Fox Business Network reporter John Stossel spoke about his experience in consumer reporting and how it led him to advocate for libertarian views in the news.
Stossel began his talk by explaining how, as a young consumer reporter at ABC, he saw government regulation fail and began to believe that free markets protect people better than the government can, he said.
“Adam Smith was right. The invisible hand is just better,” he said, referring to the economist who theorized that the free market is self-regulating.
Stossel was brought to campus by both the Brandeis and Berklee College of Music chapters of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL). YAL received $13,500 from the Allocations Board for Stossel’s speaking fee of $50,000. The rest of the money was supplement by the Young America’s Foundation, according to YAL President Brandon Musto. A-board also funded an additional emergency request of $1,115 to cover custodial fees, tech equipment and public safety officers, who were present at the event.
Stossel began by describing his career in journalism and how he had won 19 Emmy Awards—accolades that didn’t continue after he was viewed as a conservative reporter, he said. “I was now viewed as a conservative, and where I live, not unlike here, that’s like being a child molester. It’s just the worst thing,” he said. But Stossel described himself as “a lousy conservative.”
Stossel also drew attention to a speech made before his presentation by Director of Student Activities Dennis Hicks, who spoke about public safety before the event. “We are fortunate to live in a country that supports free speech,” Hicks read from a prepared statement.
“For those who wish to be vocal in their opposition to the speaker, there’s an area for protest outside of the building,” he continued. “Please note that any threat to public safety will be dealt with by the university police immediately.”
Stossel, speaking after Hick’s statement, responded, “It’s really sad that your university representative has to make that speech. I’ve never heard that before. You don’t have to be that respectful,” he said, gaining laughs from the audience.
Stossel’s talk, “Freedom and its enemies,” then moved to focus on government regulation. Stossel said that while most conceive of the market as a zero-sum-game, where there are automatic winners and losers, in reality the market is win-win.
He used the anecdote of opening a small business in America, Hong Kong and India to say that regulation is too high for small businesses. Stossel said that, in the United States, it took him weeks to open a lemonade stand, while in Hong Kong, he was able to open a small business in a day. Stossel attributed Hong Kong’s prosperity to how easy it was to open a business in the country.
A student from Hong Kong spoke during the question and answer period, and, citing government programs like public housing, asked Stossel what he thought of Hong Kong’s government involvement in the market. After asking for the question to be repeated, saying he has “trouble hearing accents,” Stossel responded that most don’t receive public housing and that the free market is better at allocating resources.
Stossel went on to criticize President Donald Trump, who he described as “no fan of the constitution or of private property.” He gave the example of Vera Coking, who refused to sell her New Jersey house to Trump. Trump wanted the property to expand his casino and threatened the use of eminent domain by the government to get it, according to a Washington Post article.
“He [Trump] loves eminent domain,” Stossel said. “That’s the law that lets you grab somebody else’s property for a so-called public project.” Stossel spoke about confronting Trump in an interview which he played for audience members, calling the politicians working with Trump “cronies.”
Over 10 students had questions for Stossel, and many questioned his viewpoints. Two students asked about whether the government could address a lack of health care and climate change better than the market. Stossel was skeptical of government intervention in healthcare, saying that charity can address the lack of drugs for rare diseases.
On climate change, Stossel questioned whether or not climate change will be a crisis. “Maybe we can adjust to higher waters,” he said. “It’s not necessarily a crisis.” He went on to say, “Above all, there’s nothing we can do about it now that would make any difference.”
Another student, Leon Rothenstein ’19, asked whether or not Stossel thought that the Fox Network’s Alliance with Trump undermines their integrity as journalists. Stossel responded that some commentators on Fox News, like Sean Hannity, are not journalists but advocates.
Rothenstein asked if this advocacy hurt people trying to get news. Stossel responded that yes, it could hurt, but before there was only the left-leaning networks and having right-wing advocacy was better than nothing.