Fox Business host John Stossel on Sunday asserted that most government was unnecessary because companies like Walmart would spontaneously provide assistance to disaster victims "in many more ways" than the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) could.
"Ever feel like government makes too many plans that come to naught?" Fox News host Tucker Carlson told Stossel during a segment on Fox & Friends. "It's kind of a bold idea. You're saying that not every human activity needs to be planned from above. Some things spontaneously work themselves out pretty well."
According to Stossel, Americans would be better off with less government and more "spontaneous order," a term coined by economist Friedrich Hayek which states that order will naturally emerge from chaos.
"If you hadn't seen a skating rink, you would say, 'No, you need skating police, people go in this direction,'" Stossel observed. "Think of how much of life is spontaneous... Jazz, there's no direction. So much of life is spontaneous, but our instinct is to say, 'Government, give us a plan.'"
The Fox Business host said that one example of government over-planning was natural disasters.
"After Katrina, Walmart and private charities helped people in many more ways than FEMA did," Stossel opined. "Because FEMA is incompetent because government tends to be. But also Walmart everyday needs to know what people need, and they were ready. They had more weather forecasters than some of the local governments do."
"You're challenging the very idea of Washington, D.C.," Carlson pointed out. "Good for you."
"Well, we need some government," Stossel admitted. "But not much."
The Week's Damon Linker argued last year that "spontaneous order" was the "silliest and most harmful of all" libertarian ideas.
Linker said that the United States had conducted two experiments in "spontaneous order" in recent years by overthrowing governments in Iraq and Libya.
"In both cases, spontaneity brought the opposite of order. It produced anarchy and civil war, mass death and human suffering," he wrote. "Order doesn't just happen, and it isn't the product of individual freedom."
"The libertarian prophets of 'spontaneous order' get things exactly backward, sometimes with catastrophic real-world consequences. Which is why it's a particularly bad idea," Linker concluded.
As for Walmart, the company was praised for its response to Hurricane Katrina, but experts pointed out that FEMA had many more responsibilities.
"FEMA has to prioritize search and rescue, and moving equipment, moving people, moving medical supplies," ABC News homeland security expert observed in 2005. "Wal-Mart just has to deliver supplies."