Friday, May 1, 2009

Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity

Wow, that title sounds like I got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning doesn't it? Actually, it's the title of the morning book I've been reading for the past week and a half or so. It's by John Stossel, the co-anchor of ABC News' 20/20 fame, and the full title of the book is Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity: Get Out the Shovel - Why Everything You Know is Wrong. It's an interesting title and how I came to read this book is interesting in itself. You see, my college-enrolled daughter got the list of books required for last year's Fall semester and she and my wife decided to try and buy them on-line which is usually a much cheaper route for buying text books. (Just make sure you get the correct edition and not last year's version). Now the fact that my daughter is majoring in archeology and the required reading would include a book by a major league consumer reporter on TV didn't lead them to question the choice because as we all know a "well-rounded" college education includes all sorts of required course work that might be outside the main subject matter.

Well, turns out the list was wrong after all; they had listed the wrong book for the course. But by then we already had it and I, for one, was happy to see this book arrive in the mail. It would be perfect for my morning reading program! (The 20-30 minutes prior to driving to work each morning). Now, I don't watch a lot of TV when it actually aires, mostly confining myself to DVDs so I can watch entire seasons without interruption or commercials and I particularly don't care for shows like 60 Minutes or 20/20. But over the years I have seen John Stossel a time or two and I've seen him as a guest on other shows. I have admired his history in overcoming a stuttering problem and I knew that he has become a voice for Libertarians, something rarely found in the main stream media. And he isn't an ambush know those kind that ambush people, stick a microphone in their face and expect them to come up with coherent answers to provocative questions. John Stossel gets their permission before putting them on camera. But besides all that there is just something about John Stossel that I like.

The book itself is a series of ideas that the vast majority of Americans (and citizens around the world) hold to be truths, but in this book Mr Stossel holds them up to the light of evidence and exposes them as merely myths. They are grouped in all sorts of major categories such as "Clueless Media", "Bashing Businesss", "Monster Government", "The Lawsuit Racket", "Consumer Cons", etc. He does an excellent job I think at debunking most of the myths he presents although there are a few that could have used more substance to back up his view. He is strongest in the chapters on business, big government, and America's public schools. I've heard some of the consumer myths before such as the one about the use of cell phones causing explosions at the gas pump. I actually saw that one debunked on the TV show "Mythbusters". But his greater point is that even though we know that to be a myth, we still require gas stations to put those stupid stickers on every gas pump in America. Once an "improvement" has been made, it stays around forever, even if the unintended consequences are worse than the original problem.

And this leads to his larger arguement which is to support the concepts of Libertarianism. In fact, the final chapter in the book, a short wrap up of his philosophy, summarizes why he considers himself a Libertarian. Bigger and bigger government, despite the best of intentions, (hopefully) often leads to less freedoms for all of us. It's interesting to note the Amazon reviews of this book. While some like it for what it is, many throw it away in disgust because he has a different political viewpoint from them. Where has the concept of open-mindedness gone in this country? Are we so partisan that the other side is 100% wrong on everything they do? Is there no room for a third point of view? or 4th or 5th? This book is a fairly easy and quick read and while it may not change your particular political philosophy it does have quite a few eye-opening points and I think if you let yourself be open to it, it will at least make you think. In fact I've noticed a change in my own behavior in the last week or so as I've begun to question what everybody in the office just accepts as fact. I'll ask questions like "How do we know such and such is really the case?" It might be just a long-held belief in how a process works when in fact the process isn't working at all. Now that's the kind of book that can change things for the better!
Strange...this post didn't take when I tried to post it last week. Some kind of problem they were having with Blogger I guess. Anyway, my apologies for any confusion from the odd posting that has been up since last Friday.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Top 10 Books in no particular order (Well Known Authors)

  • "The Stand" by Stephen King
  • "Kane and Able" by Jeffrey Archer
  • "The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara
  • "The Dark Elf Trilogy" by RA Salvatore
  • "Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss
  • "River God" by Wilbur Smith
  • "Mortalis" by RA Salvatore
  • "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card
  • "Centennial" by James A Michener
  • "The Repairman Jack" series by F. Paul Wilson

Top Books/ Series in no particular order (Lesser Known Authors)

  • "The Sculpter" by Gregory Funaro
  • "Power Down" by Ben Coes
  • "Revolution at Sea Saga" by James L. Nelson
  • "Black Rain" by Graham Brown
  • "Top Producer" by Norb Vonnegut
  • "Prairie" by Anna Lee Waldo
  • "The Wild Blue" by W. Boyne & S Thompson
  • "Unsolicited" series by Julie Kaewert
  • "Freedom" by William Safire