Fox News anchor and author John Stossel entertained a crowd of Marquette students and Milwaukee residents with a discussions about why big government fails and his new book last evening in the Weasler auditorium.
The event was sponsored by Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), which is the Marquette chapter for the national conservative organization the Young America’s Foundation, the Diederich College of Communication, the political science honor society Pi Sigma Alpha, College Republicans and the student activity fee. Stossel hosts a show on Fox Business that bears his name and recently released his new book, “No, They Can’t: Why Big Government Fails-But Individuals Succeed.”
YAF chairman and senior in the College of Business Administration Craig Maechtle opened the event by inviting the audience to talk to Stossel and members of the organization after the event.
“We want to hear what you have to say,” he said.
Maechtle added that he was proud of the work put into the event, and that Marquette was able to host such a big name on campus.
“I just think that Mr. Stossel has such a unique and interesting point of view,” he said. “We were lucky to be able to hear him speak tonight. We had a great turnout as well.”
Along with 150 Marquette students and 300 members of the Milwaukee community, the event was attended by elected officials such as Wisconsin State Senator Leah Vukmir.
Annette Vinto, a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences and YAF secretary, introduced Stossel, saying that he provides a perspective not provided in the classroom.
“He encourages us to be a little more critical of our government,” she said.
Stossel began the discussion by talking about the “frenzy” of the 2008 election and why we should think critically about Obama’s approach to the campaign, which said, “Yes, we can.”
“Individuals are the ones in our society who succeed,” he said.
Stossel used the example of the creation of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and its comparison to private screening companies at airports to make a point that over-spending and regulation in government has been ineffective.
“Central planning appeals to people,” he said. “Life is complex, and some people want the smartest guy to direct it from Washington, D.C.”
He added that relying on “central planners” is human nature, and helping people learn to do things on an individual basis is something that can be tough for people to “wrap their heads around.”
“You don’t need to be an expert for the free market to work its magic,” he said. “The free market would protect the ignorant, too.”
The audience was active and reacted with applause and murmurs of agreement with Stossel’s criticism of government programs such as Occupational Standards and Health Administration and TSA.
“As we get richer, we care more about safety,” he said.
Stossel also touched on the “war against poverty” and how administrations as far back as Lyndon B. Johnson have made the poverty issue worse with social programs.
Stossel was also critical of the Americans with Disabilities Act, saying that by making the disabled a protected class, they become “impossible to fire.” He said that this motivated employers to not hire them in the first place.
“Before the act, 50% of the disabled were employed,” he said. “Now it’s 38%.”
The idea of the liberal media bias also came up when Stossel talked about newsrooms he has worked in. He described himself as not conservative, but libertarian.
“I think homosexuality is just fine, and I think prostitution should be legal,” he said.
Throughout the talk, Stossel continued to tell the audience that his objection to big government was “a moral one.”
“That’s why when politicians say, ‘Yes, we can,’ I say, ‘No, we can’t,’” he said.
Stossel has received criticism in the past for his controversial stances on issues like the Americans with Disabilities Act and drug legalization. He has also openly spoken out against certain elements of the Civil Rights Act and “Get Out the Vote” campaigns.
Andy Suchorski, chairman of College Democrats of Wisconsin, said that Stossel’s appearance sent the wrong message.
“John Stossel’s backward philosophy was rejected by an overwhelming majority of Americans throughout the 20th century,” he said. “It is important that Marquette students engage in an open and vigorous political debate, but we believe the choice between the parties is clear.”
Morgan Johnson, a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences, said that despite the extremity of some of Stossel’s ideas, he did provide some interesting perspectives.
“I enjoyed the talk,” she said. “He provides a new perspective that you don’t often hear in the media.”