John Stossel’s social darwinism


This country has nothing to fear from the crooked man who fails. We put him in jail. It is the crooked man who succeeds who is a threat to this country.–TR

John Stossel’s column “A lie, a myth and a question,” appeared in the Elmira Star-Gazette today, Saturday, May 4. Stossel makes a number of claims:

  • Thanks to capitalism, more than a billion people no longer struggle to survive on a few pennies a day.
  • Economists at Harvard and Berkeley crunched the numbers and found most people born to the richest fifth of Americans fell out of that bracket within 20 years.
  • Most of the billionaires (on the Forbes list) are self-made. They didn’t inherit money. They created wealth.

Other than unnamed economists, Stossel cites only one source–Carol Roth.

Carol Roth is the creator of the Future File™ legacy planning system, a “recovering” investment banker, business advisor, entrepreneur and best-selling author. She is also a reality TV show judge, media contributor and host of Microsoft’s Office Small Business Academy.

No experts on social stratification are cited.

Stossel would sell his readers Social Darwinism–the idea that the rich deserve their wealth and the poor deserve their poverty. He fails to justify his wild claims with respected sources. He promotes the libertarian idea that everyone would be better off in a libertarian world. His ideas are false, but it is easier to make wild, unsupported claims than to refute them.

Is Stossel’s claim that “3 out of 4 Americans” will be in the top income quintile at some point in their life believable? I think not.



About whungerford

* Contributor at where we discuss the politics, economics, and events of the New New York 23rd Congressional District (Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chemung, (Eastern) Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben,Tioga, Tompkins, and Yates Counties) Please visit and comment on whatever strikes your fancy.
This entry was posted in Economics, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to John Stossel’s social darwinism

  1. josephurban says:

    Stossel has a long history of distorting evidence and facts. The bad news is that some of his junk is used in classrooms. Like most “libertarians” he has no clue as to how society functions and how he, himself, has benefited form the labor of others.
    This article points out that the Forbes “self-made man” is nonsense.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. whungerford says:

    Joseph, thanks for the citation. While mobility studies are said to be difficult (social mobility in the U.S. isn’t going up, but may be stagnant or going down), it isn’t hard to find information. Looking at the NY Times publication “Class Matters,” I read:

    Being born in the elite in the U.S. gives you a constellation of privileges that very few people in the world have ever experienced. Being born poor in the U.S. gives you disadvantages unlike anything in Western Europe, Japan and Canada. — Berkeley economist and mobility researcher David Levine

    I don’t remember ever having a teacher who would have used an opinion column as educational material unless it were to encourage critical reading.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. josephurban says:

    Well, when I taught high school I often got offers of material from various organizations, including right wing ones. One of the benefits of the right wing in keeping schools underfunded is that teachers have to look for cheap or free materials wherever they can find them. For many years right wing organizations, under the banner of patriotism, have been funneling biased materials into schools.

    A good article:


  4. whungerford says:

    Volunteering in a grade school classroom, I was surprised when a representative of an organization presented a lesson. There was nothing blatantly wrong with her materials, but I did wonder if they had been reviewed in advance by the school authorities and approved.


  5. josephurban says:

    well, you cannot and should not review everything that happens in the classroom. That is the problem today. Political interests are imposing themselves on teachers so that teaching will eventually become a bland recitation of bland generalities. Instead of emphasizing critical thinking.


  6. garymccaslin says:

    I pray whungerford will incorporate his excellent response to Stossel in his own letter to the Elmira~Star Gazette!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. whungerford says:

    Thanks for you suggestion, Rev. McCaslin. What objective do you have in mind and how likely achieved? I have submitted letters; as a rule they receive little notice.

    I have a story to tell–years ago the opinion columns run regularly in the Star-Gazette were much less satisfactory than today. I complained, suggested two I thought better, and to my astonishment the two I proposed began to appear regularly and still do.

    I don’t know why the Star-Gazette runs Stossel’s column. I see three possibilities–the owners of the paper approve of his opinions, it is thought to be popular with subscribers, or it is seen as counterbalancing other regular columnists.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.