As 20/20 co-anchor, John Stossel is known for his "Give Me a Break" reports. These short commentaries take a skeptical look at current events -- from pop culture controversies to censorship and government regulations. Past segments have specifically dealt with topics as varied as "Gaydar," stem-cell research and the shopping habits of teens.
You can learn more about Stossel's viewpoints in his book, "Give Me a Break," in which he recounts his career as a reporter while offering his thoughts on the role he thinks government should play in society.
And if you have an opinion about one of Stossel's reports, log on to his message board and discuss the issues raised each week on 20/20. Fans and foes of the show are also invited to send Stossel an e-mail that may be quoted in his weekly e-mail newsletter unless you note otherwise.
Your Letters: Nov. 18
Responses to the segment "Sex: Myths, Lies and Straight Talk"
"Your show on sex indicates desperation. When desperate for ratings, throw some sex in. You have the ability to do better than that. Take 20/20 back to the quality show it was. You can do it." -- Jim Young
"Fascinating that your producer obviously thinks 'culture' and sex are synonymous. Are sex stories what you're going to be doing the rest of your tenure at ABC? It sure does get wearisome (not having it but hearing about it … )" -- Andrea, NYC
And there was more mail about TV critic Ron Aldridge's criticism of Stossel's story on rich people in California, who got taxpayers to fund stem cell research. Alridge called the report "… an embarrassing display of shallowness and stupidity at a high level of American journalism," and went on to say: "John, let's give you a little Civics 101 lesson. See, government, by necessity, often takes on projects that are costly and that serve the greater public interest … allow me to let you in on a little secret about 'your' tax dollars. Pssst, they aren't YOUR tax dollars. They never were. From the minute you punched in on the job, those dollars were the property of whatever governing body was entitled to them by law. You never EARNED that money. It was the price you paid for the privilege of working. It's just that the government gave you a break by not collecting in advance … "
Some of you responded:
"The implicit argument about who owns tax dollars is that if you didn't have government, no one would enjoy the security without which wealth cannot be produced. Therefore, government owns whatever is produced and we should be grateful when they let us use some of it. Food is necessary to life, and without farmers there'd be no food, so should we therefore conclude that farmers should own everything and we should be grateful when they let us use some of it?" -- Tom Palmer, Washington, DC.
"Mr. Arlidge seems to subscribe to the theory that the government owns everything except what it allows you to keep. That view is not consistent with the intentions of the founding fathers as expounded in the documents that form the foundation of this country and its government. I share your philosophy regarding the role of government. I did not read or view your essay on the California proposition to support embryonic stem cell research with state funds. I thought California was broke. I am sure if the government gets involved it will screw things up with pork barrel politics, affirmative action, and non-scientific decision making."
"Ron Aldridge has me thinking. Since I don't own my money (government does), I must not own anything I bought with my money (government does.) That also means I don't own my own life, since in order to eat and live, I must buy food, but government owns my money and my food. I exist only at the whim of government … I wonder if Ron knows as much about economics as he does about television? Because if he does, maybe he can explain how mankind managed to reach the point of development at which government became possible. Because before government, man couldn't own anything, since there was no government to grant it to him! I didn't see your piece, but I for one don't have a big problem if the citizens of California want to use their tax money to fund stem cell research. At least it doesn't affect me much here in Texas. It's really the Federal government doing unconstitutional basic research (and lots of other things) that has me in a tizzy, since I can't escape its reach, and it can put my kids in debt. States, on the other hand, can and should be free to experiment more with the failed idea that is government … " -- Jason Pratt
"I found Mr. Alridge's commentary to be hilarious. When I hear you (John) whining, I know it is time to pay attention as the cost of wasteful government just went up again. Mr. Alridge is a perfect example of what our left leaning universities are churning out. They desperately cling to the failed government policies that got us in this mess to begin with. I am fed up with elitists like Alridge encouraging government to do this and fix that. Keep up the great work Mr. Stossel. Your reporting is like a breath of fresh air among stale journalists."
Sincerely, -- Steven Orrange, Georgetown, Texas
"It is unreal the amount of disrespect he shows for the workers of this country. Your money is your property, not the governments'. I suggest Mr. Aldridge read the constitution and U.S. history and he'd learn that we were founded on a violent anti-tax revolution. Patrick Henry said, "Give me liberty or give me death!" Not give me health care or give me death!!! Keep up the good work John, we really appreciate it." -- Mark in Austin, TX
"Please tell Professor Alridge that we live in a constitutional republic, not a democracy. Democracy can be defined as mob rule, of course, and a system of government our founders feared almost as much as a monarchy. If two friends and a stranger are in a lifeboat and there are only enough supplies for two, the democratic solution would be for the two friends to vote the stranger overboard, unless, of course, they had drawn up a constitution detailing exactly what they did or did not have the power to do. You see, this is why they don't let TV critics teach civics." -- Jim Poserina from Jersey
" … His one world global attitude toward my personal income deserves all of the personal insults he lobbed at you, not the least of which was "ignorant." Which brings me to the most egregious fault of Mr. Alridge; that is, HIS childish name-calling while claiming to be the intellectual. All thought that isn't "liberal" is, by his standard, self-centered, extremist, whiny, ignorant, based on greed or uninformed, etc. … The "Branch" Dividians are a perfect example of the liberal's hypocrisy when it comes to "tolerance," "religious freedoms" or the "rule of law." Janet Reno's handlling of that situation was despicable by any intelligent criterion. " -- Elaine Fiveland, Moreno Valley, CA
"I recently finished your book "Give me a Break" (ORDER HERE). While I didn't agree with everything you said, you and I have more opinions in common that I would have expected. You, a fine upstanding Yankee reporter and I, a backwoods Arkansas hick, actually agree. Perhaps the country isn't as divided as we all seem to think it is." -- Frank Smith
"You can find better subject matters than Gaydar: sign off, your making me sick with the gay thing!" -- Upset in Florida.
