he said.

He said he believed it, too, until he watched regulators.

"They don't make life better," he said. "They make it worse.

"What is remarkable about scams is how rare they are. They don't get big. They don't get national. The cheaters don't grow much."

He said the Occupational Health and Safety Administration makes us less safe.

He said the unintended consequences of drug laws are awful.

"It's the law that causes the drug crime," he said. "We are corrupting whole countries."

If government must force people to keep healthy habits, he said, the exercise police should make us do push ups and run laps.

He said the Food and Drug Administration protects us from bad and good. He said it takes 12 to 15 years to approve a drug.

He said that when the FDA announces that a new drug will save 14,000 lives a year, he thinks, "Didn't you kill 14,000 last year?"

He said that ending government's monopoly on drug tests would save lives. "Private labs will do those tests better and faster," he said.

"Patrick Henry didn't say give me absolute safety or give me death," he said.

He said Adam Smith wrote of the invisible hand and he called trial lawyers the "invisible fist."

He said, "We have prosecutors to deter bad acts. We don't need these cowboys to do it."

He said 70 percent of the money in lawsuits goes to lawyers and courts.

"This is a disgusting way to compensate people," he said.

He said the number of vaccine makers has dropped from 20 to five because companies choose to stick with shampoo and pimple cream.

He mocked former U.S. Sen. John Edwards for channeling a baby to a jury.

"Let me out," Stossel mimicked. "I can't breathe."

Because of such cases, he said, the percentage of babies delivered by Caesarean section has risen from 9 percent to 30 percent.

"C-sections are much more dangerous and four times as likely to kill, and there has been no reduction of cerebral palsy," he said. "Is Edwards giving the money back? No."

He said there are no honest job references because human resources tells supervisors to say nothing.

"If Delta fires a drunk pilot, they don't tell American," he said.

He held up a tiny white object and said it was an insert from a birth control pill. He shook it and it spread out to a giant sheet.

"Even the doctor doesn't read it," he said. "And if you read it, you would no longer need the pill."

On a screen near him, a picture of an ugly car appeared with the name, Trabant.

He said East Germany made Trabants.

"As soon as the Berlin Wall went down, it disappeared," he said. "Good companies thrive and bad ones atrophy."

He said anyone can go to a foreign land, stick a card in the wall, take out money and buy what they like. He said their credit card company will account for it to the penny.

He said, "Government can't even count the votes accurately."

He said people see business as a zero sum game. He said they think that if someone gets a bigger piece of pie, someone will get a smaller piece.

"People like Bill Gates bake thousands of new pies," he said. "Capitalism has lifted more people from misery than any other system, yet it is vilified.

"America's heroes are people like you."

He asked for questions, and someone asked if ExxonMobil gouged motorists.

"Frankly, I think they are heroes," he said.

He said they drill seven miles deep in dangerous places and they pay for huge pipes, expensive ships, refineries, 100,000 trucks and gas stations.

He said presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain are contemptuous of profit.

"Profit is a good thing but you guys don't stand up and defend yourself that way," he said.

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