John Stossel is the best-known libertarian in the news media. As the co-anchor of the long-running and immensely popular ABC News program 20/20, auteur of a continuing series of specials on topics ranging from corporate welfare to educational waste to laws criminalizing consensual adult behavior, and author of best-selling books such as Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity, Stossel brings a consistent message of liberty to millions of viewers on a weekly basis.
It wasn't always this way. Born in 1947, Stossel started out as a standard-issue consumer reporter, working in Oregon and New York before joining the staff of Good Morning America and, later, 20/20. He did scare stories about everything from pharmaceutical rip-offs to exploding coffee pots. Then, in the 1980s, he encountered reason, which radically changed his thinking about the benefits of laissez faire in economics and personal lifestyles.
"It was a revelation," he writes in his 2004 memoir, Give Me a Break. "Here were writers who analyzed the benefits of free markets that I witnessed as a reporter. They called themselves libertarians, and their slogan was ‘Free Minds and Free Markets.' I wasn't exactly sure what that meant, but what they wrote sure made sense."
Reason.tv caught up with Stossel in January in Los Angeles, where the newsman was filming a special episode of 20/20 based on six Reason.tv documentaries featuring Drew Carey. Among the topics: the desirability of open borders, the need to reform the nation's drug laws, and the case against universal preschool. Ted Balaker, a Reason.tv producer, talked with Stossel about bailout mania, his hopes for the Obama years, and his attempt to educate a generation of school kids with a video series called Stossel in the Classroom.
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For an edited transcript of this interview, go here.