"Thank you John, for bringing up the stem cell research issue in your commentary tonight. It really made me stop and think. However, I think you should know, that with a ballot the size ours is here in California this year, with so many issues to be decided, this issue and the presidency were the only two that I was firm about. Until I saw your show. (gee thanks John)" -- Janis Salcfas, Elizabeth Lake, Calif.
Stossel's Response: California voters had few doubts. Prop 71 passed by a wide margin.
"Dear John: I am a former TV critic ("Chicago Tribune", "Charlotte Observer") and former publisher/editorial director of a leading TV industry trade ("Electronic Media") and I therefore consider myself to be a somewhat astute observer of television journalism. With that said, your recent rant against state funding for stem cell research in California was pandering, ideologically driven journalism at its worst … you just kept whining (you DO whine, you know) about the horror of using "taxpayer" money to fund stem cell research … It was an embarrassing display of shallowness and stupidity at a high level of American journalism. John, let's give you a little Civics 101 lesson. See, government, by necessity, often takes on projects that are costly and that serve the greater public interest. That's more or less why we have government, in fact. Just because a whiny, middle-aged network journalist would rather buy another pair of Gucci loafers with "his" tax money doesn't give him the right to opt out of projects that he personally doesn't like … I don't like war, but I don't advocate allowing us antiwar types to prevent the government from spending tax dollars to maintain an army … Such thinking represents a myopic, woefully ignorant view of the workings of a democracy. Much as it makes you so mad that you could spit and stomp, you can't always have your way in a democracy, John. It's not all about you or your Yuppie neighbor or the Bush Davidians with the Republican sign in their yard down the street. Your view or my view doesn't always prevail. The overarching point is that all of us must abide, more often than not, by the will of the majority. For you to suggest that any such example of majority rule can become "tyranny of the majority" is absurd … John, allow me to let you in on a little secret about "your" tax dollars. Pssst, they aren't YOUR tax dollars. They never were. From the minute you punched in on the job, those dollars were the property of whatever governing body was entitled to them by law. You never EARNED that money. It was the price you paid for the privilege of working. It's just that the government gave you a break by not collecting in advance … You made yourself and your network look bad with your Friday night rant. It was childish, shallow and ignorant …
Didn't they teach you anything at Princeton? I'm beginning to suspect that my late, Yale-educated friend and colleague, Gene Siskel, wasn't joking when he called Princeton a college "for kids with money and no brains." OK, that was ugly. But I enjoyed writing it. The truth is that the private sector is often a woefully inferior alternative to government, your libertarian ideology notwithstanding." -- Ron Alridge
Stossel's Response: Ron Alridge is actually one of the BETTER TV writers. His sneering hostility gives you a sense of what I'm up against in my biz.
Regarding his argument about tyranny of the majority: Yes, in a democracy the minority must pay for wars they may not like, but war (like enforcing contracts and setting environment rules) is something that only government can do.
I invite you to E-mail responses to his claim that we never "earned" our income, that it's government's property and "government gave you a break by not collecting in advance"!
" … It's frustrating that many people who watch your pieces think you're some type of arch-conservative and don't even understand what a libertarian is." -- Kevin Craig, Ventura, Calif.
"I love "Give Me a Break." I always agree with you … Thanks for the humor and professionalism throughout the years!!!! KEEP ON GOING !!" -- Kathy K from Milwaukee, Wis.
"I recently finished reading your book. It's being handed out around our office and read by 25-45 old engineers for the most part. It's struck a nerve with a number of us and has become a hot topic of conversation around the water cooler. While everyone agrees on the first 13 chapters it typically is the last two chapters regarding libertarian views on prostitution and drugs that crosses with some of the guys' thinking. Even so I feel that your book is a must-read and I plan to purchase a copy of my own to hand out to others from time to time. Just wanted to chime in and say that I am one of the ones that comes down on your side. Thanks for your efforts to seek out the truth and most important to hold it up so that others can see." One of the silent majority, -- Randall Carver, P.E. Greensboro, N.C.
"I think your book (ORDER HERE) should be required reading for high-school students. Keep up the good work." -- Laura Fantarella, Orange, Conn.
Stossel's Response: Thanks for your kind words, but we libertarians tend to frown on "required … "
"It would be helpful if you'd give sources for the "1,600 scienists (who) signed a letter warning of the 'devastating consequences' of global warming" and the "17,000 scientists (who) signed a petition saying there's no convincing evidence that greenhouse gases will disrupt the Earth's climate." Especially when a reporter on your network said this morning that the majority of scientists agree that human activity is causing global warming. Please give US a break by not arming us with an empty weapon." -- Bill Fargo
Stossel's Response: The letter signed by 1,600 scientists was put together by Ozone Action, an organization which later merged with Greenpeace. That number had subsequently risen to include about 2,300 names. Citizens for a Sound Economy pointed out the list included virtually no scientists. You can read more at www.freedomworks.org.
The petition that says, "There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate" was signed by 17,200 scientists. It is viewable if you click the "global warming petition" link on the Web site of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine: http://www.oism.org/pproject/s33p357.htm.
Please send your comments and "Give Me a Break" suggestions to JohnStossel@abcnews.com. If you don't want your e-mail quoted, say you wish to remain anonymous.