I Left ABC by Mutual Consent to Spread Wings at Fox

Monday, 15 Mar 2010 04:33 PM

By John Stossel

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People keep forwarding me e-mails and blog posts saying ABC fired me. Internet forums claim I was fired because I aired a story about the downside of government-controlled healthcare.

This is silly. It's not even logical. No one can broadcast anything on "20/20" without ABC's approval.

The truth is that my departure from ABC was by mutual consent.

I left to go to the Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network because I want more time to report on free markets and economic liberty, the kind of reporting I do in this column. With two 24-hour news channels, Fox has more room for that.

Tomorrow, finally, my new Fox Business show begins! It will air at 8 p.m. every Thursday (and will repeat at 10 p.m. on Fridays — opposite "20/20" — heh, heh, heh).

My first show will be on the "climate crisis." Or it might be on Ayn Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged." I've prepared both shows because I can't decide which I should do.

What do you think?

I'm partial to an "Atlas" show because I reread the novel recently and was stunned. It was as if Rand had seen the future. Writing half a century ago, she predicted today's explosion of big government in shockingly accurate detail.

The "Preservation of Livelihood Law." The "Equalization of Opportunity Law." The "Steel Unification Plan."

Don't these sound like laws passed by the current Congress?

All were creations of Rand's villain, Wesley Mouch, the evil bureaucrat who regulates business and eventually drives the productive people out of business. Who is today's Wesley Mouch? Barney Frank? Chris Dodd. Tim Geithner? I'll ask my TV audience to vote.

"Atlas" is still a big best-seller today. This year, it reached as high as No. 15 on Amazon's best-seller list. Pretty amazing.

Clearly there's some magic in "Atlas Shrugged." The Library of Congress once asked readers which books made the biggest difference in their lives. "Atlas" came in second, after the Bible.

Yet elites and the mainstream media hate Ayn Rand. When "Atlas" first came out, The New York Times wrote that "the book is written out of hate."

Maybe that's why no "Atlas" movie has been made. Angelina Jolie once wanted to play heroine Dagny Taggart, but it never happened. Rand's books still sell millions of copies, yet college "women's studies" courses rarely mention her. One professor says her department head asked, "Why would you study that fascist?"

Why such antipathy?

Rand celebrates business and free markets. The elites don't like business. In every newsroom where I've worked, and at my college, Princeton, capitalism was derided as selfishness.

And lately, as a failure. On one Web site, someone wrote: "You'd think it was a joke, when the global economy was collapsing because of greed, that anyone might turn seriously to the purple prose of crypto-fascist (!) Ayn Rand and think it was the answer to anything."

Well, I, for one, think her prose answers much.

The embrace of freer markets has lifted more people out of the misery of poverty than any other system — ever. The World Bank says that in just the last 30 years, half a billion people who once lived on less than $1.25 a day have moved out of poverty.

But now, Wesley Mouch — I mean, Congress and the bureaucrats — tell us they are going to "fix" capitalism, as if their previous "fixes" didn't hamstring the free market and create the problems they propose to solve.

Who are they kidding? Rand had it right. She learned it the hard way in Soviet Russia. What makes a country work is leaving people free — free to take risks, to invent things — and to keep the rewards of their work.

Critics say Ayn Rand promotes selfishness. I call it "enlightened self interest." When free people act in their own self-interest, society prospers.

So there's my first show, maybe.

On second thought, with Barack Obama heading to Copenhagen promising America will cut its greenhouse gasses by 83 percent (not 82, not 84 — exactly 83), I may do my first show on global warming.

I'll decide tomorrow — when I begin my new career.

John Stossel will soon host "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "Give Me a Break" and of "Myth, Lies, and Downright Stupidity."

© Creators Syndicate Inc.

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