Stossel's Viewer Mail

"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.

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