Monday, September 01, 2008
This last week I listened to John Stossel read his new(ish) book Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity -- Why Everything You Know Is Wrong. It was a quick read, as the book is written in soundbyte-size articles on "myths" organized by broad topic. I expected the sort of consumer-oriented debunking I found in some parts, such as that New York City tap water beat out Evian and Perrier in blind taste tests, and that shopping at big box stores doesn't save most people money. However, I hadn't realized the extent of Stossel's libertarian political leanings, which showed in many more of his segments, like those on school vouchers and product liability lawsuits. While I agree with most of what he said, his sensational style and size-limited segments necessarily oversimplify some of his arguments. It's certainly overly glib to dispatch global warming in a three-minute segment, but he does do some debunking of some common misconceptions in a way that should bring it home to many and make them think. For example, he discusses the myth of the ocean levels being raised significantly by melting polar ice caps, noting that most of the ice caps are floating, and already displace the amount of water they'd fill by melting. (Think of it, Stossel analogizes, does a glass of ice water overflow when the ice melts?) He also has a nice discussion about the myth of "price gouging", an essential contribution to economic literacy 101. Overall, a nice bit of candy for libertarians and skeptics, and an eye-opening useful easy read for any consumer and citizen.